Southern technology partnership benefits customers
8th August 2023

Southern technology partnership benefits customers

Despite the market becoming increasingly volatile, it is clear that New Zealanders continue to value speaking to a real person when they contact a business. Unifone and Southtech share this same value when it comes to their customers and recognise the need for local, customer-centric services. It means that when they work together, clients receive high-quality tailored solutions.  

Southtech began as Central Southland Computer Services Ltd almost 20 years ago. Owners Stew and Emma Bryan began the business back in 2004 in their spare bedroom at home. Shortly after, they moved into their Winton office. As the years progressed, so did the business. In 2016, they moved to a new site that facilitated their further expansion of services and products. To reflect this growth, four years later, Central Southland Computer Services rebranded as Southtech Ltd in 2020.

Southtech Ltd services the entirety of Southland and parts of Fiordland, including Milford Sound. The team of four operates out of offices in Winton and Te Anau. The establishment of the Te Anau branch was to keep up with growing business in the region, also meaning they are never too far away from their clients. Southtech’s impressive portfolio includes being specialists in wireless networking, CCTV/surveillance, data cabling and more. They are also suppliers of a range of hardware, including computers and associated software.

Unifone’s beginnings were similar to Southtech. Director Glenn and wife Jane initially owned JG Computers, a computer supplier, and repair business. The business started in the garage at home, until they went on to co-found South Otago-based internet service provider RiverNet in 2009 and moved into their current offices. 

In 2016, RiverNet merged into Unifone, owned by now business partner Travis Baird. Glenn found himself needing to fully dedicate his time to Unifone, closing JG Computers. With an office in Balclutha and Dunedin, Unifone has grown substantially over the years and now covers from Oamaru to Waipahi, extending into Central Otago with the Maniototo and Alexandra. 

The partnership between Unifone and Southtech began when Stew came across an article about RiverNet providing free broadband in the Clutha District and decided to reach out to Glenn as a fellow techie. Immediately getting on like a house on fire, it only made sense that they worked together. With mutual knowledge of both computer services and wireless broadband, Glenn has a holistic understanding of Stew's clients requirements, meaning all aspects of the specific situation are considered before proposing a solution. 

So what does a solution completed by the dynamic duo look like? From the initial inquiry, the teams collaborate where required to develop a solution. Unifone supplies the service, whether it be a phone system or an internet connection, and Southtech installs the solution. It could range from a wireless connection, a point-to-point link, a CCTV solution, or a phone system.

In the past, the most common service Unifone/Southtech supplied was RBI 3G/4G wireless broadband, where cell towers were utilised for broadband. As technology has evolved, fibre or wireless is now the common solution.

A recent example of a fibre solution is with Sinclair Transport Winton. The business requires a strong and reliable connection for their day-to-day operations and their previous internet solution was not cutting it. Fibre was their ideal solution, but they didn’t think it was possible. Fibre wasn’t immediately available at the address but it was close by. Masterminded by Stew, the solution was for Unifone to provide the fibre and Southtech would install a wireless link. The end result? Sinclair Transport is now getting download speeds of 800 Mbps. Janine, the office administrator says, “As a business, we rely on the internet. The ultimate solution for us was fibre, and we got it. The communication from both companies has been great all the way through”. 

So what does the future hold for Southtech and Unifone? Stew envisions further growth into Te Anau and Milford Sound, with his team expanding to 5-6 people between the offices. He anticipates an increase in managed services and further collaboration with Southtech's partners. Glenn foresees growth in small to medium enterprises and emerging technologies like IoT, aiming to collaborate with Southtech on these opportunities. Plans are underway to expand the wireless network further into North Otago and Central Otago. 

The future looks bright for the two businesses. Southtech and Unifone's willingness to adapt and grow with the evolving sector of technology is a huge advantage. Their mutual respect and shared values means local people can continue to receive high-quality solutions from local businesses.

Author: Sarah Hutton