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BT to Launch New UK SoHo Business Unit and Broadband Plans

Monday, June 7th, 2021 (8:07 am) - Score 6,696
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UK ISP BT Business has today announced the forthcoming 1st July 2021 launch of a new unit that will be tasked with catering for the SoHo market (i.e. micro home-based and single site businesses), which comes attached to an array of new “business-grade” broadband plans (FTTC, FTTP), “unbreakable Wi-Fi” and other services.

BT’s new SoHo unit will sit inside its Enterprise division, but it’s not just about offering a new range of broadband packages. “As well as delivering business-grade connections which offer value for money and a premium customer service experience, BT will launch a new suite of services and apps to help the UK’s smallest and fledgling firms grow by building stronger digital foundations,” said the announcement.

NOTE: SoHo stands for Single/Small Office, Home Office. More than 95% (5.7 million) of the UK’s private sector companies are micro-businesses with up to 9 employees.

Some of the aforementioned new services could include stronger cyber security measures, free digital skills training and new digital advertising tools. The advertising tools are currently still in trial, but will aim to help micro businesses by using digital advertising to boost their online presence (few details are currently available).

On top of that BT also claim to be launching a new Wi-Fi package for micro-business that is said to be the “first of its kind in the UK,” but the promise of an “unbreakable” Wi-Fi service that is “guaranteed across the workplace” sounds very similar to their BT Complete WiFi (mesh) solution for homes.

BT assumes themselves to be the “only business broadband provider which offers micro-businesses a seamless Wi-Fi network across the workplace,” although Mesh style WiFi solutions have become more common over the past few years and so there may be other ISPs offering an alternative (we haven’t yet been able to check this as our focus is mostly on the consumer side of the market).

Otherwise, many of the new features echo their latest consumer and HALO packages.

BT’s SoHo Feature Blurb

➤ Its fastest ever full fibre broadband with speeds of up to 900Mps. BT has tripled the speeds of its full fibre product to deliver its most reliable, ultrafast business broadband connection yet.

4G mobile broadband back-up and next day connectivity. BT’s Hybrid Connect device switches seamlessly to EE’s 4G mobile network if there’s a problem with the fixed line, to deliver uninterrupted business connectivity. With the device dispatched to customers the next working day after placing their order, it gets businesses up and running fast.

➤ Complete Wi-Fi coverage across the workplace. BT is the only business broadband provider which offers micro-businesses a seamless Wi-Fi network across the workplace, eliminating blackspots to deliver guaranteed Wi-Fi coverage for their business.

➤ Stay better connected with BT’s Digital Phone Line. The option of a digital phone line allows businesses to make and receive calls on their office number from their smartphone when on the move through an easy-to-use app; turn voice mails into text messages; and keep the same number if they move premises. BT’s Digital Phone Line also futureproofs their business ahead of the analogue phone network being withdrawn in 2025.

➤ Free visit from a tech expert and 24/7 remote IT support. Customers can opt to receive a visit from one of BT’s tech experts to optimise the set up of their equipment so it performs at its best. Advanced UK-based remote IT support is on tap 24/7, while advice from dedicated business consultants is available from almost 100 BT/EE stores across the country.

➤ Business-grade security. Customers have the option to add secure cloud back-up and antivirus protection to their package to ensure their data is safe in case of a cyber security breach. Starting from 250GB, this provides peace of mind so that if the worst happens, they can continue trading with no disruption.

➤ An unrivalled customer service guarantee. If a customer’s connection, coverage or minimum speed falls short of what BT has promised them and can’t be improved, they could exit their contract without penalty.

➤ BT’s fixed price promise. To provide further peace of mind, customers are guaranteed a fixed price on their Halo for business bundles for the duration of their 24-month contract. Halo for business starts from £45 per month (plus an additional £7 per month for the Complete Wi-Fi option) while the premium Halo for business 1+ package costs £57 per month with Complete Wi-Fi and security included.

