What superfast broadband access could mean to Edinburgh businesses

The recent announcement that Edinburgh will be gaining access to a superfast network has countless benefits for businesses, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as Ricky Nicol of Commsworld tells us.

It’s the potential offered that is really exciting, with truly digital cities proven to attract some of the most innovative firms on the planet.

Earlier this month our partner firm, network infrastructure provider CityFibre, announced that Edinburgh was to become the latest city to join the Gigabit revolution as it would lay the infrastructure that would allow businesses to connect to a network with speeds up to 100 times faster than they are currently used to.

It’s easy to get lost in the technical side, but this could have a significant positive impact on both the cost and revenue of most businesses so it’s important that people are aware of what this “Dark Fibre” network could mean for their business, Edinburgh and in fact the rest of Scotland.

Cities such as Seoul and Stockholm are fantastic case studies for the huge impact this kind of infrastructure can have, with both reporting a one PERCENT increase in GDP due to the upgrade. (Figures published earlier this year by the Brookings Institution, a US think-tank, show that Edinburgh’s GDP was about £21.3bn in 2014.)

A one per cent increase in GDP is huge for any city, but the real gain is the amount of investment it will attract to the city through new business start-ups, increased profits at existing businesses, which will result in increased employment.

And what it could mean to an individual businesses is almost limitless. Every business is different, but 99% of the time faster connectivity will allow for better communication, improved efficiency and productivity and in many cases better services for clients.

The best example I’ve heard for what it can do for a business is actually a real life case study from CityFibre in Peterborough where they have already started delivering the gigabyte infrastructure.

A printing firm in the city is forced to wait for half a day before they can start working on projects for clients due to the size of the files and the times they take to download. The super-fast network being delivered will allow them to start the work almost immediately.

The business will offer an improved service, will then be able to take on more work, employ more people and offer their staff better working hours - all pretty compelling really!

Another big advantage is communication between different premises. When people email their mate at work it’s immediate, but when they email someone outside of work, even in a different branch of the same office, it may take 20 seconds or more because it has to go down through a network in London in between, this new network allows us to keep it all local making it faster and creating employment.

I’ve just had meetings with two owners of very different businesses who were excited by what the superfast network could mean to them. The first is a mid to large rapidly expanding recruitment firm, which like many large businesses in Edinburgh, can’t find a big enough premises that is fit for purpose – but they can find three smaller premises that are perfect.

The inevitable slow communication between the three premises was seen as a major drawback, but the immediate real-time communication that would be available through this superfast network makes the decision a lot easier for them.

The other interesting meeting I had was with the owner of a large chain of hairdressers who phoned as soon as he heard about the announcement as one of the biggest pains he has is linking up all the various salons.

He will now be able to keep his technical kit in one premises rather than several and be able to join them together and communicate as if they are in the same building, making a huge difference in terms of efficiency and therefore cutting a great deal of cost out the business.

While I know a lot about the immediate benefits this offers the Edinburgh community could gain from this it’s impossible for anyone to gauge the potential this could offer in future.

Cisco predict that by the end of this year 90% of all content on the internet will be video based. Whether that’s YouTube, Netflix, Skype or a niche business video service they all need one thing – connectivity – and Scottish businesses need the ability to do business through video.

We’ve all seen sales people try to demonstrate their flashy new product with a fantastic new video, but when they click on the video it has performance issues and there is an awkward silence before the meeting continues without the all-important demonstration.

A superfast network will prevent these videos from not streaming and will allow people to demonstrate a flashy new online product in real time with confidence allowing people to make a more informed purchase.

While these projects have been announced in Aberdeen and Edinburgh so far, it would be naïve to think other cities can’t be far behind. However, there are more technical ways that businesses in these cities can link to the network in Edinburgh – through local optical networks.

Add to that the inward investment and innovation that will be attracted by the gigabit capabilities and you can see why the Scottish Government were so keen to welcome the announcement.

CityFibre’s largest Gigabit City investment and its second in Scotland. It has been made possible by a partnership with Commsworld, a leading Edinburgh based network service provider with a 20 year history.

CityFibre plan to lay 50km of dark fibre cable throughout the most heavily business populated areas of the city, but have said this could increase to 150km depending on the level of demand.

Commsworld have partnered with the firm to deliver the first wave of demand through its existing customer base, while also working to attract new businesses to the huge benefits of the lightning quick network speeds.