The Future of Connectivity

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Lance Spencer, Director of Connectivity at TalkTalk Business says it’s an exciting time for the industry; we live in a digital age where the internet is spurring innovation across the world and, while it may be increasingly taken for granted, the value of resilient connectivity in facilitating this growth will only increase.

Demand for connectivity is soaring and access to high-quality, reliable services is vital to the future success of businesses in all sectors. Within the UK the next generation fibre rollout continues driven by businesses’ insatiable appetite for bandwidth. Key drivers of this demand include the adoption of services such as video conferencing, cloud storage and VoIP, all of which rely on high-quality connectivity in order to function, and many of which are now integral parts to a growing number of IT and communication systems.

The consumerisation of technology has also raised expectations among businesses and their employees; individuals now expect a certain level of functionality and flexibility in line with their experiences at home. Developments such as bring-your-own-device, for example, are valuable in cutting costs but place considerable strain on a network due to the vast array of potential device types.

With mission-critical applications increasingly being delivered through connectivity we are moving into an age where network downtime is no longer an option from a business standpoint. In the leisure sector booking systems are often being migrated to the cloud; the role of the supplier thereby becomes ever more important and businesses have a right to expect fully-resilient services, with rigorous SLAs and assurance of fast repairs in the event of outages.

Similarly, suppliers’ security credentials will be treated with greater importance as more reliance is placed on a business’ connection. Compliance with Government-backed accreditation schemes such as CAS(T) and ISO27001, for example, has enabled us to support the bids of pre-approved suppliers through the Public Sector Network, thereby adding credibility to our portfolio in the process.

The convergence of voice and data networks is another trend driving further demand for connectivity, with traditional ISDN lines being gradually replaced by IP-based technology as organisations seek to integrate their communication networks. This trend is supported by a desire among businesses to mobilise staff, and Microsoft Lync is emerging as one potential solution for businesses seeking truly unified communications. Lync means that users can simply connect via chat, voice or video using one of a number of browsers and devices.

The level of demand for the internet means connectivity will be increasingly viewed as utility, a constant force behind integral business functions but somewhat taken as a given. As a provider it then becomes our responsibility to maintain constant innovation, creating new products and services to fit the evolving needs of businesses of all sizes.

At the end of 2012 we launched our Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) product, Superpowered Fibre Business Broadband, in the direct and partner channels, which has proven a great success among businesses ranging from SOHOs to mid-sized SMEs. FTTC is an ideal entry point for businesses up to a certain size as it offers sufficient bandwidth and priority traffic to support most applications, but the issue of availability and coverage still remains. Nationally, businesses have around a 50% chance of being able to access a FTTC service, and that percentage drops to around 20% in business parks, which is why there is still a huge market for leased line services like EFM.

Moving up the chain to our enterprise and corporate customers we are seeing more and more companies employing MPLS technology to connect separate offices over a WAN, and this naturally requires a highly-resilient, non-contended connection. We have seen huge demand from professional services, which need the ability to instantly share information between sites, along with the retail sector, where many companies even employ a secondary EFM line as backup. To many businesses the idea of having a leased line as backup sounds rather decadent, but in terms of price it can offer better value than a legacy broadband setup, and it’s testament to the importance a business places on its connection.

The next step for TalkTalk Business will be an Ethernet-over-FTTC product, which is currently on customer trials in various locations in the UK. EoFTTC lends itself perfectly to MPLS networks, filling the gap between traditional Broadband and our full-fibre Ethernet product with synchronous connections at a hugely disruptive price point. In the fixed connectivity space EoFTTC will be one of the final developments within our current framework, with fibre-to-the-premises representing the ultimate end point. It’s difficult to imagine needing speeds in excess of 330Mbps down/30 Mbps plus, as yet, so the focus over the coming years will rightly be on improving access and availability of these next-generation products.

A full 4G rollout will affect the UK’s connectivity industry to a certain extent, but the core functions of a business-grade infrastructure will continue to be facilitated by high-quality terrestrial connections. From a business standpoint 4G is more likely to be used a backup service for high-availability connections as opposed to facilitating mission-critical functions, but even so it’s another important step forwards.

In summary it’s an exciting time for the industry; we live in a digital age where the internet is spurring innovation across the world and, while it may be increasingly taken for granted, the value of resilient connectivity in facilitating this growth will only increase. As a business, our challenge is to keep innovating and predicting companies’ needs before they even know it themselves, so we can very much remain the UK’s largest Next Generation Network connectivity provider.

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