Outside the UK’s big cities, internet speeds can sometimes be painfully slow. The problem is particularly acute in rural areas, holding back the development of local businesses in the digital age. Now, that might be about to change in the South West of England, thanks to a partnership between Jurassic Fibre and Tata Consultancy Services.
In the connected digital world of Business 4.0, people should be able to work anywhere. But without high speed connectivity that agility becomes impossible. And as companies develop their ecosystems to work with teams outside their corporate offices, connectivity is even more vital.
Jurassic Fibre Founder and CEO, Michael Maltby, says: “A lack of high-speed broadband has been a brake on development in the South West. This region could be the Silicon Valley of the UK. It’s a great place to live where you can work all day and surf in the evening.
“You could have the nicest office in the world, but without high speed connectivity, you can’t work here. The South West should be a leading part of the UK in terms of its attractiveness for inward investment. But you’re not going to get that unless you’ve got the connectivity”
A grassroots approach
Jurassic Fibre was founded last year by Maltby, a 20-year veteran of building high-speed networks from Russia to the Caribbean. For him, it was also a homecoming. He lives in East Devon, where the company is based, an area notorious for slow broadband speeds.
“Once we have the infrastructure in place, I believe this region will be able to attract more than its share of high-tech businesses,” he says. And it’s clear that business and community leaders in the region agree with him.
Maltby’s grassroots approach – “meeting people in village halls on a Tuesday evening” as he describes it – has not only generated enthusiasm for the company’s plans, he also got to meet some business people achieving despite the constraints of poor connectivity.
Among them was the founder of a local small company which had won the UK’s highest business accolade, the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. “She’s done that on the back of no connectivity at all,” says Maltby. “So, she was over the moon about getting a fast connection.”
A disruptive challenger
Jurassic Fibre is taking a community-based approach to the design of its networks. “Here in the South West we don’t have giant business parks or huge corporations. We’re a very fragmented business community with thousands of small and medium businesses,” he explains.
“They’re the ones who are missing out. It’s far too easy to focus on the big cities. But actually, if you look at the South West, Jurassic Fibre is a perfect fit for the way the business community is mapped out in the region.”
Jurassic Fibre was conceived as a digital, consumer-centric, disruptive challenger to the incumbent operators. The company originally intended to build its own back office. But when it saw TCS HOBS™ they realised it was “a no-brainer”.
From his experience of similar projects, Maltby was wary of trying to knit together IT systems from different vendors into a single back office. “It’s the brains of the business and, if you get it wrong, you end up doing brain surgery without anaesthetic on the patient,” he says.
TCS’ Cloud-based HOBS™ platform, combined with the expertise and commitment of the TCS team, was the right foundation to realize the company’s vision. Praising TCS’ “second to none reputation” in telecoms, he adds: “It’s designed in a way which allows you to configure different parts of the system very flexibly and adapt as circumstances change.”
Jurassic Fibre plans to invest £275 million ($343m) over the next five years to bring 21st century broadband to 350,000 homes and businesses across the South West. The first phase, covering an area from the city of Exeter to the coast at Exmouth, will start to roll out later this year. Planned future development phases will include North Devon, South Somerset and West Dorset.
Maltby has recruited a team of highly experienced fibre engineers including colleagues he has worked with on other projects, hoping this wealth of experience and expertise will give Jurassic Fibre a competitive edge.
“The UK market is huge. So, if you have a team which knows how to execute and actually roll out these networks you have a real advantage,” he says. “None of the big telcos have 20 years’ experience building fibre networks.”
Carol Wilson, Vice President, Head of UK and Europe Communications at TCS Communications, Media & Information Services says: “We are very proud that TCS HOBS™, our next-generation platform for subscription based digital business, will be part of unleashing the potential of the South West. The digital era of Business 4.0 will create massive opportunities for agile, connected businesses everywhere and we are excited to be part of opening up those opportunities in the South West.
“By implementing our streamlined back office system from the outset, Jurassic Fibre will be able to steal a march on its competitors and provide a highly efficient and seamless service to its customers. TCS HOBS™ leverages micro services, natural language processing, machine learning and big-data to drive automation, and deliver really great customer and employee experiences.”
At the end of the day, such an improved service will be a game-changer for both local businesses and their customers.