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Alternative network providers lack 'substance'

Friday, October 17th 2014 by Dean Reilly

The CEO of an independent network provider has questioned the effectiveness of some altnets ahead of the expansion of his own business.

Ben King (pictured), chief executive officer of Warwicknet, told Cable.co.uk that expansion will see the company serving 200 business parks in the next three years.

Introducing Warwicknet, which provides network connectivity for business parks and industrial estates, he said: “We’ve got an interesting niche.

"We are now, since South Yorkshire Digital went bust, the largest sub loop unbundler, the largest picking up sub loop with BT to deliver superfast broadband."

"We did our first park probably ten or twelve years ago under my previous company, which I then sold when I realised doing this was very much the right answer.

“We’d got a few sites done and got stopped in our tracks because BT Infinity came along and thought it was game over. Then we got engaged with the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire BDUK partnership and they had these great published maps, showing us what Virgin Media were doing, what BT were doing.

"We looked at BT and thought: ‘that’s nice of them – they’ve missed out all the business parks’. We then realised that BT didn’t have any interest in business parks or industrial estates.”

Reflecting on exactly why BT chose to avoid providing broadband connectivity to such locations, Mr King added: “Cynical people say it’s because BT don’t want to erode their lease line market.

"Actually, if you understand the BT cross model where they’re wholesaling FTC connections at £12.80 a month or whatever it is, and we convert roadside cabinets with 20 or 30 premises on them, it’d just never pay back commercially.

“We decided we better get involved. We then focused on Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire. We’ve pushed our rollout over the last two or three years across Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire. We’re up to about 40 parks at the moment with loads more in the pipeline.

"What happened was we ran out of sites, so we suddenly had to go and talk to other regions and look at getting engaged with different BDUK regions.”

Questioning how active some alternative network providers really are, he said: “It was quite interesting because quite a lot of people get engaged in the altnet space, but not a lot of them had much substance behind them or were actually delivering.

“We went to see Northamptonshire, and they were great. They’d very much focused their phase one BDUK investment on villages and rural areas, but they’ve got swathes of business parks. We thought ‘great,’ and we rolled into Northamptonshire with a working plan to do 30 parks in Northamptonshire.

"There’s more going live later this year. Subsequently we’ve got involved with Derby, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Bedfordfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire – we’re doing all the regions surrounding us – all the regions that want to engage with us, that is. Every region is different.”

Mr King, who graduated from the University of Warwick with a Computer Systems engineering degree in 1998, predicts more growth in the near future. “We’re going to be up to 200 parks in the next three years. We’ll be across the Midlands all the way down to Buckinghamshire, up to Lincolnshire, Derby, maybe South Yorkshire.

"The regions are at very different stages in the process, so we have to engage with them all individually. We’ve got plenty to go at.”

You can read the full transcript of our interview with Ben King here.

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