People who want a Mesh WiFi system could of course just buy it independently of the ISP, which is often cheaper over the medium-term and usually works just as well as the provider’s own kit, although you won’t benefit from the same support.

Chris Sims, BT’s MD for its new SoHo unit, said:

“By setting up this new unit we’re investing in the future of the UK’s smallest firms and start-ups which are the lifeblood of the UK economy. I’m really proud to be leading this new unit at a time when their success has never been more important in securing our country’s future as we rebuild after the toughest economic crisis in a generation.

Every big business starts small, and we want to help them thrive by delivering flawless connectivity, coverage and customer service – so that their broadband never lets them down. Building on the purpose of our Skills for Tomorrow programme – which has delivered free digital skills training to almost 300,000 small business employees – we’ll also be launching a suite of new services and apps to move the UK’s smallest firms into the digital fast lane.”

The new packages are intended to build on BT’s Small Business Support Scheme, a broad package of measures that were launched last Summer to help support small businesses during and beyond the pandemic, by boosting their connectivity, cashflow and confidence.

Admittedly though, much of the above seems to be based on more domestic than business-grade connectivity solutions, but then most people working from small sites or homes will not require a more expensive Ethernet or Leased Line style solution to run their micro business. BT’s Hybrid Connection solution is also quite handy for basic redundancy, provided you’re within reach of a good 4G mobile signal.

Leave a Comment
17 Responses
  1. John says:

    the best thing they could do for business is offer a symmetrical connection or at least increase the upload. Whatever happened to the 1000/220 tier it seems no mainstream provider is willing to offer. It would benefit me a lot more than increased download.

    Also I hope the hybrid 4G can be used independently of their router and as a failover on my own network setup.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Openreach do have plans for symmetric FTTP tiers, but getting this all ready for prime time is a slow process with various trials and tests needed along the way. Much of their existing FTTP isn’t really setup to do it (GPON etc.), so that creates some challenges.

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/03/openreach-trial-progresses-fttp-broadband-for-business-plans.html

    2. Tom says:

      Yeah it would be very helpful if the hybrid 4G could work with 3rd party firewalls. The BT hub isn’t really up to scratch, except for the smallest networks.

      Any chance you could ask BT about this @Mark? I noticed the latest hybrid connect device does have ethernet, so it could conceivably work, albeit unlikely.

    3. - says:

      Openreach made a tech choice of GPON, rolled out with millions of ONTs and hundreds of thousands of OLT ports, they are still buying this now for new installs..

      They could still do 1G down and 500Mb up, but it will canablise thier EAD sales, if you think that is a ‘conspiracy theory’ then it’s worth asking yourself why the 220Mb upload version costs about 3X the 115Mb upload option when it’s using all the same technology?

    4. Meadmodj says:

      Those businesses that require speed guarantees, SLA, higher QoS, symmetrical etc can order the appropriate product.

      Lets be clear, the wider OR FTTP rollout is Ultrafast Broadband, Shared service and is designed to meet consumer and small business needs at an acceptable price point. Subject to demand the top product is 500 to 900 usage asymmetrical profile. In the recent video it highlighted that they are introducing filters on the central connectivity that will allow them to overlay other faster technologies over the wider FTTP rollout in future for more demanding customers both consumer and business.
      The OR focus is currently getting FTTP Broadband out to as many premises as possible but it doesn’t preclude the provision of FoD or the lease products (including any subsidies going).

      Whether FTTP or FTTC a lot of smaller companies are starting to get jittery about PSTN closure, Broadband resilience etc and it makes sense to have a separate unit focused on them not confused by their wider BT portfolio.

    5. - says:

      Sure, but I see EAD services being used by businesses who simply need ‘broadband’ faster than 80/20. They do not need all of those things you mention. A 1000/500 broadband product would be much more appropriate for them – except if Openreach offered it they would cannibalize thier own sales.. if they don’t another provider will do it for them!

    6. GNewton says:

      “Those businesses that require speed guarantees, SLA, higher QoS, symmetrical etc can order the appropriate product.”

      Wrong, there are quite a number of locations or circumstances where leased lines simply aren’t available.

    7. David says:

      GNewton – Leased lines can be delivered anywhere in the country. Price is usually prohibitive though, especially when exceeding the distance limitations of Openareach EAD

    8. Meadmodj says:

      @GNewton. Yes I do recognise that but that is why we need more fibre out to aggregation nodes (AN) so that they can supply all types of FTTP. Non availability areas should be decreasing all the time as OR appear to be building a common model to the AN for FTTC, Leased Line FTTP and Broadband FTTP.

      Businesses do not have to wait for an FTTP rollout (OR or Altnet) as progressively FoD should be getting cheaper and vouchers topped up by WG/SG are available in rural.

    9. Ivor says:

      @Tom – unlikely, because BT will have an interest in making sure people don’t abuse the facility (and perhaps more importantly, won’t be trying to make the 4G and fixed line work at the same time, especially if you have a static IP as this switches over to the 4G too). The old 4G USB dongle wouldn’t work with other devices so I would expect the same of the new ethernet modem.

      These are home and small business products, i.e. the sort of customers who don’t have an IT person or a particularly large network, and get on perfectly well with the BT provided equipment. The business versions generally offer a few more features than their consumer counterparts too.

      It also reduces their support costs as it eliminates the hassles of various third party interoperability issues & misconfiguration by people who know enough to be dangerous

      @- probably because 220Mbit represents a significant amount of GPON’s upload capacity, so is priced in terms of “are you really sure you need this”

    10. GNewton says:

      @Meadmodj: Agreed, we certainly need more fibre deployments for more areas.

      Having said that, BTs FoD is for all practical purposes a dead product, limited to just a few hundred or so orders per years as a whole, and with order fulfilment times usually well over a year now.

      @David: Leased lines are not everywhere available. Sometimes it can be simple things such as missing wayleaves, or of course astronomical costs making it not an option for a business. It often makes way more sense for a business to relocate to a location with suitable internet options.

  2. Ben says:

    Does the fixed price promise mitigate the nasty CPI + 3.9% annual increases? That’s the main thing which prevented me from switching my mobile to EE most recently.

  3. Daniel says:

    I agree It would be great if their router worked with 4g and 3rd party firewalls. Also it would be very useful if they had a 1u version of their router.

    I wish they would have a option of get there free(and basically rubbish hub) or pay a bit extra and get some decent kit. E.g. a Cisco router.

    1. Meadmodj says:

      BT Business allow businesses to use their own kit to meet their needs.
      https://btbusiness.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/258/c/5087/

      The Smart Hub is their standard offering if the company doesn’t have their own IT support or buying dependant services. Reliance on the Smart Hub is only required if you have a single PSTN landline switched to BT Digital Voice. Most businesses wishing to use BT voice services would be using BT Cloud Voice Express and therefore have the choice of BT or third party.

    2. Ivor says:

      If a customer is willing to pay *a lot* more for a Cisco router, then they can already do that themselves, although presumably without the 4G backup. The BT Business Hubs even have a bridge mode built in so you don’t need an external Openreach modem.

      There’s nothing wrong with the hub if looked at in context, what it is actually designed for. You wouldn’t hang an entire campus network off of it but for a small business it is absolutely fine.

    3. Daniel says:

      It’s losing the 4g backup that’s the main issue and also when you have a fault because then you need to disconnect your own router and plug the Bt hub back in so they can trouble shoot.

      The BT hub I was supplied with couldn’t even run at the full speed of the line.:( bit of a joke really.

      Just wish they had the option to supply something better.

    4. Ivor says:

      Well, presumably that won’t be a problem with the SH2, considering they seem happy providing gigabit FTTP through it already & without complaints.

      BT will happily provide a Cisco router for their reassuringly expensive BTnet service – which is the sort of connection you should really have if you truly have demanding needs.

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