How important is a network anyway?

How important is a network anyway?

5 September 2013

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A customer once said to me (in quite colourful terms actually) that he couldn’t care less who owns the network, what technology it uses, where it is or how much it had cost to build-out, as long as it works. To most customers – and thus by default most resellers – that is fundamentally all that matters.

I’ve heard similar views expressed plenty of times and it’s easy to sympathise with this standpoint. From the end customer’s perspective, all that matters is that the service ‘does what it says on the tin’, as it were; that it delivers what it’s supposed to deliver. But to the partner, the network can make a distinct and vitally important difference.

The first and perhaps the biggest differentiator the network can give resellers is flexibility. Most service providers offer their partners a range of services, but they’re almost always quite tightly defined in terms of the bandwidth, usage allowances, thresholds, SLAs and other features. This is because the actual network belongs to someone else. If you wanted to tailor connectivity to suit a particular set of requirements, it might be possible, but there would almost certainly be limitations and restrictions on what you could do.

It might also take quite some time to get the connection set-up, as at least two parties (and probably three if it requires any kind or structural network or ground works) would need to be involved. Making it happen could be complicated.

Added flexibility

With comms providers that have their own network – and Entanet is one of the very small handful that do – you have much greater flexibility. Connections and private WANs can be given the exact set-up required by the customer. If the CP has full control of its own network, it can also offer a bigger and more varied range of ready-made services as well, so resellers can go to that one provider for a full range of options that will meet the needs of all customers.

Providers that have their own network can give you a more solid assurance of network resiliency. All networks can suffer outages or issues from time to time, but some cope better than others. In Entanet’s case, we have equipment in 40 nodes and they’re all interconnected, so if one of those sites does go down, only a tiny percentage of customers are momentarily affected. Companies that take an unmanaged service from their wholesale supplier are more vulnerable. If their link into the network goes down, they’ll lose all their connections. And as they’re not really in control of the network, they won’t be able to influence exactly when it will be restored – all they can do is put pressure on their wholesaler.

Also, because we have equipment in all 20 POPs across the UK, our network is physically closer to more customers, which means we can deliver services in more parts of the country. It also means that we can be more flexible with pricing, which arguably is the biggest benefit of all from a partner’s perspective, as it means they can compete more effectively.

Free to change

A comms provider that has its own network is also free to make changes and updates to its network that improve services and make them more differentiated. For example, we’ve recently made a strategic investment in Cisco Aggregation Services Routers (ASRs) across our network. These enable us to aggregate traffic and support more virtual LANs and higher Quality of Service levels for voice, streaming video and other services that are dependent on continuous and stable bandwidth.

Managing your own network does require a high level of technical capability of course – and this is probably one of the key reasons that most comms providers have chosen not to go down this route. It requires significant capital investment and is thus a major commitment. It also means you – and you alone – are responsible for ensuring its smooth running and availability. I’d suggest that, from a reseller’s perspective, it makes working with a CP that has its own network a much safer bet. Knowing that your provider has high-level competency and the ability to control its own service quality is bound to be reassuring.

For all of these reasons, working with a comms provider that has its own network makes good sense for resellers. They have much more control of their own destiny, which means resellers can be more flexible in terms of what they offer and what they charge and provide a wider range of services in more areas. It might not make any difference to the end customer whose network their connectivity runs on, but for resellers and dealers it certainly does.