UK Data WAN Market Continues to Evolve

• The combination of Virgin Media and O2 is potentially a significant counterweight to BT and Vodafone, but plenty of competition from challengers like Exponential-e and Neos Networks

R. Pritchard

• Roll-out of local/last-mile fiber networks extending and expanding bandwidth and choice, ensuring ongoing competition and innovation – both through direct and third-party channels

UK enterprises, organizations, and the public sector increasingly rely on data connectivity to deliver to their customers, to communicate, and share information internally and with partners. While the scope and manner of such communications has changed (e.g., greater use of public Internet and the growing importance of cloud/SaaS connectivity) during the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundamentals of market growth remain: everyone is using more data everyday for an expanding range of activities, applications, and communications.

With bandwidth consistently becoming cheaper per bit, pricing pressure is intense and differentiation can be a challenge for service providers: some compete on price, others on customer service, some look to add value to connectivity through, for example, managed/professional services, security, or access to hosted and cloud services, computing power, and an ever-growing variety applications.

Technologies such as Ethernet, SD-WAN, and fixed and mobile Internet access are underpinning these new possibilities: enabling new ways of working, sharing data, and communicating across multiple media types, whether that be video, audio, or messaging – or, increasingly, all of them together as unified communications solutions.

Of course, all this choice and rapid development can be a challenge for customers, so it is imperative that service providers understand their target customers to accompany them on their digital journey – whatever it might be and wherever it might be headed.

While the UK data WAN market continues to expand organically, there are many more aspects to grasp than just bandwidth and pricing: reliability and customer support are vital, with real-time visibility and control of services/applications offering customers greater insight into their networks, and helping to reduce service provider management overheads.

In sum – a customer-first ethos accompanying a flexible data network is essential in this highly competitive market – agility, control, and service are just as important as bandwidth, if not more so given the choice of direct and indirect providers.

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