Choosing Suppliers

Broadband nightmares: FarrPoint believes investment from small suppliers can spark change

7 min read

30 January 2017

Deputy Editor, Real Business

A lack of good broadband often hinders growth and companies’ ability to support new contracts and associated data exchanges, FarrPoint exclaimed. But we could be on the verge of change.

You’ll likely know the average residential broadband package won’t keep up with your company’s Internet requirements. Pricier business packages offer numerous advantages, telecoms consultancy FarrPoint claimed, but it is often not enough.

As it stands, there are companies that can’t grow due to tools mostly being offline and weak connections prevent staff from various corners of the globe from communicating. It’s not like we haven’t made great strides in the broadband space, according to Jean-Donan Olliero. There is, however, still much left to be desired.

Olliero is principal consultant at FarrPoint, and he’s the latest business leader to unveil his thoughts on UK broadband.

1) Please describe your company in your own words

FarrPoint is an IT infrastructure and technology consultancy. We are independent from manufacturers and service providers so our sole focus is on delivering the best outcome for clients. Our core functions cover the delivery of strategies and high-level designs, specification and sourcing, delivery management and investment reviews. We specialise in enterprise technology, smart services, digital infrastructure, security design, governance and compliance.

2) Where does broadband fit into your business?

Broadband is a key focus for FarrPoint. We provide technical and commercial support to a number of local authorities and government agencies across the UK for investment in extending the availability of broadband to residents and SMEs. We are therefore familiar with the market, technologies and commercials involved with delivering broadband in a range of geographies. We also provide advice to firms that rely on the availability of broadband circuits or, when not available, need to procure alternative connectivity from the market.

As an SME, we rely on connectivity ourselves for all our operations: internet access, email, telephony, data storage, cloud-based applications, etc. from the office, from home or on the move.

3) Would you consider it to be vital?

Absolutely – connectivity is vital to all companies of all sizes. It allows employees to remain in contact and perform their job wherever they are. SMEs in particular tend to rely heavily on cloud-based applications and services rather than incurring the capital costs from hosting tools, relying even more on connectivity. Broadband plays a vital role in supporting these connectivity needs at affordable prices.

4) What difficulties have you seen companies face with it?

Availability of acceptable connectivity is a key issue for businesses. SMEs in particular, are less likely to be able to afford tailored leased line connectivity in places where good broadband circuits are not available. The lack of good broadband often hinders growth and companies’ ability to support scaling up of staff base, new contracts and associated data exchanges.

FarrPoint unveils its thoughts on UK broadband

5) Has the speed of it let companies down?

The speed/capacity of broadband circuits is a key issue for both downloading and uploading with the latter being critical for software and applications to be used effectively. The lower the capacity, the less responsive the connectivity becomes when users and/or services are added. It is therefore essential for businesses to have access to decent broadband speeds and to recognise which service goes with which location. Businesses can face serious disappointments when “up-to” broadband speeds are not achievable due to the underlying broadband infrastructure.

Compared to residential broadband, business broadband packages cost more but offer numerous advantages and lower contention. This means they are configured to experience less competition for bandwidth further into the network, guaranteeing the business more bandwidth under heavy load of the overall network by other users. This results in more capacity for businesses than a residential broadband package, but may still not be enough to all requirements.

6) How do you feel the service could be improved?

Delivery timescales are critical to provide the responsiveness that companies require. A good service for ordering new lines and fixing faults, committed through Service Level Agreements (SLA), is important. This will reduce uncertainty and allow bosses to focus attention on running their business instead of wasting time chasing updates and service activation. And once the service is up and running, speed is not the only critical parameter. Latency and jitter must be low to provide the interactivity required by some applications and services (telephony, video conferencing, etc.) that can be a key issue of satellite links.

7) What do you feel about the state of UK broadband?

Overall availability of Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband in the UK is pervasive with over 90 per cent of premises eligible to date, with this number growing. Openreach is the main infrastructure operator throughout the UK and even though it is rolling out future-proof ‘Fibre to the Premise’ to clusters of addresses, most Next Generation Broadband lines are based on ‘Fibre to the Cabinet’ technology still relying on BT’s copper network for connecting premises. The use of the copper network has served BT well, allowing the firm to rollout NGA broadband faster, but it offers limited scope for further service upgrades in the future without significant additional investment.

Over the last few years Virgin Media as well as smaller suppliers announced substantial investments in broadband infrastructure, often involving ‘Fibre to the Premise’ technology. As the footprint of these suppliers increases, more exciting options should become available to businesses and particularly to SMEs.

This article is part of our Real Business Broadband campaign, which seeks to provide a mouthpiece for business leaders to vocalise the broadband issues preventing their businesses from reaching full potential. We’d love to hear your take on the debate and where you think the UK needs to make drastic changes. Get in touch via email (shane.schutte@realbusiness.co.uk) or join in on the action using #rbBroadband.