Broadband For Business

Broadband For Business

Andrew Dickinson of Griffin Internet

Andrew Dickinson of Griffin Internet

 
Rob Simms of Tempest
Rob Simms of Tempest
 
Stuart Cordingley, Daisy Group Plc’s
Stuart Cordingley, Daisy Group Plc’s Product and Marketing Director
 
Carl Churchill of Murphx
Carl Churchill of Murphx

We’re talking about business broadband; the kind that you should be able to rely upon to keep that business going whether that is for voice and or data communications.

The last 12 months have seen a number of new product variants come to market as well as progress on bundled DSL offerings. This article looks at the latest product versions hitting the streets and asking if this is really what we have been waiting for to really enable VoIP and resellers who are locking in their customers with voice and data networking products from one supplier.Over the last twelve months Griffin Internet has launched a range of connectivity products for resellers, up to 16Mb/s LLU ADSL, uncontended SDSL replacement solutions and Agile MPLS networks.

Andrew Dickinson, Sales and Marketing Director at Griffin Internet, “The most successful of these has been our agile MPLS product which incorporates all of our specialist business connectivity products including QoS (tailored specifically for voice) that we launched over two years ago. According to the Forrester report from August 2009 49% of SMBs (around 300,000 enterprises) have or are looking to buy an MPLS WAN in the next two years. Driving this demand has been the need to connect remote workers to corporate networks and the need to replace ISDN technology for chip and pin systems in the retail sector. Larger enterprises have traditionally bought MPLS networks directly from the carriers but these are too expensive and too inflexible for the broader SMB market. Network aggregators like Griffin have done well because they offer a range of leased lines and broadband from all of the major carriers as a white label private networking ‘kit’. Griffin Partners use a sophisticated self-service portal to build provision and manage MPLS networks for their clients. Pre-sales support and network design are included in the deal and because the intelligence is ‘in the cloud’ the reseller does not need expensive, complicated routers and an army of on-site engineers.

Every reseller has at least one high margin MPLS deal in their existing base and Griffin will even go as far as to help them find them.

As Clare Frost, Head of Marketing at one of Griffin’s Partners, Freedom Communications explains; “We teamed up with Griffin to create a campaign to target our own customers and are pleased to say that we are currently working on a number of new MPLS remote working opportunities in our base. The pre-bid sales team are on hand to help us design bespoke solutions and our Partner Manager is there to help us win the bids.”

John Dawson, MD at Griffin said; “Adding value is a big part of what we do, in fact you could say it is all we do. We encourage feedback from our Partners, this is important to make sure we are developing products that their customers need. We add value by supporting them in winning business every step of the way. Even though we have grown rapidly in the last few years our original team is still with us, as are our original Partners. We achieved a 90% approval rating in last quarter’s customer survey and 99% of Partners agreed that their Partner Manager adds value to their business. The relationships we have built over the last 15 years with the channel are invaluable to helping us improve next quarter’s results and beyond. Looking forward we are working on totally new ways of enabling our Partners to increase the share of their customers IT spend by adding ever more value and services.”

Mainstream Products

Rob Sims, Managing Director of Tempest says that broadband has become a fundamental part of a Reseller’s portfolio and can no longer be viewed as an add-on product which they offer to customers already buying from them.

“The position of broadband has switched from being a subsidiary product to become a strategic part in building future customer relationships.

Any reseller that is serious about providing products for the future, whether these be VOIP, hosted applications or other variants, has to understand that the product is only as good as the access circuit used by the customer.

For example, if a reseller sells a customer a residential broadband package for business use, simply because it is cheaper, the customer should understand that they will not get the same speed and connectivity as they would from a dedicated business option.

It is like buying a Ferrari and then complaining that it only goes at 5mph in rush hour traffic. The onus is therefore on the Reseller to ensure that not only do they offer broadband, they offer broadband to suit all customer needs, around the UK.

Distributors such as Tempest, the channel’s total solutions provider, have the resources to inform, educate and lead resellers in their search for maximised broadband opportunities.

More and more broadband and hosted application products are appearing on a daily basis and resellers need to be ready with the right answers and solutions before they hit the consumer market. If, as a reseller, you have not yet taken broadband services seriously, you need to find a partner who does today.”

Water and Electricity?

Stuart Cordingley, Daisy Group Plc’s Product and Marketing Director, said, “Broadband for business has grown to become a vital element in the fundamental workings of a company and the reach of this product extends to a mass world market.

Some are even saying that having broadband connectivity is equally important as having water and electricity. While this may be a little extreme, it is certainly true that businesses are wanting more and more from their chosen broadband supplier and this is not necessarily about cost.

Ofcom research has shown demand for bandwidth and speed is growing annually. Business customers are finding that if they want good service and reliability they have to look for something more than cheap, ‘no frills’ broadband.

