After entering the business telecoms arena, Virgin has been cautioned that it needs more than a well-known brand and impressive rhetoric to succeed in the market.
Formerly known as ntl: Telewest Business, Virgin Media Business was unveiled earlier this month. Jason King, the firm’s head of wholesale voice and data, claimed he wanted to add between 40 and 50 new channel partners.
“Significant growth will be coming from the channel,” he said. “(We are) trying to bring on board organisations that are selling a significant amount of data. The perception of what the Virgin brand stands for will be of great benefit to us.”
Virgin has stressed that its next-generation network (NGN) is fully operational, while BT’s 21CN network is still being deployed. It has also focused on the benefits of its fibre-optic technology.
“Given that the BT 21CN rollout is not complete, it is too soon to compare technical specifications,” said King. “However, we can say that elements of 21CN will run on copper wiring, which is limited in capacity compared with the Virgin Media all-fibre network.”
Paul Lawton, managing director of carrier Opal, claimed Virgin’s entry into the market was “nothing more than a rebrand”. He also questioned the wisdom of doing away with the ntl: Telewest Business name.
“Ntl is recognised as an established provider of networks,” he said. “I
wonder whether the public sector will appreciate Virgin as
He added that, with public sector bodies looking to upgrade from two Mbit/s to 10 Mbit/s broadband infrastructures, there would be ample opportunity for rivals to pounce on nonplussed Virgin customers.
“A lot of people are switching suppliers,” he said. “People like Opal and BT will look to ntl’s customer base as a source of opportunity.”
Ricky Hudson, chief executive of communications vendor Star, welcomed Virgin’s intent to “shake up the UK business telecoms market”, but claimed its plans were too vague to judge yet.
“The important thing is that the business market is very different to the consumer market,” he said. “Virgin has to figure out a way to compete with BT, Cable & Wireless (C&W) and strong regional players.”
Hudson claimed Virgin’s fibre-optic network had given it an advantage over some rivals, but predicted the playing field could soon be level.
I am not sure (Virgin) has really capitalised,” he said. “Is (its network) significantly better than the alternatives: 21CN and Cable & Wireless?”
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