After having attended the ISP (Internet Service Provider) Business Summit 2023, our Commercial Sales Manager, Jon Benger, reflects on the importance of build quality within the UK sector.
I was honoured to represent Altnets at the annual ISPA Business Summit 2023 where, as well as exhibiting, I also took part in the panel discussion: ‘Mergers, acquisitions and investment – What will market consolidators be looking for in ISP in a post-build era?’. It was a career defining moment for me to share my opinions on the sector as well as our expertise on maximising build quality with leaders from within our industry.
The summit had the largest turnout yet and I felt privileged to be able to take part in such an insightful panel discussion where delegates imparted their valuable knowledge of the UK internet sector and the changing market dynamics. For Altnets, it was important to share our expertise on the challenges we have witnessed within the ISP sector recently and continue conversations about the key takeaways from the day:
1) It’s less about the size of your network, and more about what you’ve done with it.
2) One of the biggest challenges for ISPs is how to build a resilient high speed network to create a trusted brand that will drive the take up by consumers.
Altnets are more than a traditional telecoms infrastructure distributor; we offer ISPs a ‘full Supply Chain Consultancy package’ – product procurement, supply chain management, planning, forecasting, and scheduling – as well as collaborating with telecoms businesses in developing their network and build specification by providing tailored technical support and training.
Why build quality is so important.
One of the primary discussion points on the panel was how investors can evaluate networks in order to arrive at a fiscal valuation. There was a broad church of opinion on this, which is to be expected based on the makeup of the panel. From our side, we were firm on the need for the ISPs to keep quality at the top of the list of network requirements. The industry is currently seeing a lot of low quality material being pushed into the market, so it was important for me to comment on how procurement teams should understand availability is not the best criterion when reviewing, testing and buying their network material.
Another hot topic for the panel and the audience was the comparison of urban versus rural builds. It can be difficult to define which is a better business proposition due to the following:
Urban builds can greatly benefit from PIA (Physical Infrastructure Access) and density of potential consumers, but this can increase the likelihood of overbuild and increase competition, alongside having to build around a proliferation of other utilities. Permitting and access to footways and road spaces can often be difficult to plan and budget for, not to mention the negative attention that arises from civil works which can damage reputations.
Rural builds benefit from the ability to work with local communities and stakeholders to install poles and ducted networks in virgin ground, often soft dig fields and verges. Whilst this is still a large undertaking, you can achieve greater distances of installed plant in these environments. In so doing, you’re also reaching potential customers who have largely been cut off from data services, so you’re growing trust with the community. However, many rural areas do not have access to PIA so there needs to be a significant commitment to building infrastructure and reassurance that it is being done correctly.
Additionally, the rural build landscape led me to question the investors on the panel regarding whether they are considering the intention of BT/Openreach to close telephone exchanges in many areas over the next few years. These closures will significantly affect any network who is not looking to create their own PoPs (points of presence), datacentres, or exchanges. This led to an admission that the investors aren’t considering these types of micro view issues and are rather reviewing ISPs in the macro view, with Jayne Longstaff from Macquarie Group saying, “if we’re not, I think we really should be”.
Finally, one area the whole panel agreed on was that the verbiage and the focus in the industry is having to change. Moving away from the term “homes passed” and turning the ambition to “homes connected” or “ready for service” properties will help ISPs and their investors to truly understand where they are as a business and how realistic a return on their investment is. Customer connections are a technical and supply chain strength of Altnets; we pride ourselves on our ability to consult, advise and supply the very best equipment to optimise an ISP’s optical budget, whilst positively impacting their procurement budget.
Client Collaboration: Wildanet
It was rewarding to hear one of our clients, Helen Wylde, CEO for Wildanet, speak during the Summit’s session on ‘increasing awareness and encouraging take-up of gigabit broadband’. The panel explored how to utilise strategic communications to build trust by aligning brand values, explore customer expectations beyond just the products and offer relevant services and resources. Helen has been fundamental to driving the culture at Wildanet using these principles. When building our relationship with Wildanet, Altnets found an alignment between the respective business’ values that has enabled us to engage at every level, growing a strategic partnership and optimising our respective ambitions.
With Wildanet creating new jobs in rural Cornwall, these employees need training – that’s yet another service in our consultancy portfolio. Altnets can not only help with procuring products at the right price and time, but we can also provide professional training for the products we are supplying. We take pains to understand an ISP’s business inside out so we can tailor our services and create a bespoke customer relationship.
We can provide training manuals and materials, hold face-to-face or online sessions, help businesses build training facilities or even ‘train the trainer’: where we can train one member of our client’s team who is then able to pass their knowledge on to the rest of their team. Additionally, we encourage our manufacturers to come along to our sessions, to provide a broad array of industry knowledge for our customers.
At Altnets we partner with customers we trust and help them to grow and deliver on their ambitions by getting the most out of our services. Our relationship with Wildanet has become stronger since we have aided them in other areas like technical training, so we can both connect better with the local community and improve the quality of service for Wildanet’s customers.
At Altnets we want to help ISPs stand out and achieve their goals – not just place their orders.
To find out more about Wildanet visit the website: https://wildanet.com/
For more information on how our specialist business could support your build or brand, get in touch with the Altnets team to discuss your needs now: [email protected]