At daisy, we want to keep our customers for the long haul, so it is in our best interest to ensure they remain happy with their broadband choices at all times. It is for this reason that our focus is on great performing, reliable businessready broadband models, which offer excellent value for money.

We are currently looking at future alternatives with Annex M that will offer speeds of up to 24Mbs download and 2.5Mbs upload. Annex M is part of the new 21CN services of broadband connectivity based on ADSL 2 + technology and works by using Rate Adaptive Technology. This means that each connection will synchronise with the DSLAM at the local exchange and sync up to the highest possible speed available.

We are also looking at options of a shared band product which will enable customers to benefit from combining up to four LLU connections and get the sum of the speed of four individual lines.

And as broadband continues to evolve, we will ensure our customers are given the option to upgrade their service in line with their everchanging business needs.

 

Voice ready broadband?

With the slowing down of PBX sales in the first part of 2009 many resellers are looking at hosted telephony solutions and their non- Capex model as an alternative revenue source so we asked NGN provider Opal for their views on the viability of voice ready broadband.

Andy Lockwood, Transformation Director, Opal, “Whilst positive steps are being made to enable business grade VOIP ready broadband, as an industry, we’re not quite there yet. The success of voice ready broadband depends on three key components– speed, quality and support and whilst progress has been made across all three of these areas, there remains room for improvement.

“Unlike using your broadband for web surfing, to hold a voice call you also require decent upstream speeds. Opal’s ADSL2+ broadband offers an upstream connection speed of up to 1Mbps, compared to the market standard of up to 400 Kbps offering two and a half times more voice carrying capacity.

In addition, Opal’s Annex M service boasts an uplink speed of up to 2.5 Mbps, with minimal impact on the download speed. This month Opal launched a brand new service, ‘Assured Rates’ which guarantees a minimum speed of at least 1.5 Mbps both up and down stream. Opal is also reviewing technologies such as circuit bonding and Ethernet First Mile which combine multiple broadband channels to give higher speeds in both directions.

“There is still a perception that using voice over broadband will be jittery and unstable. As well as having improved download speeds, the other way to overcome quality issues is by prioritising the voice traffic over other traffic (e.g. email and data). Opal has a major focus in this area and will launch a new service early next year which will enable the user to do exactly that – allowing businesses to isolate higher speeds to the services that require a faster bandwidth in order to operate successfully.

“Support is another key factor holding back the take up of voice ready broadband. Currently, the standard response time for BT Openreach broadband customers is 40 working hours – inconvenient if you’re a residential user but a catastrophe if you are a business. Whilst support response times remain slower than that of ISDN, it will be difficult to convince customers to make the switch. Opal is committed to reducing our response times and we’re trying to work with Openreach to make sure they do the same.

 

Commodity Dangers

Darren Farnden, Head of Marketing at wholesale voice and data communications provider, Entanet, warns communications providers and resellers on the dangers of selling business broadband as a ‘commodity’.

“As broadband is increasingly touted as a ‘commodity product’, the important role it plays in terms of enabling businesses to run effectively risks being underestimated – by resellers and by end users.

Business customers now quite rightly expect their broadband service to be fit for purpose – and in their eyes that will mean that it must work and work well, 24/7. The reliability of networks has thus become vitally important for the communications providers and resellers who supply broadband connectivity.

“The majority of service providers deliver availability and performance of a decent standard but it’s important to remember that broadband can’t easily deliver guaranteed speed levels of bandwidth,” says Farnden. “Making sure there’s enough bandwidth to meet the needs of all users at all times is a complex equation. Network operators like ourselves have to constantly monitor their networks as the bandwidth needs of different customer groups vary. Some are tempted to push capacity to the limit because the more users they can squeeze into their capacity, the more profitable they become.”

But this might mean some users will get poor performance at times that are critical to their business. It’s perhaps no surprise then that some providers occasionally imply that they can deliver a bit more than they really can in order to entice users to buy their service. This is the danger of treating broadband like a commodity – every ISP can deliver the basic connectivity, but when you need higher levels of assured performance, some services are going to be much better than others.

So far, this hasn’t been too great a problem for business focused providers. However, that could change soon because of other technology developments gathering pace.

Farnden gives some examples: “The SaaS (Software as a Service) revolution is gaining momentum and the eponymous ‘Mountain View Chocolate Factory’ (aka Google) is churning out new business applications like there’s no tomorrow. Microsoft meanwhile is making noises about adopting an online model for Microsoft Office – and essentially making it free – as early as 2010.”

“Imagine a scenario in which all businesses suddenly switched over to using online, hosted apps instead of locally-installed programs. Demand for bandwidth would go through the roof, sending the performance levels of some communications providers crashing to the floor. The result would be uproar amongst end users and resellers that are virtually powerless to react because of their reliance on the communications providers.”

