Is broadband still suitable for business use?

Comms Business has felt for some time there is a view starting to prevail that broadband is fast becoming unsuitable for business use so asked Stephen Barclay, Head of Sales at Wholesale Provider of the Year 2015 Entanet for their opinion on the issue.

In 2014 the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) conducted a survey amongst small businesses which found that 30% had experienced problems with their phone and broadband services. They argued that poor broadband was costing small firms money and could even leave some inoperable. Similar claims have continued to arise from organisations such as the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) and CLA (Country Land and Business Association) which echo the CAB’s concerns, and have prompted requests and campaigns for the Government to do more to ensure broadband, especially rural broadband, is fit for business. We covered this original research on our own opinion blog (www.enta.net/opinion) and this led us to ask the question – Is broadband still a suitable connectivity option for business use?

With fibre-based broadband such as FTTC becoming increasingly available we have seen a huge growth in demand from home and business users. The significant increase in speeds is particularly useful for business customers but, as a broadband based service, the solution remains contended and is affected by the same standard Openreach fix times as copper based broadband, with no SLAs or service guarantees.

Business criticality 

So to answer the question, is broadband still a suitable connectivity option for business use, we must understand just how critical connectivity is to the business customer in the first place.

This is something we discuss regularly with our own partners when investigating and advising on the most suitable connectivity solution for a customer. The key question to ask – what would happen if your connectivity went down for an hour, a day etc.? What affect would that have on your business? Would you still be able to operate or would it be catastrophic to your operations?

If the customer’s response demonstrates that connectivity is business critical then broadband probably isn’t going to be the best solution for them. If they are unable to operate without their connectivity or if it would significantly affect their productivity, costs and communications then they need a connectivity solution that provides some sort of guaranteed level of service. By its very nature broadband can’t do that, so in that situation we would probably recommend an Ethernet based solution such as EFM, GEA or a leased line. It’s also important to discuss the fact that broadband (including FTTC) is a contended service, not a dedicated one and this can also affect the level of performance the customer experiences.

However, in many situations where reliance on connectivity is not as business critical, broadband is a very cost-effective and suitable solution. Not every business can afford the additional costs that apply when implementing a guaranteed Ethernet based solution, and if many simply don’t need that level of resilience, why pay the extra?

The increasing availability of fibre based broadband services is proving to be a very attractive option for a lot of smaller business users which is generating an abundance of obvious benefits and opportunities for the channel as customers upgrade to usually higher cost, higher allowance and longer contracted FTTC solutions.

As a reseller, you need to decide how best to compete in this market and take full advantage of the opportunities fibre broadband is unveiling. Do you want to resell ready-made packaged broadband services from your provider and earn a regular commission or do you want to develop your own packages and pricing and market them completely under your own brand by utilising a true wholesale handoff based solution? In Entanet’s case, resellers can choose which option best suits their own business objectives and allows them to compete most effectively in this market. We help them decide which is the best and most suitable route for them to take.

Managing expectations

The real key to success here for resellers is managing the customer’s expectations. Regardless of the type of solution you sell, it’s always better to fully explain the advantages and limitations of the solution from the start. When reselling broadband (copper or fibre based) ensure the customer understands from the out-set that broadband is not a guaranteed solution and that if something does go wrong there will be a period of downtime that they will not be compensated for. If that poses a problem for them, then further conversations about alternative higher end solutions may be needed and will potentially create beneficial upsell opportunities. However, if this is not explained at the start then the reseller could well be in for headaches further down the line from disgruntled customers demanding immediate fixes on a comparatively low cost service where the fix is out of the ISP’s hands.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine