Tech City UK Blog

Part 2: How to get the right broadband for your business now.

There are two types you need to be aware of:

1. Contended services (in other words sharing a connection) – mainly used by consumers

Contended services are shared amongst several unrelated customers in the same geographic area and are typically what a home user will buy.

Depending on the speed offered, contended services might suit the needs of small businesses.

But sharing lines in this way may mean your broadband speed will fluctuate depending on how many other people are sharing your connection. We know this has been an issue for many digital businesses.

Many digital businesses have substantially higher broadband needs, and contended services just won’t cut it.

When choosing a service, Mike Smith, Director of SMB for Virgin Media Business, says businesses should consider all the possible demands on their connection:

Digital has the potential to enable businesses of all shapes and sizes to succeed and grow. And getting the most from this digital revolution starts with making sure that you have the right infrastructure in place to power your business. It’s important to work closely with your chosen supplier to understand your dependency on digital services and therefore what the right solution is for your business today and, just as importantly, tomorrow.”

Although it can mean costs are higher, buying business-grade broadband can deliver superior quality of service, so it’s worthwhile looking at business packages.

2. Uncontended services (in other words, a dedicated connection) – better for businesses

Also known as an uncontended service, a dedicated or leased line provides connection for one business only and is not shared with anyone else. Obviously, the speed received throughout the day won’t fluctuate like a shared line.

Why choose a dedicated line?

With a superfast broadband leased line, the range of speeds exceeds the top speed of standard broadband. Dedicated lines also provide symmetric upload and download speeds – important if you need to send and receive large amounts of data. Such services often come with service level agreements.

You can get dedicated lines into your building via different ways: 1) Fibre 2) Ethernet and 3) Microwave.

1) Fibre

Figure 1: Fibre refers to a generic broadband architecture that uses optical fibre as the mode of transmission for connectivity.

Fibre-Leased-Line

2) Ethernet

Figure 2: Ethernet refers to a generic broadband architecture that uses a copper cable to connect to the premise to transmit connectivity.

Ethernet-Leased-Line

3) Microwave

Figure 3: Microwave makes broadband connectivity available wirelessly by transmitting the signal from a microwave dish at the telephone exchange that talks to a microwave dish on the premise.

Microwave-Leased-Line

However, depending on what you choose, set-up times can present challenges, as we discovered in our first post.

Peter Ward, CEO / Founder of WAYN, experienced issues here:

After a few months of waiting, we finally managed to get a dedicated fibre line installed, but that’s because the existing Internet availability was poor. It was a frustratingly long wait. Fast broadband is essential if you want to work at the most effective level. British businesses need this as a prerequisite to maintain a competitive edge.”

One major advantage of microwave is its relatively fast installation time. Because there’s no need to build physical connection to the building, microwave services can be installed in days: something to consider if you need to get connected fast.

TechCityInsider chose a wireless (eg. microwave) solution to get high-quality broadband – and fast.

Peter Treacher of TechCityInsider says:

The whole process was simple and quick, taking just two days to apply for our Connection Voucher, through to getting our broadband live. Amazing!”

How can I get reasonably priced broadband in Shoreditch?

One solution is the Government’s Connection Vouchers scheme. The Connection Voucher scheme provides a grant of up to £3000 for SMEs to upgrade their broadband connection to fast or superfast broadband. The scheme’s open until 31 March 2015 and you can learn more or apply here.

Qualifying businesses no longer need to fill in an application form, but can access the grant with a call to a pre-approved supplier.

Businesses that have a different service provider in mind can fill in a form to have a grant approved for their preferred supplier. Service providers can also apply to Broadband Delivery UK with an eligible package and become an approved service provider on the Connection Voucher scheme.

Some Shoreditch start-ups have already used the scheme to get high-speed connections.

Emily Brooke, CEO/Founder, explains how it helped her company, Blaze:

Fast broadband is paramount to the daily tasks of our startup. As our team is spread around the world, from Sussex to Shenzhen, it’s critically important that we have fast enough broadband to provide reliable video conferencing. We moved offices earlier this month and took advantage of the government’s Connection Vouchers scheme to enable us to get the right connection. We’re extremely grateful for the support they offered”.

Clubbing together on the Connection Vouchers scheme can also generate benefits. Getting fibre into a building can cost around £10,000. So if you share a building with three other companies and you all apply for the Connection Voucher scheme together, you can offset the cost of the fibre connection for your building.

The Connection Voucher scheme offers a range of different broadband providers. Here’s a list of the popular business-grade suppliers to get started. These service providers have installed the largest number of business lines through the Connection Vouchers scheme so far:*

With over 400 providers in London alone, it’s worth shopping around for a good price or installation time. The entire list of suppliers for London can be found here.

*Based on Vouchers approved to 30 July 2014, source: Greater London Authority.

What if I’m not eligible for connection voucher scheme? Group buying can still reduce your costs.

Even if you are not in an area where the Connection Vouchers scheme operates, clubbing together can still save costs. Maybe there’s someone next-door or upstairs that wants the same package as you? Combining your needs increases your power of negotiation and keep costs down.

Also, if there are ever any issues with your connection, it’s better to have many voices rather than one. This model could also convince service providers to invest in infrastructure in places with lots of digital business, like Shoreditch. So call into the ecommerce start-up down the road, the design studio next door, or the law firm across the street and talk about how you can club together to take your needs to the service providers.

Can technology innovation drive the adoption of superfast broadband?

Providers are evolving the way they’re delivering access to superfast broadband services to drive adoption of the tech. These include:

  • Allowing smaller businesses in the same building to share a leased line, which can help cover the cost of installation and ongoing payments
  • Developing new ways of putting fibre nodes inside, or closer to buildings, meaning speeds get faster for business users (i.e. FTTRN or Fibre to the remote node technology)
  • Using 4G technology so users can connect wirelessly to the network with cheaper technologies

Let’s collaborate and communicate to make sure businesses needs are met

High-speed broadband is an essential part of the UK’s infrastructure. If you’re running a digital business, it’s as basic a requirement as water and electricity. Important first steps have been made but now we all need to come together to make our feedback heard.

At Tech City UK, we’ll work with all relevant parties until access to broadband is swift and easy for the entire digital business community.

In the meantime, get together, discuss and collaborate with other digital businesses and make sure your voice is heard to access the best connection for your company.

Overview: superfast broadband services

Broadband Shot

* Determined by premises distance from cabinet

** May vary depending on your exact location