Seamless connectivity

James Audley, head of wholesale product, marketing and strategy, Virgin Media Business Wholesale, speaks to Comms Business about the rollout of next generation connectivity services across the UK.

Virgin Media Business Wholesale offers wholesale connectivity services to operators and partners across the UK. James Audley, the company’s head of wholesale product, marketing and strategy, highlighted the collaboration at the heart of the progress that has been made across the UK in the transition to FTTP and 5G.

He said, “Huge investments are being made by all mobile operators to increase the capacity of their core networks to support the future requirements of mass 5G adoption. It’s something that Virgin Media Business Wholesale has worked on closely, having supported three of the four UK mobile operators with the underlying infrastructure they need.”

The company is also playing a role in supporting backhaul for these new networks. Audley explained, “Our wholesale business is also helping network operators build out their own FTTP coverage by providing dark fibre routes to support their backhaul requirements. By working together, we can help them reach new customers in a more efficient way.

“At a network infrastructure level, the two transitions have dovetailed quite effectively. Our experience delivering massive 5G backhaul infrastructure projects means we are in a prime position to support ambitious, large-scale FTTP rollout plans.”

Unlocking opportunities

These improvements to broadband infrastructure will open up significant opportunities for the channel, and Audley discussed how grounding ‘over the top’ services in strong connectivity can ensure complex solutions are able to meet customer needs.

He said, “Connectivity, be it fixed or wireless, underpins all these advancements. The channel has a critical role to play in advocating for advanced connectivity solutions that will give their customers the speeds, flexibility and security that they need – whether in the home, at work or on the move.

“Arguably, there’s more innovation happening at the connectivity layer, whether that’s 5G technologies or FTTP, than there has been over the last 30 years. The transition to FTTP is enabling faster speeds for the same price, or lower, than equivalent business solutions.”

Channel companies will need to react to market changes to grow their business around these opportunities. Audley explained, “It’s clear that the market is more fluid and unpredictable than it was before the pandemic. What’s promising, however, is that end-customers are responding with enthusiasm towards digital technology: recognising it’s essential to dealing with – and capitalising on – this fluidity.

“Our own Virgin Media Business Wholesale research found that Senior IT managers are keen to introduce new networking technologies. 48 per cent want to introduce 5G within the next five years, while 52 per cent are actively considering embracing the Internet of Things.

“Yet half say that they aren’t convinced their networking infrastructure can support these innovations. That means that there’s a huge opportunity for channel partners to get closer to end-customers and help them invest in the right services, which is easier said than done.”

Audley emphasised the role channel partners can play. He said, “The connectivity channel must pull together to find new ways to help organisations act quickly and effectively – so they can continue to make bold decisions. By establishing themselves as strategic consultants and pairing businesses with the right technologies, channel partners can equip their customers for ongoing success.”

Supporting the future of work

As connectivity improves, new possibilities around where and how to work will emerge. Audley explained that organisations are re-thinking how work is conducted in three ways: optimising their own physical premises, supporting hybrid working, and creating new, virtual spaces for collaboration and engagement.

He added, “As the technology to support these advances, so does the complexity of implementing it effectively. It’s here that the channel can add real value. Channel partners can work with end-customers not just to address current challenges, but to actively anticipate problems that may lie ahead and prepare organisations for the unknown.

“To do that, the channel has an opportunity to help end-customers future-proof their requirements and provide scalable connectivity to 1GB and beyond. It can be critically important to select the right underlying connectivity technology that will guarantee performance and longevity - ideally, one that can flex as usage and traffic profiles change. As bandwidth requirements grow and IT environments become increasingly complex, customers need more support in understanding and planning their networks.”

When asked what he expects connectivity infrastructure to look like in the future, Audley said, “We expect the channel will offer fixed-mobile convergence solutions that offer seamless connectivity between types. A blurring of connectivity means business users will always be connected.”

This interview appeared in our November 2022 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.