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Geo Networks reflects on market changes as it celebrates its tenth anniversary

by david.nunes

Geo Networks reflects on market changes as it celebrates its tenth anniversary

Fibre provider has witnessed some major industry shifts, as the Internet, data centres, new technology and the cloud phenomenon drive the demand for private fibre networks

LONDON, 2 May 2013: As leading provider of bespoke private networks, Geo Networks (Geo), celebrates ten years since its inception, Chief Executive and Co-Founder, Chris Smedley looks back on how fibre has supported the growth of UK businesses across a range of sectors, and helped the UK to become one of the most advanced data markets in the world.

“Geo was formed in 2003; a challenging time in which telecoms providers were still dealing with the collapse in valuations following the dotcom bust,” said Smedley, who has been Chief Executive since the company’s creation. “The perception of most industry players at the time was that there was a surfeit of optical fibre assets and that they were of little value. However, we always felt that data usage would continue to drive demand for high bandwidth services, and that an investment in fibre would pay dividends in the future.”

Geo was created after Hutchison Whampoa bought a 2,500km national fibre asset from Lattice Plc, who had constructed it between 1999 and 2001, largely tracking the UK’s gas network. Geo was launched in December 2004 as a provider of national, private fibre networks. In 2005, it acquired Urband, the owner of an extensive sewer-based metropolitan network throughout London, enabling it to sell fibre networks both within and out of the capital.

“The big deals that really drove Geo in its formative years were due to the realisation by fixed and mobile broadband providers that the explosion of data consumption would require a change in how they procured network services,” continued Smedley. “Fixed and mobile ISPs were mostly not owners of network assets; that had been the position of the incumbent and when voice and dial-up internet revenues dominated, there was little pressure for change. However, in the mid-2000s the shift to always-on broadband using DSL technology and the growth of mobile data radically accelerated the need for these players to control optical fibre and benefit from its low cost of growth as if they owned the infrastructure. The time was right for a new kind of fibre business – one which was prepared to form long-term relationships with key industry players and give them access to and full use of the network assets previously denied to them. It was during this period that Geo’s fibre became the national core network for businesses such as 3, O2, TalkTalk and Tiscali, as it remains today. In less than 7 years, the bandwidth being consumed over Geo’s fibre by these companies has grown from a handful of 10 Gigabit per second wavelengths to multiple Terabytes of data and an entire generation of new broadband businesses have been able to grow and compete.”

Geo’s other earliest customers were also industry players such as carriers and systems integrators. However, increasing demand was coming through for individual large enterprises or public sector organisations to use fibre leases as the basis of a scalable private network. 2006 signalled a paradigm shift for Geo with a significant network construction between two private data centres, for a client of systems integrator, CSC, who also asked Geo to operate the optical transport layer as a dedicated private network for the exclusive use of CSC. “Within a year of that, we had taken this model direct to a number of large enterprise customers; banks, media companies, and businesses growing through online channels. Since then, we have witnessed a step-change in the way that the market procures data services, as companies have accelerated their use of data centres and dedicated fibre to locate their critical data away from their own premises, and the data centre and hosting industries in the UK and Ireland have benefitted from an explosion of investment and demand,” continued Smedley. “Above all, Geo has been able to take advantage of the success of the UK and Ireland in establishing leading positions within Europe’s changing data economy. Cities such as Dublin, Manchester and London and their surrounding regions are vital locations for both the storage and transfer of data. Geo’s network assets are a critical and long-term facilitator for this whole market.”

Technology optimising the existing fibre infrastructure deployed has also evolved over the last decade. “Today’s technology means that we can now provide 16Tb/s capacity per fibre pair, without expensive regeneration over a geography which includes all major conurbations in the UK and Ireland,” stated Geo’s Head of Customer Network Engineering, Gordon McCulloch. “There are now coherent optical solutions commercially available that provide 100Gb/s DWDM wavelengths at 50GHz or even 25GHz frequency spacing, compared to just 2.5Gb/s ten years ago.”

However, fibre-specific technology is also advancing. Last year, Geo launched the first of two diverse, low latency routes to Ireland, and the marine fibre cable used in the route in partnership with EirGrid was deployed with very low loss fibre, around 0.175dB per kilometre.

Last year, Geo added to its network an average of one major data centre per month. It now offers the most comprehensive data centre network, with over 130 on its extensive 100% fibre network across the UK and to Ireland. “The single biggest opportunity for us continues to be the proliferation of data centres and the move to off-site and outsource the management of data by business customers. It was recently noted that only around 20% of western European businesses are currently using data centres; the remainder still keep their data in a server room onsite. With the ongoing growth in data usage and the ever-increasing reliance most businesses place upon it the market opportunity remains very attractive,” concluded Smedley. “It has been a very long time since I have needed to evangelise the benefits of privately owned and controlled fibre to any business; the economics of fibre, its enormous scalability and superior performance together with the application of in-house IT skills mean that dark or dedicated managed fibre is becoming a common feature of most major data network procurements. The attractions of “cloud” technology and the advantages of data centres and hosted IT services mean that there has never been a more appropriate time for businesses to consider switching to an unshared, private fibre network.”

About Geo Networks

Geo is the only company in the UK to focus solely on the design, build and operation of bespoke dedicated fibre network solutions. Geo’s revolutionary and flexible approach means that for the first time, organisations can own and control their networks, ensuring that security, high bandwidth and resilience are guaranteed. By allowing its customers to directly own and control the underlying optical fibre that is at the heart of their data network, Geo is the only truly open access network provider in the UK. It provides an extensive range of solutions including fully managed networks, dark fibre and co-location services. Geo enables network solutions in the London area and throughout the UK with onward connectivity to Ireland through the newest diverse optical fibre subsea system, the East-West Ring.

Geo has extended its London network by nearly 150% and its national network by nearly 20% over the last decade, with much of the growth being data centre-driven. As synchronous SAN, private cloud and software-defined networks drive up the demand for an infrastructure capable of supporting these new initiatives, Geo’s connectivity to nearly all carrier-neutral locations means it can continue to provide pure fibre services and offer complete choice and impartiality to its customers requiring data centre connectivity. Its UK and Ireland-wide duct and sub-duct network holds up to 244 fibre pairs, enough capacity to carry the web, email and data traffic for every consumer in the world for a month, across its network in under 10 seconds.

Customers include media companies, service providers, major banks, carriers, data centres and gaming organisations. Geo won ‘IT Vendor of the Year’ in the 2012 eGR B2B Awards, was a finalist in the 2011 UK Customer Experience Awards, listed in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 list for 2011 and Geo was also shortlisted for the 2010 Sunday Times Tech Track 100: Barclays Corporate Performance Excellence Award. Visit www.geo-uk.net or follow @geonetworks for more information.

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