Brit Startup Bonds Broadband
"We have to be sure we are meeting market needs -- we don't have the money for a false start," he adds. Sharedband is privately funded, with total backing of "way less than £1 million."
Evans, who ran the Internet Infrastructure Lab (IIL) at BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) prior to setting up Sharedband in 2003, says his company's software is supplied free to ISPs, which then sign up for a revenue-sharing agreement based on Sharedband service usage. The technology has been trialed by a handful of ISPs in the U.K. and has been used commercially by at least one, Warrington, England-based Talk Internet.
Evans believes the lack of expensive hardware and upfront cost, and the potential to sell additional broadband connections and business services, should generate interest among ISPs. "Other line-bonding technologies require expensive hardware at the customer's and ISP's premises, and then restricts the customer to a single operator's broadband service. Our technology does the bonding at the IP layer, so it doesn't require any additional hardware. It's designed to be a plug-and-play technology, and doesn't need an IT engineer on site the way other bonded technologies do," says the CEO.
Simon Jones, managing director at Talk Internet, which is marketing the service as an ADSL bonding solution, believes the startup's development work has paid off.
"It's very straightforward. We ship the routers to our users, they plug them in. and away they go. It's that simple. It does what it says on the tin. We have a handful of customers using it at the moment, including one that has bought more broadband connections so it can bond four lines together. We have sold more lines as a result," says Jones.
He says the additional cost, on top of broadband line charges, of subscribing to the Sharedband service is about an extra 10 percent to 35 percent to the end customer, depending on the setup, and that the main driver for demand so far is to increase upstream capacity to enable offsite backup of company data.
While not revealing any financial details about potential revenue-sharing agreements with ISPs or sales targets, Evans notes that the U.K.'s small businesses and home offices currently account for around 1 million of Britain's 14 million broadband connections, and that Sharedband believes between 20 and 30 percent of those users "would be looking for an affordable solution like this… This brings resilient, fast communications to the masses, enabling small businesses to gain the services benefits of large companies at a price they can afford."
Evans and his 13 staff aren't limiting themselves to the U.K. market. Two of the startup's employees are based in Seattle, and Sharedband plans to launch itself in North America during January 2008, though Evans won't confirm if a partner similar to BT Wholesale has been signed up for that market. "It's a different market to the U.K., but we are going indirect where we can," says the CEO.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading
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