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CEO of ISP Luminet Says UK Should Focus on Universal Gigabit Broadband

Monday, Nov 6th, 2017 (12:01 am) - Score 4,165

The CEO of Luminet, Sasha Williamson, has told ISPreview.co.uk as part of our new interview that the United Kingdom should focus on deploying Gigabit capable broadband networks “nationwide” and that the plan for a 10Mbps minimum download speed (USO) is “laughable in this digital age.”

Sasha founded the business in 2004, although it first started life under a very different name (Urban Wimax) and initially only focused on supplying independent fixed wireless broadband services to UK businesses. Since then they’ve expanded their products (e.g. fibre optic technologies), acquired the the Vital Group for £2.15m (this ultimately lead to the Luminet re-brand in 2015) and even won the ISPA’s 2017 Best Wireless award (here).

Today Luminet describes itself as being an “intelligent managed services provider“, which delivers Connectivity, Communications, Computing and Security services to businesses. Sasha himself is thus no stranger to the industry and he’s also worked with Primus, Worldcom and GTT, as well as in bulk purchasing for major European telecoms users, among other things.

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Suffice to say that we were keen to know Sasha’s views on the current market and he certainly doesn’t beat around the bush. Sasha is keen to see Ofcomrip up the rulebook and take a completely fresh view” on market regulation, which he says needs to reduce bureaucracy and support smaller telcos against a “monopoly incumbent” (BT).

In an ideal world Luminet’s founder would like to see the Government fostering a “nationwide rollout” of Gigabit (1Gbps+) capable broadband networks, which could be supported by de-regulation and easier access to capital so as to “stimulate altnet competition.” The government has already announced an investment of several hundred million pounds for such networks (here) and Sasha views this is “a step in the right direction.”

However at the same time he also warns that the Government’s plan to introduce a “legally binding” 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation for broadband was “laughable in this digital age” and he criticised connectivity in London for being “behind other metropolis’s in terms of its connectivity” (note: around 96%+ of London can access 24Mbps+ “superfast broadband,” but a lot of EU cities are re-focusing on FTTP/H).

The Interview

1. Can you tell us a bit about the history of Luminet, such as how it came into existence and what you do differently, if anything, from the rest of the market?

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ANSWER:

Luminet was founded by a management team and myself, which had extensive experience within the telecommunications and IT industries – we had held key executive and technical roles in companies like Telewest, ETT, CitiGroup, Orange and BT.

The growth financing we received from Santander in 2015 enabled us to accelerate our growth and develop our new product portfolio. As well as our own fibre network and completely independent Fixed Wireless Access infrastructure, we have a host of value-added OTT services. Because we have multi-millions of capital into infrastructure with the world’s top technology companies, we can leverage the capability to our customers’ and partners’ advantage.

We have experienced phenomenal growth in recent years – our average revenue growth rate is 24% per annum and EBITDA has grown 16% YoY (Year on Year) to circa £1.1 million.

2. Luminet has made a name for itself in the business connectivity market, not least by building some increasingly sophisticated fibre optic and fixed wireless broadband networks.

 Will any of the changes proposed through Ofcom’s recent Strategic Review, which forced Openreach to become a “legally separate” company from BT and opened up more of their network to rivals, be of benefit to your ISP or do you think the regulator could have gone further?

ANSWER:

It’s always good to see a market incumbent that has become a monopoly to separate – but how fast this will happen is uncertain. The regulator should have addressed the problem sooner. Opening the network will benefit consumers and ISPs in the long term. In the short term I cannot see any immediate benefits, but it should open up strategic opportunities in the future.

3. Last year it was announced that Luminet and CCS had partnered and planned to roll-out a new small cell backhaul and enterprise network across London (here). Can you tell us more about this network (how fast is it etc.) and how much progress you’ve made since the announcement?

ANSWER:

We collaborated to develop a small cell backhaul and enterprise network across London, to enable enterprises to receive up to 1Gbps Internet access and provide mobile operators with readily available wireless backhaul for their small cell deployments.

We designed it to be the first self-organising networks in a Tier One global city, and by adopting a neutral host strategy we would give mobile operators a way to scale with the on-going increase in mobile data demand in urban areas.

4. What are the biggest challenges that you’ve faced with building the new small cell network in a dense urban environment like London (i.e. in terms of engineering, network design or regulation etc.) and is it something that Luminet intend to build in other cities around the UK?

ANSWER:

We have subsequently put this on hold as we review strategic options and build our indirect channel on our existing core and wireless networks, which have got 80% capacity.

5. At the time of writing Openreach (BT) currently aims to roll-out their new 330Mbps capable ultrafast G.fast broadband service to 10 million UK homes and businesses by 2020, which is a hybrid fibre and copper technology. What are your thoughts on this approach and do you see G.fast as being a threat to your own SME focused business services?

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ANSWER:

Our focus is the Capital as that is where we have our 400Sqkm network. In London there are many connectivity issues that won’t be solved via G.Fast technology. This is illustrated by the Connect Westminster Scheme, the newly launched Connected Voucher Scheme that helps cover up to £2000 towards a SMEs one-off connection charge within Westminster and the West End Partnership area.

We have an unparalleled insight into the London SME market and flexible product set to meet and exceed the connectivity needs of local businesses. For example, our Fibre-Air service is a 10Mbps to 1Gbps Clear Channel Wireless service delivered over the air and can be installed in 10 working days. This service is ideal for businesses to replace leased line wired services or those who cannot be served with a leased line wired service, require a quick installation or truly diverse connection.

Continued on the next page..

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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