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27 June, 2018 - 12:02 By Tony Quested

Bridge Fibre puts the backbone into broadband

With the Cambridge science & technology cluster growing at a rate unprecedented since the fuse to the Phenomenon was lit in the late 1960s a home-grown CommsTech business has firmly established itself as a power behind the throne.

Bridge Fibre is providing the fast and flexible connectivity technology driving a new wave of trailblazing companies to global sales success along the silicon highway.

Scan the near and far horizons of East of England and UK science and business parks and Bridge Fibre will be the preferred choice of landlords and tenants alike to provide internet connectivity, telephony and hosting. 

Many of the environments the company serves are evolving but Bridge Fibre’s delivery remains consistently slick and secure.

Its client list includes all the East of England cluster’s leading science & business parks – St John’s, the Science Park, Alconbury Weald, Chesterford Research Park, Babraham, Granta Park, Allia’s Future Business Centre et al. Further afield, it is the chosen supplier for Silverstone Park and landlords pf prime growth locations in Glasgow, Bristol, Norwich and Leeds – among others.

Its corporate clients are all world leaders in their own right and include manufacturing enabler TWI, life science businesses Endomag and Vernalis, games developer PlayFusion and international mobile payments company Bango.

Bridge Fibre managing director Leigh Partin (pictured above) says the company provides a consistency of delivery while arguments rage around them regarding 4G/5G and the speed of broadband available to UK businesses.

AS BT reels under criticism of broadband speed – or rather lack of it – Bridge customers are relishing the reliability the company guarantees as it puts the backbone into fibre. Partin is proud of the fact that the company is regarded as a strategic growth partner by so many of its clients.

Bridge offers consultancy from pre-planning and feasibility, through infrastructure design and procurement to the delivery of Gigabit fibre and wireless services to tenants and landlords; colocation hosting; inbound telephony; and IT support through its long established parent company Bridge Partners. 

Here again, Bridge Fibre has an edge because Bridge Partners co-founder Andrew Glover is chair of the Internet Service Providers Association and is able to bring a broad-ranging industry oversight to the table in all matters relating to fibre and wireless delivery.

Glover is encouraged that the Government’s digital doyen Matt Hancock has expressed himself committed to raising the UK’s game in terms of 4G and 5G delivery. Glover and Partin agree that Bridge Fibre has engineered a place at the top table whichever broadband technologies are rolled out.

Bridge Fibre is now growing at 20-30 per cent a year. Last year it turned over £2.1 million; this year it is projected to take that to £2.6m. Bridge has around 750 customers on 34 sites and Partin reports an encouraging trend which has seen take-up of the company’s services on several sites varies reach 100 per cent penetration.

Bridge Fibre has all flavours of MTU site, from science and business parks with multiple buildings to smaller locations such as farms housing small business centres. The common factor is that each site is covered by a single landlord. 

Glover explains: “This means one set of wayleaves and one process to sort out how to connect the buildings.” 

Sites usually have two Layer 2 connections to backhaul. “Once a site is large and economic enough, we will put in a second bearer so that we have resilience at the national backhaul level and the local level,” says Glover. “This resilience comes as de facto; we do not charge customers extra for this.”

The operator runs its own core network linked to three data centres located in Telecity, Hoddesdon and Cambridge. It has its own transit and peering arrangements, its own IP addresses, and manages the core network itself. It uses carrier neutral bearer connections to access sites including those from SSE, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and FluidONE. 

Bridge Fibre then lays fibre on site to deliver connectivity direct to tenants rather than using GPON architecture. Each deployment varies with some providing fibre to the desk and others using Cat 5 or 6 within buildings. 

Bridge Fibre co-founder, Andrew Glover

A few parks involve fixed wireless access connections where needed, for example at one business park built partly on what were previously concrete runways for B52 bombers, which are too hard and deep to dig into to lay fibre. 

The network is usually owned by the landlord with Bridge Fibre operating it; essentially Bridge Fibre owns the active but not the passive infrastructure. This means the operator is not investing capital and the landlord keeps ownership of the assets which is important, says Glover, in case the landlord ever wants to change provider. 

Bridge Fibre does not have exclusivity at sites except on the use of ducts, comms room, power supply and backhaul. “We do not use a sole supplier approach,” notes Glover. “Rather we get business because we are quicker and better and are approved by the landlord as a local supplier.”

Bridge Fibre’s funding model is completely flexible. A large park can be entirely funded by Bridge Fibre itself because of the number of prospective customers on it. But usually the relationship is such that the site landlord takes some of the risk. 

This tends to mean the landlord taking the cost of the bearer and then having a revenue share arrangement with Bridge Fibre, at anything from five to 30 per cent depending on the size of location.

Bridge Fibre then sells connectivity separately to the various tenants. Landlords include details on Bridge Fibre’s connectivity offers as part of their marketing pack for any particular site. 

Glover says the operator has been both educating landlords in the benefits and importance of high-speed connectivity and also “riding the wave” of growing interest from landlords in broadband provision. “It’s now the first or second question they receive from potential tenants,” notes Glover. 

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