Business ISPs court SME buyers with upgrade packages

TalkTalk Business and competitor Virgin Media Business to support government broadband grant scheme

Business internet service providers (ISPs) TalkTalk Business and Virgin Media Business have both launched broadband packages for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) timed to coincide with government efforts to push business users towards broadband upgrades.

The government has recently embarked on a major publicity drive around its broadband connection voucher scheme which, according to figures obtained by the Financial Times (FT), has awarded barely a tenth of the money set aside.

The broadband connection voucher scheme is part of the government’s SuperConnected Cities plan, which covers 22 urban areas around the UK. It is set to end in March 2015.

Meanwhile, TalkTalk has released a study – titled The value of business broadband – that purports to show more than 25% of SME buyers are confused by the variety of broadband packages currently available.

Approximately a fifth of businesses are looking to switch providers at any given time, the report added.

The firm claimed 47% of SMEs were not getting value for money from their current provider, while 59% were experiencing problems.

In a bid to capitalise on these high levels of dissatisfaction, TalkTalk has launched two SME-tailored packages – an unlimited broadband service for £4 per month and an all-inclusive broadband and call service for £10.50 a month.

It claimed it could save business users up to £594 and £964 respectively per annum when compared with the equivalent BT bundles.

TalkTalk will also offer superfast fibre options, as an official supplier of the broadband connection voucher scheme, for £15 more.

“Our goal is to help make British businesses better off. If you’re a small-business owner and don’t feel your provider has your best interests at heart, doesn't understand your needs and isn't committed to your growth, you are being underserved,” said TalkTalk Business managing director Charles Bligh.

Rival Virgin Media Business has also got in on the act, launching a range of communications packages for startups, as well as growing, mature and emerging businesses. 

The provider is basing its Red Value, Red Speed and Red Performance bundles around speeds offering 50MB, 152MB and 30-100MB-as-a-service connections respectively.

Virgin's packages will be supported through its recently launched initiatives The Big Digital Skills Hub and The Digital Collection.

Virgin Media Business SME director Mike Smith said small and medium-sized firms should be the fuel of the economy, powered by simple and flexible technology.

“Industry and the government need to look at ways to provide more support and direct assistance to this group, which is UK plc’s driving force.

“The UK’s digital economy already accounts for 8% of gross domestic product (GDP) – more than any other G20 nation – but we risk losing this competitive advantage if we fail to enable our SMEs to use technology better,” he said.

Ovum analyst Pauline Trotter said small businesses want value for money and reliability from their communications service provider.

"But many need so much more, since they do not typically have ready access to IT and e-commerce skills in-house,” she said.

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