Network Disruption

Virtual1 has emerged as one of the success stories of the UK Wholesale market and after doubling their turnover since the launch of their London network in 2014 are now looking to disrupt the carrier market with their new network roll-out. Here, CEO Tom O’Hagan, explains how his Software Defined Network is putting network control back in the hands of the partners.

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): Can you tell us the background to this development and the main drivers behind the expansion?

Tom O’Hagan (TOH): This announcement was over 18 months in the making. After the success we had from rolling out our London network, expanding nationwide was a logical next step. We have been working hard on 2 key initiatives to put the foundations in place for the national roll out.

The network roll-out was the key motivator behind the recent BGF investment (£10 million). We couldn’t have done it without them, once we had seen the opportunity, we spent the last 12 months looking for the right partner to support the growth. Due to their unique model and way of working in the PE world we felt it was a great fit. The orders were placed the day after the deal was signed.

Over the last 18 months we have been working to make our network fully software defined. By introducing templates and standardisation across our network, we can give our partners access to perform many of the configuration changes that they traditionally rely on carrier providers for, such as bandwidth changes and VLAN resizing etc. By giving access for partners to perform these changes themselves in real-time, they can define the SLA’s they pass onto their customers.

CBM: Has the Channel embraced the idea of SDN – do they need to, or is it just the natural evolution of providing network connectivity?

TOH: I have seen SDN talked about at length across the industry as the future, but as usual in our industry I think the tangible business benefits are yet to be realised. We see it as a natural evolution of the market, and so the emphasis of our launch is not so much the technology, but more importantly what this means for our partners.

SDN will deliver us real world advantage, and that is something we are very keen to deliver to the Channel. It is essential in us realising a full UK network, without the considerable overheads of the legacy carriers. This reduction in overhead means that we can be commercially competitive, and this disruption will bring revenue and margin opportunities to the Channel

We are also going to be giving the power of our SDN deployment to our partners through 1Portal, this will give them direct control of much of the features of the solutions they provide, giving faster changes and allowing the Channel can develop their own SLA’s and service propositions.

To an extent, the channel doesn’t need to embrace SDN directly – we have done the technical work for them, they can just reap the benefits of our investment and use it as a USP to win business .

CBM: How is your new SDN network helping partners target their key markets?

TOH: Every market, and indeed most businesses are different. Our new software defined network will give the channel another set of tools with which to further specialise and customise their solutions.

In verticals or applications where a dynamic network is required for example, our partners will be able to administer these changes themselves, rather than being at the mercy of a legacy player with manual workflows and processes

Also, by the virtue of the scale of the roll out, we will also be delivering high bandwidth services to areas of the UK so far underserved by the market

CBM: Disruption is going to be a key driver in our market – do you agree with that and how disruptive is your network going to be? What kind of market reaction are you expecting?

TOH: Completely, that’s exactly why we are transforming our business again, being wholesale only, we are very aware of the challenges facing the channel. I started Virtual1 because I recognised a gap in the market, and the challenges facing the Channel in delivering cost effective and feature rich solutions. We have already been pioneers of the aggregator model and moved the market on, we now want to have a similar impact in the carrier market, and raise the expectations of both service and cost that the channel should expect from its carrier suppliers.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine