2023 Tas Award
The 2023 Tasmanian Pearcey State Entrepreneurship Award was presented to Damian Ivereigh, founder and Chief Network Architect of Tasmania-based ISP Launtel. The presentation was made by Tasmanian Minister for Small Business and Science and Technology, the Hon Madeleine Ogilvie at the TasICT Conference Gala Dinner tonight at the C3 Convention Centre in Hobart on the evening of Friday 10th November.
Each year the Pearcey Foundation recognises entrepreneurs who have taken a risk, made a difference and inspired others. Damian Ivereigh (Damo to his friends) and the Launtel team have made history in Tasmania, being the first ISP in the country to provide gigabit services to their customers over the NBN. Due to Launtel's trailblazing network, Launceston was declared the first "gigabit city" in Australia in May 2017, with the Tasmanian capital, Hobart, following a few months later.
James Riggall, chair of Pearcey Tasmania and 2015 Tasmanian Pearcey Award recipient, commented,
While leading the charge on gigabit service provision in Tasmania is what Damo and the Launtel team are most known for, they have also innovated in a range of other ways, including offering daily pricing, enabling their customers to change their internet speed (and cost per day) through a self-service portal and offering award-winning and world-class customer service. Damo was selected for this award by a panel of peers from the Tasmanian ICT sector and the committee recognised the importance of Launtel's role in pushing Tasmanian to the forefront of high-speed broadband adoption in Tasmania.
Damian (Damo to his friends and customers) was born in the UK and spent the early chapters of his career working in IT in London and California. During a stint working at CISCO in California, Damian organised a trip to Indonesia for a caving holiday. When the caving adventure came to a close, he spotted some cheap flights to Australia and thought he would give it a look. He fell in love with the place and requested a transfer.
After some time working in Sydney, Damian relocated to Tasmania with his partner and daughter. They settled in Launceston and after seeing that the local IT job market was extremely thin, Damo decided to start his own IT support business, Launtel, in 2007. Initially, Launtel focused on business telephony and IT support services.
Years later, in 2014, two new opportunities emerged for Damian and Launtel, both connected to the rollout of the Australian National Broadband Network (NBN) and Tasmania’s first mover advantage as an early rollout state. The first opportunity was a market gap created by traditional telecommunications companies having minimal capacity to respond to a shift from copper-based telephony to voice over internet protocol (VOIP) using the NBN. Launtel saw a dramatic uptick in interest in their services as more and more Tasmanian small businesses experienced outages and other issues relating to their migration to the NBN. Given their existing experience and track record with VOIP services, Launtel had a head start on many incumbent businesses at the time.
While the opportunities relating to customers shifting to NBN-enabled VOIP connections for telephony were an important pivot point for Launtel, there was a bigger opportunity inherent in the NBN rollout. In 2016, a couple of years into the NBN rollout in Tasmania, Damian found himself at Enterprize (a Tasmanian startup incubator) for a networking event. He participated in a lively conversation about the opportunity that the NBN represented and how disappointing it was that no telco was really leveraging the full capacity of the new network. In short, the NBN was capable of gigabit connectivity, but nobody was utilising that capability. The conversation explored what would be required for gigabit internet to be a business reality in Tasmania. That night, Damian decided to explore whether Launtel might be the first Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Australia to seriously entertain the idea of providing gigabit services over the NBN.
There was substantial risk in taking advantage of this opportunity. At the time, there was no proven market for gigabit internet and there were few local case studies to refer to. Enabling high speed connections would require significant investment in back-haul equipment, not to mention the necessary bandwidth costs. The wholesale pricing model for NBN services meant that unused capacity would still be billed, so Launtel needed to take the risk of provisioning excess capacity, without any early guarantee that the capacity would be utilised.
Acknowledging the inherent risk, Damian decided to press ahead and position Launtel to offer gigabit services over the NBN. Launtel was the first ISP in Australia to do so, with Launceston and Hobart being recognised as the first two “gigabit cities” in Australia. Early customers for the Launtel’s gigabit product for business customers included ARTAS Architects who used the network to work collaboratively with engineers and other specialists in real-time over the NBN.
Since those early forays into providing gigabit internet services in Tasmania, Launtel has continued to grow. Damian now employees 50 staff and the Launtel service offering has expanded to include a range of residential internet services. Throughout this period of growth, Damian and the Launtel team have continued to innovate. Innovations that are rare or unique in the Australia market include: self-service (with Launtel customers being able to set up their own internet connections and often have the new connection activated within minutes) and daily pricing (with customers being charged a daily rate for their internet connection, and able to increase or decrease speed for a single day or pause their connection while they are away).
Throughout the Launtel journey, Damian and the team have prioritised customer service in a way that is rarely seen in the ISP or utilities sectors. Launtel is genuinely beloved by their customers and has won the Product Review Award for best ISP over multiple consecutive years. Launtel have managed to maintain their exceedingly high levels of customer service as they have scaled to provide internet connections Australia-wide, a feat that has eluded many of their competitors.
While Launtel has undoubtedly been a trailblazer in terms of ISP business models and the technology required to deliver high speed connections to Australian businesses and consumers, for Damian, it is the consistent prioritisation of customer service that is Launtel’s most important innovation.
Damian’s LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/damianivereigh
Launtel - https://launtel.net.au/
Brand Tasmania: Launceston, Australia's first Gigabit City - YouTube
First Gigabit City (Launceston, Tasmania) - https://www.arnnet.com.au/article/619924/launceston-becomes-australia-first-gigabit-city/
Second Gigabit City (Hobart, Tasmania) - https://www.arnnet.com.au/article/627903/hobart-becomes-tassie-second-gigabit-city/
Launceston’s Gigabit Advantage - https://www.launceston.tas.gov.au/News-Media/Launcestons-gigabit-advantage