Demon Broadband : ISPs Need To "Be Honest About Limits, Not Hide Them Away"

We caught up with Matt Cantwell, the Head of Demon Broadband and asked him a few things about the newly revived company including how they are going to tackle the cut-throat competition on the market.

Can you briefly run us through Demon's history & why the brand has been resurrected?

Demon was founded in 1992 by what I call entrepreneurial geeks, with a real passion for technology! In 1998, it was bought by THUS plc (formerly known as Scottish Power) and Demon maintained its brand and offering for small businesses and high-end users, such as gamers.

Demon saw great success as it is the original business ISP in the dial-up era as well as one of the very first to offer broadband to users. In 2008, THUS plc was bought by Cable and Wireless Worldwide and is now THUS Ltd. Demon is the brand that sits in THUS and we have reinvigorated our marketing and designed broadband packages to offer SMEs a choice that suits their needs. You will see how easy this is from our website (www.demon.net) – everything is clear and we have no hidden fair usage policies.

Your target is the SMB market primarily: what are your main arguments to win over customers?

We know there is a lot of work to do to build our SME base and win over customers, but we are determined to do this by being direct, honest and transparent with what we can do. Not a lot of ISPs can say the same. Moreover, we have very high download limits with our packages and for SME users, they can expect dedicated technical experts in-house that have an average of 11 years experience between them to help with any queries.

Can you give us a brief profile of your average user?

Our users are pretty varied and there is not one average user per say. Typically 50 per cent are business users and the rest are residential. What is interesting is that many of our high-end users (particularly gamers) are actually on business packages as this helps towards maintaining costs, but mostly because of our download limits of 100GB. Our customer base is also quite old with many having been with us since the dial-up days, so we are really proud of that and committed to providing them with the best service they deserve.

Demon Broadband has introduced the concept of "assured rate". Can you tell us more about it?

Assured rate is a product that is part of our Premier Broadband range. It enables SMEs to buy guaranteed download speeds of up to 2Mbps. Whilst top speed will remain at up to 20Mbps the “assured” element means that no matter how busy the network minimum speed will not dip below 2Mbps.

This gives businesses that absolutely rely on their internet connection real piece of mind. So, for example, if a business needed to run an important video conference or download some vital large files from a customer they would be guaranteed 2Mbps - even if half the country was on-line watching the world cup on BBC iPlayer!

£100 per month appears to be expensive for a 2Mbps connection. Why should a company buy into it?

Before Demon assured rate the only options for Businesses wanting guaranteed connection speed were either BT Datastream based ADSL services ( £250+ per month ) or Internet Leased Lines ( £400+ per month ). So the new Demon products actually bring prices down for businesses with that requirement. Clearly the product will not be suitable for all – but for IT managers or functional heads that need real assured rates our new product represents great value.

Will Demon tackle the semi-professional/enthusiast broadband market at some point?

I think we already do. Our residential products offer some of the most generous usage allowances out there for heavy users (up to 60GB). Features such as fixed IP addresses which in many cases are only provided with Business products or at extra charge are also available with Demon Home Office broadband.

Some of your competitors like BT and Virgin Media are betting their future on fibre optic; is FO part of Demon's future as well?

Yes it definitely is. We are trialing it at the moment in Muswell Hill and hope to roll out faster FTTC broadband when it becomes more widely available.

What is Demon's stance on the whole "unlimited download" issue?

The economics of running a network mean it isn’t always possible for everyone to have completely unrestricted use at the current market rates for Broadband. Prices have fallen at the same time as usage has gone through the roof.

So whilst we would love to offer unrestricted access to all customers – in the long term it isn’t possible without higher prices or running a congested network. Demon still has some unrestricted products and every month we have some customers downloading Terabytes of data with a few hundred downloading several hundred GB. We need to make sure this small percentage of customers don’t adversely affect the experience for the majority.

We think the important thing is a) not set limits that would impact anything other than really heavy use and b) be honest about limits rather than hide them away. We try to do both.

Is there a market for a combined business oriented wired/wireless broadband offering?

Yes there is. We’re looking at some commercial offerings with simple bundled fixed/mobile broadband. More interesting are genuine FMC ( Fixed Mobile Convergence ) offerings. We have these in other parts of our company for large enterprise customers, but not yet filtered down to SME offerings.

Where do you reckon the future of SMB broadband lies?

With us! SMEs will always need broadband and they need business grade connections. Our mission is to educate and convert all those SME users today to see the light that residential connections will just not cut it. You will be amazed with how many businesses use residential packages for their businesses – it’s no wonder they complain about their broadband – they are not using the right services and this is where Demon comes in.