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.
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
32 | VIRTUAL1
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.
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
»Services: Internet, connectivity
and cloud services
»No. of employees: 100
»Fifth-largest UK telecoms
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2018
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
Istarted 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
put Virtual1 at
the front of
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
34 | VIRTUAL1
and holding it centrally. This delivers
»Manpower is no longer needed to
configure components manually or
individually; it can be done centrally
»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 areality.
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 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
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.
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 veryexciting.
For the first
time in the
UK, the IT and
channel are in
brand for their expansion
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review
This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.
In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.
We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.
With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.
And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.
As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.