A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Virtual1's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Virtual1 is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Tom O’Hagan, CEO and founder
Virtual1’s dynamic office
Established a decade ago in central London, Virtual1
has evolved from being a local operator and network
aggregator to a UK-wide carrier with the fifth-largest UK
network. Now operating shoulder to shoulder with the likes
of Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Vodafone and BT, founder and CEO
Tom O’Hagan discusses the steps made to provoke disruption
and innovation in the IT and communications sector, and how
Virtual1’s unique services and product base set it in good stead
to continue as one of the UK’s leading providers of internet,
connectivity and cloud services.
Over the past 18 months I am proud to say that Virtual1 has both announced and
successfully executed our plan to disrupt the UK connectivity market. We specialise
in the delivery of high-bandwidth services to UK businesses, be that for internet
access or connecting multisite operations and cloud services together. In 2017 we
expanded our already award-winning network across the UK, delivering cutting-
edge connectivity services to over 180 towns and cities, with the potential to supply
over 75 per cent of UK business addresses directly.
Industry background
The connectivity market has long been dominated by a handful of carriers and was
primed for disruption and innovation. The cost of deploying a carrier network, both
in terms of physically laying the connectivity and the manpower needed to organise
and support it, serves as a highly effective barrier to entry.
»CEO and founder: Tom
»Established in 2007
»Based in London with
nationwide coverage
»Services: Internet, connectivity
and cloud services
»No. of employees: 100
»Fifth-largest UK telecoms
This has led to a connectivity
marketplace lacking the innovation
that is behind the digital
transformation revolution which
currently drives the rapid adoption
of cloud services. While connectivity
speeds have improved, the service
experience – especially for businesses –
has barely changed.
How we innovated
Having worked in the international
carrier market for a decade before
Istarted Virtual1, I knew the pitfalls
and frustrations better than most.
Virtual1 was both my response to these
shortcomings and the manifestation
of a desire to deliver the innovation
which the IT and telecoms channel
was demanding. We began life as the
first aggregator of connectivity services
to the UK market and enabled the
channel to quickly and simply compare
the offerings of the leading carriers
for the first time. UK businesses began
benefiting the moment this was made
possible, as greater transparency drove
Central to this achievement was
the automation of these requests,
disrupting a previously manual and
paper-driven market. We integrated
our systems to those of the main
suppliers and were then able to
become the first company to release
an online portal (1Portal) to the IT and
telecoms channel. Quoting could now
be done in minutes and was available
24/7. Our push to always automate
has put Virtual1 at the forefront of the
market since then.
Costs were not the only frustration
within the existing carrier market.
Other issues included long lead times,
lack of transparency, poor service
levels and no direct control. With a
famously slow-moving market, the
best way to drive innovation was to do
it ourselves, so we invested in our own
fibre network across London and to
date boast the largest fibre network in
the capital. This gave us direct control
over our solutions, but it was clear old
technology and ways of working were
not going to deliver the disruption that
the market needed.
To tackle the barriers to entry to the
carrier market, we took two crucial steps.
Firstly, we looked at new technologies,
and decided to invest heavily in
software-defined networking (SDN).
This is the principle of taking control
of the configuration of a network
away from the hardware components
Virtual1’s dynamic office
Our push to
automate has
put Virtual1 at
the front of
the market
Highlighting best practice
and holding it centrally. This delivers
numerous benefits:
»Manpower is no longer needed to
configure components manually or
individually; it can be done centrally
and automatically
»All features and functionality are
templated, removing human error
»Change can be implemented in real
This technology dramatically lowers
the financial costs of deploying and
running a network on a national scale.
Secondly, we secured long-term financial
backing from the British Growth Fund
at the end of 2016. The resulting cash
injection of £10m – with access to
more should it be needed – gave us
the financial resources to invest in the
necessary networking infrastructure
and make the network areality.
It was the combination of technology
innovation and finding the right
financial partnership that enabled us to
become a disruptive UK carrier with a
dramatically different service offering.
The benefits to UK businesses
The software-defined nature of our
network has meant that we are able
to make the configuration of solutions
available to them directly through
1Portal. For the first time in the UK, the
IT and telecoms channel are in direct
control of the solutions they provide to
UK businesses. This has given them:
»Service lead times that have come
down from days to minutes
»Over 35 network features available
via 1Portal that they control 24/7
»The ability for partners to increase
and decrease bandwidth on demand
in real-time – a first for UK markets
»The perfect platform for the IT and
telecoms channel to innovate and
build brand-new and unique service-
level agreements and propositions
for UK business.
The results
The success of this approach is clear to
see in our growth, with a compound
annual growth rate of 30 per cent for
the past four years; we are on target
to hit revenues of £35m in the current
financial year.
Our culture
Virtual1 would be nothing without its
people, and I am delighted to have
some of the very best in the industry
here. I make sure that we make
significant investment in our culture
– from the office and working space,
to training, support and benefits.
Innovation and automation are core
values at the heart of our business, and
it’s this drive that sets us apart.
The future
IT and communications is a hugely
exciting sector to be a part of and I
fully intend to continue our market
firsts, with more trends such as
software-defined wide-area networking
(SDWAN), network function
virtualisation (NFV) as well as cellular
connectivity all providing further
opportunities for efficiency gain, service
improvement and product innovation.
The future of both Virtual1 and the
connectivity market is veryexciting.
For the first
time in the
UK, the IT and
channel are in
direct control
of the
solutions they
Virtual1’s relaunched
brand for their expansion

This article was sponsored by Virtual1. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister