A fast, reliable internet connection is vital for any business, yet availability and pricing can often be a major barrier for small- and medium-sized companies in the UK. That’s why the government has launched the SuperConnected Cities Programme.
Initially covering 22 cities across the UK and now expanded to 50, the scheme makes up to £200 million of funding available for infrastructure improvements and public Wi-Fi rollouts in city centres – as well as direct funding in the form of Broadband Connection Vouchers for businesses that need to improve their digital connectivity. If the cost of installation has been the main barrier to a much-needed business broadband upgrade the scheme is here to help.
Better broadband means more than just faster download speeds. Larger workforces put more of a strain on shared connections, so a fast connection keeps everything running smoothly at busy times. With the cloud playing a bigger and bigger part in business infrastructure, staff and customers need continuous access to the latest files and information.
Real-time communication is now expected, so a reliable broadband connection is essential for high-quality video conferencing, voice calls and cloud document collaboration.
And this is just for today. Technology never stops its forward march, and with fast broadband your business will be ready to effortlessly upgrade and adopt whatever the next big technology might be.
Is your business eligible?
There are some basic criteria to check before your business can apply. The offer is open to any SME, registered charity, social enterprise or sole trader employing fewer than 250 people and with a turnover of less than £40 million. You also must not have received more than €200,000 of grants in the last three years. Vouchers will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis until the fund has been exhausted, so don’t delay if you want to take advantage.
First, check your postcode at the official Connection Vouchers site to see if your business premises are within one of the cities eligible for support. Note that some cities have extra criteria on top of those covered here, so be sure to read all the information on offer. The offer is intended for business premises, although you can apply for a connection at home if that’s your main place of work.
The voucher covers the cost of broadband installation on business premises over £100 and up to £3,000, provided the new connection is a significant improvement on your existing broadband. For non-fibre connections this means a minimum speed of 20Mbit/s or at least twice the speed of the existing connection. For next-generation access (NGA) connections, which include most modern fibre and cable services, a minimum speed of 20Mbit/s applies. You must sign up for at least six months with your chosen provider.
What can those speeds do for my business?
The difference a good broadband connection makes will be well known to anyone who’s struggled by on a bad one. With an upgrade, the internet goes from being a permanent source of frustration and a hindrance to efficient working practices, to something that works so effortlessly it’s barely noticed.
Internally, a superfast network allows staff to communicate more efficiently, speeding up working processes, improving collaboration and making it far more viable to have a distributed workforce that works together as one. A large upload goes from being something that requires scheduling for a quiet time outside working hours, to something that can happen at any time without a thought.
And customers benefit too, whether it’s a client uploading and downloading shared files in seconds, or a visitor to a website enjoying excellent performance. Instant voice and video calls between staff, clients and customers become the norm, along with all the improved relationships that inevitably brings.
As well as the obvious speed benefits, it’s also about choosing the right solution. The latest wireless technologies require vastly less installation time and resources, and they can free up your entire workforce to be more mobile and efficient. A good supplier will talk through all the possible solutions for your premises.
Working with trusted suppliers
If you’ve determined that your business is eligible for a voucher you have two options. You can choose one of the off-the-shelf deals from trusted suppliers listed on the official Connection Vouchers site for a simple, no-fuss application process. Or you can get a quote from a broadband supplier in your local area, create an account and enter your application manually, which is ideal for companies with existing relationships with trusted suppliers.
One company that’s happy to offer both kinds of application is Spitfire Network Services Ltd. Spitfire has been providing a wide range of communications services to businesses in the UK for over 26 years, and is looking forward to helping more through the SuperConnected Cities programme. Working with an SME specialist brings a host of benefits, guaranteeing the kind of bespoke service, tailored advice and competitive pricing that’s tough to find in a larger company.
As well as the latest technologies, Spitfire is proud of its help desk and customer support. The London-based support team aims to answer calls within 30 seconds, and has a “Keep Customer Informed” policy. This ensures one support technician manages requests from start to finish and is responsible for keeping customers informed of the status of their issue every four hours, in rotation, by SMS, email and phone. A reassuring combination alongside excellent SLAs, and clear timescales as well as ISO approved quality assurance.
Spitfire believes that a good understanding of IP Engineering is critical to ensuring that customers’ networking requirements are met with the perfect solution.
Dedicated IP Engineers undertake extensive specialist training, and all other staff are expected to achieve Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician status within the first six months from joining Spitfire.
This commitment to technical excellence enables Spitfire to offer innovative engineering-led business solutions, including free or low-cost backup solutions, SIP Trunks, disaster recovery options, hosted solutions and many more.
Whatever option makes most sense for your business, the SuperConnected Cities Programme is there to ensure your broadband connection is a driving force behind your success, not a barrier to it.