Choosing Suppliers

Broadband nightmares: UK internet connections have fallen well behind other European cities

8 min read

27 October 2016

Deputy Editor, Real Business

That UK internet connections are not on par with EU rivals is no secret, and WorkPad co-founders James Barnett and Jonathan Masri are the latest in our broadband nightmare series to share their thoughts on how Britain could speed ahead.

When it comes to James Barnett and Jonathan Masri, co-founders of WorkPad, the state of UK internet connections are a crucial one. Ever the champions of wanting greater internet speed, Barnett and Masri have dedicated many a post to the subject. This is especially so of their dedicated push for the “better business working environment”. Functionality and business continuity are two crucial factors, the two have previously suggested, but too many UK offices are failing to recognise this.

With that in mind, we asked the two founders about their own broadband experiences – and their thoughts for nationwide service improvement.

(1) Please describe your company in your own words

WorkPad provides boutique office space in key central London locations to companies ranging in size from one to ten people. All our buildings are period in feature, and we try as much as possible to maintain any original charm and character, which perfectly fits in line with our locations. A major attraction for our members is that we generally offer an unbranded service, which allows the companies within to maintain anonymity. All our buildings are tastefully decorated, regularly maintained and have a 24/7 maintenance and IT team operating from behind the scenes.

(2) Where does broadband fit into your business?

UK internet connections, especially in central London locations, leaves plenty to be desired. Average speeds vary from a 5-15 mbs to 15mbs contended connection and for most businesses in today’s market, this simply isn’t workable. We, as well as many other companies have no choice but to purchase a leased fibre connection, which often costs between £400 / £1,500 month.

(3) Would you consider it to be vital?

Our customers are very driven by being based in central London locations but the importance of UK internet connections is equally as important. We house many tech, PR and media companies, and if we were to provide each with insufficient IT support, it would be detrimental to only our customers’ business but ours as well. We have learnt the importance of staying ahead of the game in regards to IT, which includes infrastructure and support. Another vital part of what we offer is flexibility and the ability to be pragmatic. Sometimes a company will require quite a complex set-up, and we will always go above and beyond to accommodate requirements.

(4) What type of broadband/supplier do you use?

We equip our buildings, depending on size, with a 100 megabit, or one gigabit leased fibre connection. This line is completely un-contended (meaning it’s not shared with anyone in the street), and provides the best, most stable connection around. We do all the networking within the building and the offices ourselves, and generally provide between 10/20 megabit connection to each room/company. This is included in the transparent packages we offer, which is often a breath of fresh air for our customers. We also have the capacity to increase this if needed. Within the rooms we provide CAT6 cabling around the perimeter as well as a solid wifi connection which runs on both the 2ghz and 5ghz spectrum.

Continue to find out how the two co-founders believe UK internet connections could improve.

(5) What difficulties have you faced with it?

Once the connection is up and running, issues are minimal. We have the odd user issue, which is quickly resolved by our IT support. Companies are generally not IT savvy, and when issues do arise, such as a port being closed on the network which is blocking their new IP phone, they wouldn’t care where the problem lies, as long as its resolved quickly. The quality and speed of IT support is paramount.

(6) Has the speed of it let you down?

Due to the type of connections we have, the speed isn’t an issue. However this is because we pay for that luxury, ensuring a solid, good quality connection. For standalone companies, operating from a traditional office space, the cost of purchasing a leased fibre connection could become an expensive burden, however if this is paramount to the company, then there isn’t any choice.

(7) How do you feel the service could be improved?

A major issue with UK internet connections, especially leased line connections, is the monopoly BT Openreach has on the core network, which all other third party providers are forced to rely on.

We’ve experienced first hand the overly complicated and unnecessary process to install a leased line: to install a leased line you are generally quoted 90 working days. You are also lucky, in central London, if that is matched. I’ve personally seen a connection to one of our buildings take nine months. This is totally unacceptable to companies in today’s market space, which generally like to move quickly and get things set up as soon as the move into a new building has been completed. Waiting such a length of time could be crippling to a business which is unable to operate without a solid connection.

There has been plenty of press recently on potentially opening up BT Openreach’s core network to other providers, increasing efficiency and competition. However this is obviously a sensitive issue as BT’s core network is often intertwined with other core services below street level, such as water and gas, which could be to a logistical nightmare and a blame game waiting to happen.

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

Broadband in the UK is in desperate need of improvement; it has fallen well behind many other European cities. More and more companies are now offering home fibre connections, which provide a superior service to a standard broadband connection. However central London locations are still suffering, as fibre is rare in central. The reason for this is the older infrastructure in central London, and the cost implications and disruption of digging up the roads in Covent Garden or Soho. Eventually it will undoubtedly improve, however this has been what the providers have been promising for ages, with only minor improvements.

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.