This is of course all about managing expectations and the danger for those providers and resellers who’ve inflated them is that they’ll struggle to meet those expectations as demand rises. “Whether they will have the ability to adapt and provide the additional bandwidth that will be needed remains to be seen,” says Farnden. “Even then, it will take time and the delivery of a consistent performance will depend on the communications provider’s ability to allocate and manage bandwidth efficiently.” Resellers who have chosen to work with a communications provider that’s been careful not to push its network capacity to breaking point, has full control of its own network and the experience and technical nous to manage it effectively, will be in a much better position to ensure that their broadband services continue to deliver the levels of service that their customers expect; and hang on to those customers as they move into the new era in which software (and just about every other IT service) is delivered across the web.

 

Broadband is Changing

Carl Churchill, murphx director, believe that broadband is changing and that it’s not subtle upgrades that enhance an existing service; these are changes that will shift the opportunity that broadband presents to the channel.

“The last 12 months have seen some exciting developments, BT’s 21CN, fully unbundled broadband and line rental packages from the likes of Opal and Tiscali, as well as major trials such as BT’s fibre to the cabinet. “Broadband for Internet” is old-hat and those in the channel selling simply broadband for data will experience slow and declining success; broadband is now your opportunity to add value and create lucrative revenue opportunities. We should consider the broadband of the future to merely be a mechanism to communicate convergence centric applications, such as voice over IP and video as well as remote applications and software as a service. What’s important is that the underlying broadband carriers realise this as well and aside of new product launches, the underlying support of these services is improving. BT’s Service Harmonisation project will see broadband repair performed in just a few hours with repair options being available 24×7.

The market is maturing and as the carrier services have advanced murphx has worked to developed quality assurance techniques that support the cultural shift of broadband. The end user has become more “tech savvy” and their expectations are changing. It’s important to have a story to tell about your 21CN strategy, participation in trials of BT’s fibre to the cabinet delivering up to 40Mbit download and 5Mbit upload in its early stages, as well as cost saving opportunities with fully unbundled DSL delivering line rental and voice services.

ADSL2+ technology delivering up to 24Mbit speeds has become more mainstream. We launched our first ADSL2+ service back in 2008, followed by a subsequent release aimed at supporting our partners to grow their

Carl Thomas, Wholesale Manager at Fluidata

Carl Thomas, Wholesale Manager at Fluidata

broadband customer base in the challenging economic times. BT’s 21CN will deliver access to ADSL2+ technology to 75% of the UK by Spring 2011 and with their price reductions set for January 2010 leading technology to underpin value added services will become more affordable for businesses.

As a leading wholesale aggregator it’s important to be more than just an intelligent middle man; it’s about supporting our partners to change what is raw broadband product from the likes of BT, CW, Tiscali and Opal into a business quality service. We’ve invested heavily in our technology to allow our customers to use the services for business convergence applications and launched products such as “VoiceStream” delivering a guaranteed amount of voice channels over a broadband circuit. As well as this we’ve invested heavily in our network infrastructure to ensure our customers receive unparalleled reliability and I’m pleased to say as a result in 2009 we’ve had 100% core network uptime. The evolution of broadband services will just further affirm it as a commodity product. There are some business changing opportunities presented by new broadband technologies in the channel and it’s important to focus your attention on the changes to make your proposition more sticky.

More bandwidth and better quality of service is what’s needed to drive growth in VoIP, video conferencing and SaaS and it’s almost there. I’m excited for 2010 which will most certainly be the year that the cultural change of broadband took hold.”

 

IP Packages

Carl Thomas , Wholesale Manager at Fluidata says that broadband has come a long way since its inception.

“For businesses back in the day, it was seen as a key marketing and communication tool as companies paid through the roof to have a static website with five pages. Email was revolutionary, and was quickly seen as the main way to communicate with clients, with their permission or without.

Now with the advent of converged or unified systems, it’s not surprising to have a company use their broadband for phone calls, data, video and even an alarm system. The advance of broadband has been the key driver in so many industries, each with their own confusing terms and acronyms. FMC, UC, SIP, Telepresence, VOIP, IPCCTV. The list goes on, but the common factor is IP – Internet Protocol. All the aforementioned use the internet.

On it’s own, broadband is a cost effective method to transfer data, and because of it’s universal acceptance, is widespread across a number of mechanisms. Packaged with an IP application, broadband becomes fundamental for the efficient use of the respective device. For the channel, it provides a number of opportunities for vendors, distributors and system integrators alike to provide a necessary value add to their portfolio, and this is further pushed by the rise of alternative networks to use. This in itself has promoted competition and innovation in product development, and the channel has inevitably benefited from the options available. Now technologies such as Annex-M can help a reseller by going to market with an ISDN alternative, whilst also aggregating two or more to attack the leased line market.”