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What is Critical National Infrastructure (CNI)?

Learn which sectors are considered vital for the UK, the threats they face, and how we help to connect them

Dam in Scotland - part of the UK's Critical National Infrastructure

 

What is Critical National Infrastructure?

Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) refers to the systems, facilities and networks that are vital for the functioning of a country and its economy.

For example, the water supply provides the water we need to live, the energy sector powers our homes and industry, and telecom networks enable us to communicate – connecting our homes, businesses and public services, including emergency services.

CNI also includes some assets that may not be essential to daily life but need protection because they’re potentially dangerous. For instance, nuclear power stations or chemical plants can pose a severe public health threat if attacked or otherwise damaged.

CNI definition

In the UK, the government defines Critical National Infrastructure as:

‘Those critical elements of Infrastructure (facilities, systems, sites, property, information, people, networks and processes), the loss or compromise of which would result in major detrimental impact on the availability, delivery or integrity of essential services, leading to severe economic or social consequences or to loss of life.’

In short, CNI is the assets upon which the country depends to function and keep its citizens safe.

CNI sectors in the UK

The UK government designates 13 sectors as Critical National Infrastructure – facilities that are necessary to run the country or potentially dangerous to the public. Some sectors are divided into ‘sub-sectors’. For example, emergency services can be divided into police, ambulance, fire and rescue services and HM Coastguard.

Each sector has at least one government agency, or Lead Government Department, responsible for it.

UK Critical National Infrastructure sectors

Table describing the UK's 13 Critical National Infrastructure sectors: Chemicals, Civil Nuclear, Communications, Defence, Emergency Services, Energy, Finance, Food, Government, Health, Space, Transport and Water

 

Why is CNI important?

If Critical National Infrastructure is disrupted, it can significantly impact the UK and its citizens’ daily lives. Here’s why protecting CNI is vital for the UK.

National security

CNI supports the UK’s defence and security operations. If CNI fails, the UK could be vulnerable to attack from hostile actors or nation-states, including cyberattacks.

Public safety

CNI provides vital services such as water, electricity, health care and transport. Any disruption to these could seriously impact the safety and well-being of the population.

Economic stability

In an increasingly connected digital economy, communications and transport networks are vital to business operations, supply chains, and overall economic stability. Interruptions to this CNI can lead to significant financial losses for organisations and the economy as a whole.

Disaster resilience

CNI helps the UK prevent and withstand terrorist attacks, cyberattacks and natural disasters. When they do occur, emergency response services are critical for coordinating recovery.

Sector interdependence

As much of the UK’s critical infrastructure is heavily interdependent, disruption in one sector can seriously affect another. For instance, the failure of essential IT networks could disrupt the control and coordination of energy supplies.

 

Overall, CNI is also significant for the country psychologically. At home, robust and secure national infrastructure maintains public confidence in the government and critical service providers. Abroad, it enhances the UK’s reputation and credibility as a country you can trust and do business with.

In short, CNI is crucial for maintaining the defence, economic security, and overall wellbeing of the UK and its citizens.

Threats to CNI

In an increasingly precarious world, the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure faces various natural or human threats, including:

  • Cyberattacks: CNI systems are frequently subjected to cyber threats, such as malware, ransomware, phishing and DDoS attacks, which can undermine the integrity of critical assets.
  • Sabotage: CNI can be the target of vandalism, terrorism or other acts of sabotage by internal staff or external bad actors.
  • Natural disasters: Floods, storms, wildfires or other effects of climate change can affect CNI assets, such as transport, power and water supplies.
  • Geopolitical challenges: Regional conflicts and the shifting global power balance can lead to trade disruptions, sanctions, cyberattacks and other hostile actions by states and non-state actors, directly impacting CNI.
  • Supply chain risks: Some CNI assets depend on global supply chains for critical components and materials, so they’re vulnerable to shortages if supply is disrupted.
  • New technology: Artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other emerging technologies may pose new threats to CNI, requiring ongoing research and protective countermeasures.

In addition, the interdependence of many CNI assets poses a threat in itself: disruption in one sector can quickly ripple across to others. That’s why maintaining and defending the UK’s vital assets requires a multi-faceted approach.

Protecting CNI

To protect the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure, specialist agencies work with CNI organisations and businesses, government departments, the wider UK intelligence community, the police and academia to identify and mitigate risks.

Part of the security service MI5, the National Protective Security Authority (NPSA) provides information, personnel and security advice to CNI businesses and organisations. In partnership with the NPSA, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) provides expert guidance, threat intelligence, and incident response support to protect the UK against cyber threats.

As critical infrastructure systems become more interconnected, the risk of cyber-attacks on sensitive networks increases. Therefore, CNI organisations and businesses require exceptionally robust connectivity.

CNI networks

Critical National Infrastructure needs resilient networks that are always on, whatever happens. That requires dedicated, high capacity connectivity with nationwide reach.

For example, as a CNI provider, we offer Dark Fibre, Optical Wavelengths, Dedicated Internet Access (DIA), Ethernet and more across our B2B-only UK-wide network. We’re working with various CNI partners, including:

If you’re part of the nation’s critical infrastructure or just looking for high capacity connectivity for a vital business network, get in touch. We’ll be happy to make connectivity work for your organisation, whatever the future brings.

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What is a network operations centre (NOC)?

A network operations centre is a vital hub that manages a company’s network infrastructure. Learn how it works and why it’s crucial to maintaining the performance and security of large networks

network operations centre (NOC)

What is a network operations centre (NOC)?

A network operations centre, or NOC (pronounced like “knock”), is a central hub where network engineers manage and maintain a company’s network infrastructure. Typically, it’s a secure room with a video wall displaying network maps, critical platform alerts, call statistics and other critical network parameters. Facing the video wall, NOC staff sit at rows of workstations, monitoring the network's operations.

Industries that need reliable, constant connectivity, such as the energy sector, telecommunications, emergency services and financial institutions, use NOCs to maintain their critical networks. However, any organisation with an extensive network may use a NOC, either in-house or run by a third-party network service provider.

For example, at Neos Networks, our NOC monitors our UK-wide high capacity network round the clock, ensuring our customers’ mission-critical networks run smoothly, whatever happens.

Monitoring 24/7 at the Neos Networks NOC

Engineer in front of the video wall in the Neos Networks network operation centre (NOC), part of the team monitoring customer networks 24/7

 

How does a NOC work?

A NOC works like your central nervous system. Just as your brain manages your vital organs to keep you healthy, a NOC monitors critical network elements, customer services and third-party integrators to maintain your network’s health.

Working 24/7, 365 days a year, NOC staff use specialist tools to identify faults, coordinate incident resolution and optimise network efficiency. In addition, a NOC may monitor alerts for unauthorised access and other cyber threats to ensure network security.

NOC functions

A network operations centre performs several vital tasks to maintain a network. The main functions of a typical NOC include:

  • Monitoring: A NOC continuously monitors network alarms and the stability of vital network components such as power, transmission nodes, switches, routers and other managed devices.
  • Optimisation: Analysing network data and performance, NOC engineers take steps to manage capacity and enhance network efficiency to meet changing demands.
  • Troubleshooting: When a fault or outage occurs, NOC staff investigate and, if necessary, coordinate fault resolution with engineers in the field to minimise network downtime.
  • Maintenance: When planned maintenance takes place, the NOC monitors the network for impacts, tracks the progress of the work and ensures any unexpected impacts are resolved.
  • Security: NOC staff track security alerts and take action to prevent unauthorised access, DDoS attacks and other cyber threats.
  • Reporting: A NOC may compile reports on network performance, troubleshooting and network configurations for network management and compliance purposes.

Overall, a NOC is a first line of defence against network disruption and security threats, ensuring that a network remains operational round the clock. By working closely with a company’s help desk or directly with customers, NOC staff respond quickly to customer requests, resolving issues and minimising downtime.

NOC processes

To respond to incidents efficiently, NOCs typically prioritise tasks and organise teams into tiers to tackle them.

For example, at the Neos Networks NOC, we classify events by severity and impact to drive priority: from P1 for the most critical issues down to P4 for low or no impact events. Faults are worked on collaboratively between multiple teams:

  • Tier 1: The triage team receives calls, logs support tickets and classifies incidents, performing initial diagnostics to determine the cause of the fault and the next action.
  • Tier 2: The on-net technical team analyses any tickets escalated from Tier 1, responds to network alarms, resolves issues with network devices and works with customers to rectify faults.
  • Tier 3: Multiple engineering teams build or repair physical infrastructure in the field, configuring services and resolving escalated incidents for customers.

As customer service is our priority at Neos Networks, we use the ‘SANE’ method when updating customers during a fault:

  • S – Situation: Outline the current situation, for example, the circuit ID number, fault type and location affected.
  • A – Action: Set out what we’ve done so far and the current outcome.
  • N – Next Steps: Log what’s happening now and what we’ll do to resolve the issue.
  • E – Expectation: Clearly explain the following steps to customers and make sure we do them within the agreed timeframe.

By staying SANE, we ensure that faults are resolved as soon as possible and that customers are always informed of progress.

Staff in action at the Neos Networks NOC

Staff consulting in the Neo Networks network operations centre (NOC)

 

Benefits of a NOC

A network operations centre offers several advantages for organisations that manage large networks. Among the key benefits are:

  • 24/7/365 monitoring: As a NOC operates round the clock, it can respond to incidents as soon as they occur, regardless of the time of day.
  • Efficient troubleshooting: When a fault or outage occurs, a NOC team follows established procedures to resolve it promptly.
  • Enhanced network performance: By actively monitoring network metrics, NOC analysts can spot bottlenecks and manage capacity to optimise network efficiency.
  • Increased reliability and availability: A NOC can seamlessly deploy alternative routes when an issue occurs to minimise network disruption.
  • Enhanced security: A NOC team monitors network alerts for security breaches or other cyber threats and takes timely action to counter them.
  • Scalability and network management: As a centralised hub, a NOC makes it easy to scale up or down operations as demand changes.

In short, a NOC plays a crucial role in maintaining the performance and security of your IT or network infrastructure. However, your business might not have the expertise or resources to run your own network and NOC.

NOC for critical networks

If you’re looking to boost your business’s network for the future, choosing a network service provider you can trust is essential. As a Critical National Infrastructure provider, we’ve designed our UK-wide network and NOC with resilience to run Britain’s vital networks.

We have three NOCs – one in operation 24/7, 365 days a year and two ‘dark’ NOCs in reserve. Our commitment to our customers is clear from the numbers:

  • Around 95% of customers' calls are answered within our target of 20 seconds.
  • Our relationship NPS score measuring customer satisfaction was +42 in 2023-24, well above the industry standard.

Unlike other providers, our Tier 2 on-net technical team often liaise directly with customers to resolve faults. Together with the Tier 3 engineering and field teams, they often go above and beyond, making connectivity work for our customers.

For example, following alarms received at our NOC earlier this year, the Tier 2 team swiftly dispatched field engineers to the remote and windswept Cruachan radio station in Scotland. They expected they would have to simply reboot equipment for the radio link to recover.

Instead, they found the microwave dish had blown off the tower in gale-force winds resulting in a much more complex fix plan. Working around the clock across the weekend, they were able to source a new dish and had it installed and services back up and running in no time.

If you’re looking for high capacity connectivity you can trust for your business or customers, get in touch. We’ll be happy to make connectivity work for you, whatever the future brings.

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Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) vs business broadband: which is right for your business?

Is it worth getting a dedicated internet connection with guaranteed service levels for your business?

  • Neos Networks
  • DIA ,
dia vs broadband

 

What is Dedicated Internet Access (DIA)?

Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) is a private, high-speed connection between your premises and the internet. It’s an uncontended connection, meaning you don’t share bandwidth with other customers and don’t suffer from network congestion. In addition, DIA offers guaranteed symmetrical download and upload bandwidth, ensuring a fast, low latency connection.

Delivering speeds up to 10Gbps, DIA is ideal for organisations that need a fast, reliable internet connection to run business-critical operations.

Learn more about DIA

What is business broadband?

Unlike DIA, business broadband provides a shared connection that distributes the bandwidth between multiple users in a local area. Typically, it offers asymmetrical upload/download bandwidth using one of the following technologies:

  • Fibre to the premises (FTTP): Also known as ‘full fibre’, the fibre connection runs all the way to a customer’s business. FTTP typically provides upload/download speeds up to 1Gbps/220Mbps.
  • Fibre to the cabinet (FTTC): The fibre cabling runs to a curbside cabinet, where it’s distributed to individual businesses via copper wires. FTTC delivers speeds up to 80Mbps/20Mbps.

However, FTTC is being phased out as the UK government aims to have full fibre installed in 85% of premises by 2025 and nationwide coverage by 2030. So FTTP is now the norm for new business broadband connections.

But is FTTP enough for your organisation’s daily operations, or do you need a dedicated line?

DIA vs business broadband

Dedicated Internet Access offers several advantages over business broadband, although it costs more than FTTP. Here’s a breakdown of how they compare.

DIA vs business broadband

Dedicated internet access vs business broadband: graphic comparing the connection, bandwidth, reliability, use cases, cost and time to deploy

 

In short, DIA offers a faster, more reliable connection than business broadband for critical online operations, but it comes at a price. Is it worth it for you?

Is DIA or broadband right for your business?

Whether DIA or broadband suits your organisation depends on your needs and budget.

Do you have more than ten people in your business? Are you in a data-intensive industry or do you rely on cloud services for mission-critical operations? Overall, would prolonged downtime seriously impact your business?

If so, DIA could give you peace of mind. Less downtime could prevent missed sales, protect customer relationships and boost profits, making DIA well worth the investment.

On the other hand, if your business has fewer than ten people who use the internet only for basic tasks, broadband could suit your needs for now.

While DIA offers a more scalable, future-proof solution than broadband, which is better for you may ultimately depend on cost. So, consider getting a quote for DIA before deciding.

Dedicated Internet Access solutions

At Neos Networks, we provide cost-effective DIA solutions for businesses across the UK, featuring:

  • Scalable bandwidth from 100Mbps to 10Gbps
  • Our high availability UK-wide core network
  • A 99.95% uptime SLA and 24/7 technical support
  • A choice of last-mile connectivity providers and resiliency options

Choose between ‘wires only’ DIA, where you have complete control over your connection, or Managed DIA (MDIA), protected by 24/7 monitoring from our network operations centre (NOC).

 

Or get a DIA quote in a few clicks with LIVEQUOTE, our online pricing and ordering tool.

 

If you’re not sure what’s right for you, get in touch. We’ll be happy to design a cost-effective DIA solution for your business.

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What is Dedicated Internet Access (DIA)?

Dedicated Internet Access is a private internet connection that isn’t shared with other customers. Could it benefit your business?

  • Neos Networks
  • DIA ,
What is Dedicated Internet Access?

 

What is Dedicated Internet Access (DIA)?

Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) is a private, high-speed connection between your premises and the internet. The connection is uncontended, meaning it’s not shared with other customers. Your provider runs a private leased line to your business’s local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN).

Dedicated Internet Access (DIA)

Dedicated internet access diagram, showing how DIA connects your business LAN or WAN to the internet via a leased line to your ISP or network service provider

 

Typically, DIA is delivered using fibre optic cables and Ethernet, providing fixed symmetric upload and download speeds up to 10Gbps. Since any bandwidth you purchase is exclusively allocated for your use, your connection is unaffected by network congestion, and your actual internet speeds are guaranteed.

That’s why DIA is commonly used by businesses and organisations that need fast, reliable connectivity to run critical applications.

What is the difference between DIA and business broadband

Dedicated Internet Access is a private, uncontended connection for a single customer. By contrast, business broadband provides a shared connection that distributes the bandwidth between multiple users in a local area.

While DIA offers a more consistent, reliable connection than broadband, it’s more expensive, so you’ll need to weigh the costs and benefits.

Learn more about DIA vs business broadband

What are the benefits of DIA for businesses?

A dedicated internet connection offers several advantages over traditional business broadband. Here are some of the main benefits.

High speed

A dedicated line provides a consistent fixed bandwidth. Unlike broadband, DIA’s guaranteed upload/download bandwidth ensures a fast, low latency connection.

Reliability

The best DIA services have strict Service Level Agreements (SLAs), giving you confidence in availability and performance. In addition, you should expect your provider to be operating a resilient core network.

Scalability

Dedicated connections are usually highly scalable, allowing you to easily boost or cut bandwidth to meet your changing needs. A good DIA provider will allow you to increment bandwidth gradually as you grow.

Security

A key aspect of security is availability. As you don’t share bandwidth with other customers, you have more certainty over the availability of your internet access. In addition, you can order diverse circuits for important sites to protect your business from fibre breaks in the ‘last mile’ connectivity.

Support

Time is money, so a good DIA provider should constantly monitor your connection, proactively fix issues they find, and provide 24/7 customer service. They should also guarantee fault repair times to minimise disruption to your service.

Overall, DIA gives you peace of mind, ensuring mission-critical applications run smoothly to optimise your organisation’s productivity and customer experience.

Who is DIA suitable for?

DIA is suitable for a range of businesses and organisations that rely on internet connectivity for critical operations, including:

  • Medium to large enterprises: Larger businesses rely on DIA to support critical operations across dispersed sites, including data sharing, collaboration tools and other cloud-based services.
  • Data-intensive industries: DIA can provide the bandwidth and security crucial for sectors processing high volumes of data, such as data centres, manufacturing, health care and financial services.
  • Government agencies: DIA can ensure reliable internet connectivity for local and national governments to deliver essential services.
  • Education and research: Schools, colleges and universities use DIA to communicate among students and staff and share data between institutions.
  • E-commerce: DIA can provide reliable internet connectivity for online retailers to run their websites, manage customer accounts, and process orders.

If you have multiple, geographically dispersed sites in an enterprise wide area network (WAN), DIA can be a cost-effective way to provide local internet connectivity.

In short, DIA can work well for any organisation that needs reliable, high-performance connectivity for daily operations. However, DIA costs more than traditional business broadband, so it won’t suit every business.

Is DIA worth it for your business?

Whether a dedicated internet connection is worth the cost depends on your needs and budget.

Do you have more than ten people in your business? Do you rely on cloud services for critical operations? Are you in a data-intensive industry where a reliable, high-bandwidth internet connection is essential? Do you need stringent SLAs to ensure maximum uptime? Are you looking for local internet connectivity to connect to an enterprise WAN?

If the answer to any of the above is ‘yes’, DIA is worth considering. The benefits and peace of mind DIA brings can more than outweigh the costs.

 

Dedicated Internet Access solutions

At Neos Networks, we provide high-speed, reliable DIA solutions for businesses across the UK. With DIA, you can gradually scale up your connectivity as you grow with:

  • Seamless bandwidth adjustment from 100Mbps to 10Gbps
  • Our high availability UK-wide core network
  • A 99.95% uptime SLA and 24/7 technical support
  • A choice of last-mile connectivity providers and resiliency options

With our unmanaged, ‘wires only’ DIA service, you’re responsible for configuring and managing your network, giving you complete control over your connectivity..

Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) – wires only

Diagram of Neos Networks Dedicated Internet Access service, showing how your business connects to the internet via a leased line to Neos Networks' core network

 

If you don’t have in-house IT expertise, consider our Managed DIA service (MDIA). With MDIA, you get 24/7 monitoring from our network operations centre (NOC) and a five-hour SLA to replace equipment.

Managed Dedicated Internet Access (MDIA)

Diagram of Neos Networks Managed Dedicated Internet Access service, showing how your business connects to the internet via a leased line to Neos Networks which is actively monitored and managed 24/7

 

Find out more about DIA options for your business.

 

Or get a DIA quote in a few clicks with LIVEQUOTE, our online pricing and ordering tool.

 

If you’re not sure what’s right for you, get in touch. We’ll be happy to discuss the best DIA options to grow your business.

Dedicated Internet Access FAQs

  • How fast is Dedicated Internet Access (DIA)?

    Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) speeds vary depending on the technology and specific service you choose. At Neos Networks, we offer DIA with bandwidths you can scale from 100Mbps to 10Gbps.

     

  • How much does DIA cost?

    As connectivity continues to evolve, DIA tariffs have dropped significantly in recent years. Depending on the bandwidth you need, you can now get a dedicated connection for your business for hundreds of pounds per month, rather than a four-figure sum as before.

  • How does ‘wires-only’ DIA differ from Managed DIA?

    With ‘wires-only’ DIA, the provider supplies IP addresses, but you’re responsible for providing a router, configuring the IP addresses on it and keeping it updated. For Managed DIA, the operator provides and maintains a pre-configured router and monitors your connection’s performance.

  • What is the difference between DIA and IP Transit?

    DIA is a private internet connection between your business premises and your ISP. By contrast, IP Transit is used to connect ISPs to larger networks. It allows operators with their own Autonomous System Number (ASN) to connect directly to the internet using high-performance BGP connectivity.

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Wholesale connectivity partnerships: why collaboration is the key to growth

Why partnerships are crucial to growing your network, what to consider when choosing a strategic partner, and how partnering with Neos Networks can supercharge your growth

Wholesale connectivity partnership - the key to growth

 

Why a connectivity partner is important

With the rapid rollout of 5G, IoT, and AI applications, businesses across the UK are increasingly investing in digital infrastructure. If you’re a network service provider or reseller, choosing the right partner is crucial for growth.

First, a good connectivity provider gives you access to a robust, high capacity network infrastructure. This enables you to offer reliable, scalable services without investing in building or maintaining your own infrastructure.

Second, a reliable partner should offer a range of connectivity solutions, allowing you to scale up bandwidth and try new services to meet your customers’ ever-evolving needs.

Third, a reputable partner should have the technical expertise and support staff to help you design and efficiently maintain your network. This is essential to ensure the smooth operation of services that delight your customers.

Overall, choosing the right partner is crucial to giving you a competitive edge. By offering robust, scalable services backed by a trusted provider, you can attract and retain customers. You can also leverage your partner’s resources to minimise capital expenditure and boost your bottom line.

10 things to look for in a wholesale connectivity partner

With a bewildering array of connectivity providers and products on the market, choosing a strategic partner for growth can be challenging. Here are ten things to consider when choosing a long-term partner.

AI for network optimisation

1. Network reach

Look for a partner with an extensive, high capacity network across a wide geographic area. Do they cover key locations for your customers now and potential new areas for growth?

AI for network troubleshooting

2. Flexibility and scalability

Check the partner's range of connectivity services, including business internet services, Ethernet, optical connectivity and Dark Fibre. Does the provider have the mix of services and scalability your customers need?

AI for predictive maintenance

3. Competitive pricing

Compare wholesale rates across the market to ensure you can remain competitive while maintaining profitability. Choose a partner with transparent pricing and no hidden fees.

AI for network scalability

4. Fast quoting and lead times

Time is money, so choose a partner that offers fast quoting and ordering. Make sure their lead times allow you to deploy quickly to seize market opportunities.

AI for customer experience

5. Delivery and support

Partner with a provider with a history of timely delivery and responsive technical support. NPS scores are one way to spot partners with excellent customer service.

AI for customer experience

6. Reliability and resilience

Assess a partner’s track record for network reliability and uptime. Check they have redundant network architecture, appropriate service level agreements (SLAs) and robust monitoring to minimise downtime.

AI for customer experience

7. Backhaul services

If you're looking to expand rapidly, consider a partner that offers backhaul services. Does the provider offer data centres, points of presence, or network-to-network interfaces (NNIs) where you need them?

AI for customer experience

8. Security and compliance

Ensure a partner offers security measures to protect data confidentiality. If your customers have industry-specific requirements, check that the partner can offer fully compliant solutions.

AI for customer experience

9. Choice of third-party providers

Some providers work with a limited range of partners, for example, to provide an access network. Choose a provider that offers a range of third-party providers with a track record of successful delivery.

AI for customer experience

10. Trust and reputation

Finally, research a partner’s reputation and history in the industry. Select a partner you can trust with a proven history of deploying and maintaining critical, large-scale networks.

The power of partnering with Neos Networks

At Neos Networks, we pride ourselves on being more than just another provider. We’re your partner and ally to help you succeed.

With Neos Networks, you get:

  • UK-wide reach – high capacity B2B-only network with 550 on-net exchanges and over 90 commercial data centres
  • Flexible, scalable products – a range of services with speeds from 10Mbps to 400Gbps, including Ethernet, Dedicated Internet Access and Optical Wavelengths or almost limitless capacity with Dark Fibre; check out our product comparison tool
  • Competitive, transparent pricing – clear, upfront pricing fast with LIVEQUOTE, our online pricing tool, with the best rates across the whole market
  • Fast quoting and lead times – quotes in a few clicks with LIVEQUOTE and fast order fulfilment across 550 unbundled exchanges nationwide
  • Outstanding delivery – dedicated account managers and excellent technical support earning us an average NPS score of +75, well above the industry standard
  • Reliability and resilience – three UK network operation centres to monitor services 24/7, 365 days a year, and SLAs ensuring 99.95% uptime
  • High capacity backhaul – scalable Ethernet and optical backhaul services with 100Gbps NNIs in over 20 data centres and selected exchanges nationwide
  • Robust security – bespoke encryption options and dedicated optical wavelengths or manage your own with Dark Fibre
  • Extensive third-party provision – quotes for all major third-party providers in LIVEQUOTE and a proven track record of delivery
  • Reputable, trusted partner – 20+ years’ experience delivering class-leading connectivity, from telecoms, energy and emergency services to media, banking and transport

We’ve partnered with numerous UK service providers to help them realise their ambitious expansion plans, including:

  • Colt to extend high capacity connectivity to major UK cities, including London and Manchester
  • CityFibre to deploy Dark Fibre for fibre-to-the-premises services along the south coast of England
  • brsk to roll out 100Gbps services to key regions across the North of England and the Midlands

If you’re looking for a trusted, customer-centric partner to help grow your network, join us. We’ll be happy to help you supercharge your network.

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The 2024 UK logistics digital infrastructure report

What are the digital investment priorities of UK logistics operators, and what challenges do they face in adopting a ‘digital by default’ approach? A report by dedicated internet services provider Neos Networks.

UK logistics digital infrastructure

The logistics sector is a key driver of domestic economic and employment growth, contributing £163 billion to the UK economy. The industry also connects the UK to the global market. In 2022, the UK traded over £1 trillion in goods, consisting of £414 billion in exports and £644 billion in imports.

The logistics industry is increasingly powered by technological innovation and the adoption of digital solutions. A notable advancement occurred in September 2023 when the UK government implemented the Electronic Trade Documents Act (ETDA). This law grants legal validity to digital trade documents, eliminating the need for physical paperwork in the supply chain. This change is part of a broader trend in the logistics sector, where companies must continually adapt and integrate digital infrastructure and processes to stay competitive and efficient.

But how is the industry reacting to increased digital processes in logistics operations? And are UK logistics companies forward-planning to develop the infrastructure for these digital processes?

In this report, we survey business leaders and decision makers from 89 UK logistics companies (data collected December 2023) to explore the role connectivity has to play in the present and future of UK logistics, and assess how ready the industry is for wider digital transformation.

Contents

Key findings

  • Plans for continued digital transformation in the logistics industry suggest investment in connectivity improvements is imminent: Four in five (86.5%) logistics operators plan to digitally transform their operations in the near future.
  • Digital trade document adoption indicates the need for focus on digital connectivity infrastructure: Up to 69% of the logistics industry will facilitate digital trade documents as standard in the coming years.
  • A portion of the logistics industry is at risk of becoming digitally outdated: Nearly one in five (18.5%) companies haven’t updated their connectivity systems since the turn of the decade, in three years or more. There’s a need to invest in connectivity, such as full fibre, to be successful in digital transformation goals.
  • The logistics sector is in need of a digital skill boost to facilitate growth: 62.9% of companies in the sector say their employees’ digital skills are ‘next to none’, ‘insufficient’, or ‘sufficient for current operations’.
  • The government should go further to support investment in digital technology: According to the majority of UK logistics operators (65.2%), two in three logistics companies call for more support.

Digital trade documents: soon to become the industry standard

Our findings indicate that the logistics industry is in the process of adoption, though the majority remain in the planning stage.

Findings:

  • One in three companies (27%) are currently equipped to use digital trade documents in serving their operations/clients/customers.
  • 42% of logistics companies have plans to adopt digital trade documents soon, making it a big growth area for the industry.
  • When combined, the data reveals that up to 69% of the industry are set to operate with digital trade documents in the coming years.
Pie chart: percentage of logistics companies equipped to process and collaborate with clients using digital trade documents

 

Digital trade documents explained

The Electronic Trade Documents Act removes the legal requirement for logistics companies dealing with imported or exported goods to handle commercial trade documents only on paper. These can now also be handled in electronic format.

The act is set to alleviate the administrative burden from global trade and could spearhead further digitisation of processes along the supply chain.

Kevin Shakespeare, the director of strategic projects and international development at the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT), says “the importance of the act could well be the fact that it indirectly encourages the digitisation of other documents that aren’t necessarily included as examples in the legislation. This includes e-Phyto certificates, electronic export health certificates, airway bills and CMR notes for road transport.”

What does this mean for digital connectivity?

With over two in three companies set to adopt such digital-first processes, logistics companies should be aware of the greater demand that may be put on their connectivity needs.

Historically most logistics hubs would only need a basic connection to manage its ‘on the ground’ operations. However, as the sector digitises, it requires a more modern connectivity infrastructure to deliver, store and manage data and documents across its UK infrastructure.

This connection must be resilient and available 24/7. A simple broadband solution will soon create operational limitations, and the ETDA is just a small contributor to this compared to the wider digital transformation taking place for logistics companies.

Investment in digital transformation a priority for UK logistics businesses

We surveyed leaders in the logistics industry to understand their digital investment strategies and broader transformation plans. Our focus was to identify the key investment areas the sector prioritises for growth.

Which digital investments are planned as a priority?

Digital processes account for two of the three top overall investment priorities identified by logistics companies. These include ‘upgrading to smart fleet and digital tracking technology’ (38.2%) and ‘improving internal digital communication systems’ (43.2%).

Our data found the majority of the UK logistics industry is looking at digital solutions to optimise their operations — 86.5% plan to invest in improving at least one digital technology solution over the next two years.

Bar chart: percentages showing which digital technologies logistics companies are prioritising over the next two years

Findings:

The top priority for companies is ‘Predictive vehicle maintenance’ (39.3%) — just under two in five plan to invest in a solution in the next two years. An operational fleet is a must for logistics companies. Predictive vehicle maintenance leverages real-time monitoring and data-driven decisions to determine maintenance needs ahead of issues occurring. In fact, each of the priority investment areas relies on storing, analysing and accessing large data pools to yield practical insights.

Other priorities include ‘Big data analytics for improved operations’ (31.5%), and ‘Upgrading smart fleet or goods digital tracking technology’ (29.2%). Overall, as over four in five (86.5%) logistics operators continue to digitally transform their operations, the demand for connectivity upgrades and services from telecommunications companies serving the industry is clear.

Challenges remain for many in successfully adopting digital processes

Many operators in the logistics industry have been found to be experiencing challenges in adopting and implementing digital processes — 82.6% of UK logistics companies have experienced technological challenges which have impacted operations over the last 12 months.

Bar chart: technology challenges logistics companies have faced in the last year

 

Findings:

  • The most common challenges have arisen from outdated systems hampering operations for 37% of operators. This figure aligns with the findings in the following section, showing two in five companies haven’t updated their connectivity systems since the turn of the decade.
  • The next highest response is a lack of sufficient digital infrastructure for operations for 34.8%. These companies may struggle with integrating advanced technologies, and ultimately difficulties in scaling operations or adapting to market changes.
  • 32.6% of companies have issues with vehicle connectivity and remote driver communication. This potentially impacts delivery times, route optimisation, and overall operational efficiency.

Results also showed wider considerations in recruitment to successfully adopt digital processes. One in four logistics companies (23.9%) stated a lack of in-house understanding of operating digital systems, potentially highlighting a shortfall of digital skills in the industry.

Connectivity capacity shortfall looms for those slow to upgrade

Investment to improve digital-first processes is a priority for over four in five (86.5%) operators in the logistics industry. This will directly impact the need for speed and capacity of connectivity across multiple business centres, as well as across national transport infrastructure.

How have companies reacted to address this so far?

Findings highlight a good portion of the UK logistics industry is ‘evolving smart’ and taking steps to facilitate digital processes through connectivity infrastructure investment.

Findings:

  • One in five companies (19.6%) in the industry have invested in connectivity infrastructure in the latter half of 2023.
  • 22.9% of logistics companies have invested in their connectivity infrastructure within the past 12 months to 2 years.
  • 15% of UK logistics operators state they are planning to invest in connectivity improvements in the near future.
Bar chart: when did logistics companies last invest in connectivity infrastructure?

However, there’s a section of UK logistics which risks falling behind the technology curve.

Nearly one in five (18.5%) companies haven’t updated their connectivity systems since the turn of the decade, in three years or more. These responses suggest an urgent need for a portion of logistics operators to invest in upgrading their digital infrastructure. Connectivity standards have developed rapidly since 2020, and those who stand still are fast falling behind competitors in the rapidly evolving logistics sector.

UK logistics face barriers to digital transformation

We have been able to identify the challenges which UK logistics operators are experiencing, as well as the digital investment appetite from the industry for future growth. But what barriers exist to hinder this transformation?

Findings:

  • The majority of UK logistics companies highlight investment costs and lack of funding as key barriers to digital process adoption. High implementation costs were cited by 43.6%, while 40.4% highlighted a lack of necessary funds for investment.
  • These were both topped by cybersecurity concerns — more than half of UK logistics companies (51.1%) cited cybersecurity as a prevalent barrier to developing their digital processes. This highlights the need for assurances from technology providers that adequate protection will be provided.
Bar chart: the most prevalent barriers logistics companies experience when adopting and implementing digital technologies

 

Despite the wider barriers which are yet to be addressed, the opportunity for telecommunication providers remains. One out of every three logistics companies points out that inadequate communication infrastructure is a big hurdle when implementing digital transformation initiatives.

Steve Parker, director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), says:

“The factors facilitating increased adoption of digital transformation and those hindering it are cut from the same cloth. One of the biggest challenges faced by any company looking to undergo digital transformation is the natural resistance to change that arises within any organisation: sometimes a company’s culture, which might not be supportive of change or new technologies.”

“There is certainly plenty of willingness to adopt digital solutions to various aspects of their operations. BIFA members... are gaining greater awareness of the importance of and rewards to be gained from paying enough attention to digitalisation of the front and back end systems they employ to run their businesses.”

Are lack of digital skills a barrier to logistics sector growth?

Employee talent with digital skills are crucial in adopting and operating digital processes. Does the industry believe it has the required skills to develop into digital-first ways of working?

  • The majority of the logistics sector is in need of digital skills to facilitate growth — 62.9% of companies in the sector state their employee digital skills are ‘next to none’, ‘insufficient’, or ‘sufficient for current operations’.
  • However, a little under two in five companies say they are well placed for digital growth and have either sufficient digital skills to adopt new and future technology, or good or excellent digital skills in the company.
Bar chart: digital skillsets currently in logistics companies

“There is a need for well-qualified staff with in-depth technical knowledge” according to Steve Parker, “and that can be lacking as a career in logistics may not be as appealing to the experts as some other sectors. BIFA is working on addressing that.”

“It is of critical importance if the companies in the sector are to capitalise on some of the key benefits of digitalization in logistics, which include improved efficiency and productivity, reduced costs, faster decision making, enhanced communication and collaboration, and more effective customer service.”

UK logistics operators call for government action to incentivise digital transformation

The government is crucial in creating an environment that supports and promotes digital initiatives, encouraging investments from stakeholders. By doing so, it facilitates the digital transformation of logistics companies.

To ensure the logistics industry keeps up with digital adoption, it’s essential that the government champions investment in critical connectivity infrastructure, like full fibre connectivity networks through Project Gigabit.

Findings:

  • The government should go further to support investment in digital technology, according to the majority of UK logistics operators (65.2%) — two in three logistics companies call for more support.
Pie chart: Is the government doing enough to incentivise digital technology investment from logistics operators

Conclusion: three focus areas to unlock a world-leading digital-first logistics industry in the UK

 

1. Logistics industry set to invest in connectivity to facilitate digital adoption

  • Many in the industry are already aware of the need to adopt digital processes across their operations to remain competitive. The majority of operators plan to onboard technological solutions over the next two years.
  • To operate the digital solutions, companies must be aware of the connectivity requirements they will demand.
  • While 19.6% of companies have recently invested in developing their connectivity infrastructure, more than double the number of companies — a little over two in five — haven’t updated their connectivity systems since the turn of the decade. They are warned they risk falling behind the technology curve.
  • Companies who have failed to upgrade connectivity and still operate with a public switched telephone network (PSTN) — on which services such as ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) and broadband operate — are warned to upgrade soon. Besides the company being unlikely to get the required speed, resiliency and internet access required to digitally transform, PSTN is also set to be switched off in December 2025 to be replaced by more modern digital services. Those who are slow to upgrade will be left without service.

2. Opportunity for telcos to support logistics digital transformation, coordinated with government support

  • The final say in creating the connectivity infrastructure to meet the demands of the logistics industry is down to investment from telecommunication providers (telcos). As logistics processes become increasingly digitised, this demand is only going to become greater.
  • The UK government passed the Electronic Trade Documents Act, which navigates a major hurdle in digitising international trade documents.
  • For the UK logistics industry to truly compete on a global scale, further incentives are required to push UK operators towards full digital integration.
  • As it stands, UK operators still experience barriers to digital access, such as insufficient infrastructure nationally, as well as a lack of funding and cybersecurity concerns.

3. Bridging the digital skills gap is essential for future digital adoption

  • There remains a shortage of digital talent coming into the logistics sector.
  • 9% of companies in the sector state their employee digital skills are below what’s needed to grow digital solutions in their operations.
  • It will be the responsibility of UK logistic trade bodies, business groups, and logistic industry qualification boards to market the advantages of the logistics industry to the next generation of digital talent.

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What is a backbone network?

A backbone network is the central core of large computer networks that connects smaller networks. Learn all about backbone networks and how they ensure network performance for service providers and end users.

What is a backbone network?

A backbone network, also known as a core network, is the central infrastructure in larger computer networks that interconnects local subnetworks. They’re usually high capacity, low latency connections designed to transmit high data volumes as efficiently as possible.

For example, a backbone network can connect different local area networks (LANs) in one building or across many buildings in a business park or university campus. Large enterprises with geographically dispersed sites might create a backbone network to connect their sites in a wide area network (WAN).

Similarly, backbone networks connect different cities, regions or countries. For instance, internet service providers (ISPs) and data centres use backbone networks to provide high capacity connectivity between dispersed locations.

How does a backbone network work?

A backbone network works like a central highway, providing fast, reliable traffic flow to local road networks. It typically uses high capacity optical connectivity with fibre optic cables, routers, switches and other networking equipment to transmit high volumes of data as efficiently as possible.

In addition, wireless satellite or microwave links, or a hybrid core network of wired and wired connections, can be used to reach remote areas where laying cables is impractical.

While core networks vary, they use standard technologies like Internet Protocol (IP), Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) to ensure seamless communication between subnetworks.

Backbone network vs access network

Backbone and access networks are distinct components of computer networks with different functions. In national or global networks, the two are interconnected as follows:

  1. A backbone network is the high capacity core that connects different regions, data centres and ISPs to the internet and cloud services.
  2. A distribution network, which may include backhaul, connects the backbone network to an access network, distributing traffic to regional or local metropolitan area networks (MAN), streets or buildings.
  3. An access network, also known as the “last mile”, connects end users or subscribers to the distribution network, providing access to the internet and cloud services.
Example of a backbone network, showing how it's connected to a distribution network and an access network

In short, a backbone network is the core networking highway that ensures the reliability and performance of large-scale networks, including the internet.

Backbone network functions

In addition to providing high capacity connections between local networks, backbone networks perform several crucial functions, including but not limited to:

  • Aggregation: Backbone networks aggregate data traffic from various sources, including MANs, LANs, WANs and access networks.
  • Routing and switching: Routers and switches efficiently forward data packets across different parts of the network.
  • Redundancy: Core networks are typically designed with backup routes and failover mechanisms to maximise reliability.
  • Authentication and security: Backbone networks use encryption, firewalls and other measures to prevent unauthorised access, data breaches or other cyberattacks
  • Traffic management: As core networks are centralised, they allow you to optimise the data flow, ensuring Quality of Service (QoS) to prioritise critical types of traffic.

Typically, backbone networks can accommodate much higher capacities than the local networks they serve. They’re usually designed to scale as you grow to meet the ever-increasing demand for data.

Types of backbone networks

Backbone networks vary in technology and scale, from local core networks to the internet backbone, which connects network service providers worldwide. However, most core networks have one of the following basic network topologies:

  • Serial backbone: A simple point-to-point connection links two or more connectivity devices, such as connecting a hub to a subnetwork.
  • Distributed backbone: Numerous connectivity devices link to various central hubs, switches, or routers in a layered hierarchy, which is typically used for most large core networks.
  • Collapsed backbone: All connectivity devices link back to a central location in a star topology, which is easy to manage but has a single point of failure.
  • Parallel backbone: Connectivity devices link to a central location but with duplicate connections providing redundancy and resilience.

Backbone network solutions

To sum up, backbone networks are vital components of large-scale networks, ensuring network performance for both service providers and end users. Core networks give you:

  • Seamless connectivity to grow your network
  • Redundancy and resilience to ensure customer experience
  • Flexibility and scalability to meet growing demand

At Neos Networks, we provide backbone networks and backhaul services for businesses across the UK. Optical connectivity is the fabric of any large backbone network, and we offer a range of optical wavelength services to suit your business’s needs with:

  • High availability: Up to 99.95% uptime across our UK-wide network
  • Ultrafast connections: Choose between 10Gbps, 100Gbps and 400Gbps
  • Flexibility: Connectivity options to suit your business and customers nationwide

We’ve already helped several service providers achieve their ambitious growth plans, including:

  • Jisc: Enabling their mission-critical national backbone for education and research facilities across the UK
  • CityFibre: Deploying a Dark Fibre backbone network for their UK fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) services on the south coast
  • Gigabit Networks: Providing exchange backhaul to supercharge their connectivity in the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby

To see how we could boost your connectivity across the UK, download our network map. We’ll be happy to help you supercharge your network.

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What is DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing)?

DWDM wavelength

Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) is an optical networking technology that dramatically increases the bandwidth of existing networks. Learn how it works and how DWDM solutions can help supercharge your business’s connectivity.

What is Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM)?

Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) is a kind of Wavelength Division Multiplexing – a technology used to expand the capacity of fibre optic networks. It allows multiple data streams to be transmitted over different light wavelengths through a single fibre.

It’s called ‘dense’ because the gaps between each channel’s wavelengths are much smaller than in Course Wavelength Division Multiplexing (CWDM). As a result, you can transmit many more channels on a single fibre over longer distances.

Learn more about the difference between CWDM and DWDM

How does DWDM work?

Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing slices the ultraviolet light section of the electromagnetic spectrum into small segments. It’s this tighter wavelength spacing that allows a large number of channels to be carried over a single pair of optical fibres.

DWDM operates on the C band (1525nm to 1565nm wavelengths) or L band (1570nm to 1610nm). The wavelength spacing varies, but a typical DWDM system uses 0.4nm spacing to create up to 88 channels.

DWDM (typical 88-channel plan)

DWDM - typical 88-channel plan showing 0.4nm wavelength spacing

 

That means you can use your existing network infrastructure far more efficiently, removing the high cost and disruption of laying more fibre.

What are the main components of DWDM systems?

A DWDM system consists of five main components:

  • Optical transmitters and receivers
  • DWDM mux and demux filters
  • Optical add/drop multiplexers
  • Optical amplifiers
  • Optical transponders

Optical transmitters and receivers

Optical transmitters and receivers are fundamental components of DWDM systems. Multiple transmitters in each system provide source signals before they are multiplexed, with several individual lasers deployed to handle different channels in the signal.

Each optical transmitter is fed with electronic data bits – ones and zeros – which trigger the modulation of precise optical pulses. To represent ‘one’, the transmitter’s laser generates a pulse of light. To represent ‘zero’, the laser remains inactive.

The pulses of light then travel the length of the optical fibre, where they are demultiplexed before terminating at optical receivers. These optical receivers detect the light pulses and convert them back into electronic data bits.

DWDM mux and demux filters

The mux filter receives different signals from the optical transmitters via multiple fibres. It then combines and transmits them as a composite signal over a single optical fibre.

At the demux filter on the receiving terminal, all the separate wavelengths of the composite signal are separated and sent down different fibres to the optical receivers.

Mux and demux devices are usually passive, requiring no power supply or maintenance to function correctly.

Optical add/drop multiplexers

Optical add/drop multiplexers (OADMs) are installed at intermediate points along a transmission line. They enable new signals to enter the network and existing signals to leave, separating or rerouting different wavelength channels.

Most signals simply pass through the OADM unchanged, but some are dropped by splitting them from the line. At the same time, signals originating at that point can be added and transmitted to another destination.

Reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexers (ROADMs) are now widely used, allowing the routing and rerouting of any wavelength in any direction.

Optical amplifiers

Optical amplifiers enhance optical signals by directly stimulating photons, increasing amplitude and strengthening the signal.

They’re built into the fibre and can amplify signals over a wide range of wavelengths. A vital part of DWDM systems, they greatly extend the transmission distances of DWDM equipment.

RAMAN amplifiers can be used to allow transmission over longer distances.

Optical transponders

An optical transponder, also known as an O-E-O (optical-electrical-optical) wavelength converter, is a crucial signal transmission component. It gathers incoming optical signals from the client service and converts them to outgoing optical wavelengths compatible with DWDM components.

First, it converts the optical signal into an electrical signal. It then performs either 2R (reamplify and reshape) functions or 3R (reamplify, reshape and retime) functions. Finally, it converts the signal back into an optical signal, hence the name O-E-O.

What is DWDM used for?

Faced with an explosion of data fuelled by the adoption of AI, 5G and IoT, businesses are looking to boost their network capacity. They use DWDM to greatly increase the bandwidth and reach of their optical networks.

With DWDM, you don’t need to install new cables, avoiding the huge costs and long lead times of fibre infrastructure upgrades. Instead, you can fully realise the investment in your existing network by enabling different data streams to be sent simultaneously over a single optical fibre.

While DWDM hardware can be more expensive than other solutions, the cost is justified by significant financial and time savings. In addition, amplifiers serve as repeaters, mitigating optical power loss and enabling DWDM operation over long distances.

Overall, DWDM provides tremendous scalability, reliability and reach for fibre optic networks. Without it, many cloud computing solutions would not be possible, and infrastructure overheads would be significantly higher.

Is DWDM the same as Dark Fibre?

A Dark Fibre network consists of ‘unlit’ fibre optic cables with no service or traffic running on them. You deploy and manage the equipment needed to light it.

DWDM is a technology you can deploy to enhance your network efficiency and maximise capacity. However, running your own DWDM service requires significant IT resources and expertise to deploy and maintain your network.

If you don’t want the upfront costs and hassle of Dark Fibre, consider a managed DWDM solution.

Learn more about Dark Fibre vs DWDM

DWDM solutions for your business

At Neos Networks, we’re helping businesses nationwide transform their networks with DWDM-enabled Optical Wavelengths up to 400Gbps.

If you’re looking to upgrade your network to meet the exploding demand for bandwidth, get in touch.

 

We’ll be happy to design a high-capacity DWDM solution for your business.

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What is WDM (Wavelength Division Multiplexing)?

Wavelength Division Multiplexing

Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) is a technology that increases the bandwidth of existing fibre optic networks. We explain the different types of WDM and how WDM-enabled optical networks can help your business.

What is Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM)?

Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) is an optical networking technology that allows you to expand the capacity of optical fibre by adding a multiplexer and a demultiplexer at each end of the fibre.

This enables multiple data streams to be transmitted over different light wavelengths through a single fibre. In this way, you can optimise your network infrastructure without the additional cost of laying more fibre.

What is WDM used for?

Traditionally, WDM technology was used for large networks like national infrastructure due to its complexity and cost. Today, businesses use cost-effective WDM solutions in various networking applications to maximise their bandwidth.

WDM is used in metro access networks, data centres, network service providers, or any enterprise environment that needs high capacity, low latency connectivity.

Types of Wavelength Division Multiplexing

There are two main types of WDM: Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing and Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing.

CWDM

Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing (CWDM) typically uses eight active wavelengths per fibre but can support up to 18 channels or more. It’s generally used for connections across shorter distances and can be more cost-effective than DWDM.

Learn more about CWDM

DWDM

Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) uses precision lasers to create up to 88 channels or more per fibre. Typically used in core networks where high capacity is required, DWDM is a good choice for businesses transmitting large data volumes over longer distances.

Learn more about DWDM

WDM and Dark Fibre

If you’re looking to lease Dark Fibre for your business’s network, the cost is usually significant. So taking advantage of WDM technology to maximise your network capacity can help offset some of that cost.

Dark Fibre offers almost limitless capacity, easy scalability, and a dedicated connection for maximum security. However, if you’re looking for a swifter setup, less cost upfront, and a guaranteed service without having to manage it yourself, a Lit Fibre service might be the better choice.

Learn more about Dark Fibre vs Lit Fibre

WDM solutions for your business

Whether you lease Dark Fibre or opt for a managed optical network, WDM is a great way to maximise your existing capacity at minimal cost.

At Neos Networks, we’re helping UK businesses boost their connectivity with DWDM-enabled Optical Wavelengths up to 400Gbps across our nationwide network. If you’re looking to future-proof your connectivity to meet the growing data demands of AI, 5G and IoT, get in touch.

 

We’ll be happy to help you supercharge your network for the future.

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What is CWDM (Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing)?

CWDM wavelength

Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing (CWDM) is an optical networking technology that increases the bandwidth of existing networks. Learn all about CWDM, how it differs from DWDM, and whether a CWDM solution is right for your business’s network.

What is Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing?

Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing (CWDM) is a kind of Wavelength Division Multiplexing – a technology used to expand the capacity of fibre optic networks. It enables multiple data streams to be transmitted over different light wavelengths through a single fibre.

How does CWDM work?

CWDM uses a multiplexer to divide the light wavelengths into different channels, each carrying a separate data stream.

The channels are combined and transmitted over a single fibre optic cable. At the receiving end, a demultiplexer separates the wavelengths into the original channels. This allows multiple independent data streams to be transmitted over a single fibre.

CWDM is called “coarse” because the gaps between each channel's wavelengths are much larger than in Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM).

What is the difference between CWDM and DWDM?

Both CWDM and DWDM are technologies used to increase the capacity of fibre networks, but they divide up the available optical wavelengths differently. Here’s how they differ.

Wavelength range and spacing

CWDM and DWDM use different wavelength ranges and spacing:

  • CWDM operates in the 1270-1610 nanometre (nm) range of the electromagnetic spectrum. It usually spaces wavelengths 20nm apart.
  • DWDM operates on the C band (1525nm to 1565nm) or L band (1570nm to 1610nm). Wavelength spacing varies, but it’s far narrower than that of CWDM: 0.4nm for a typical DWDM system with up to 88 channels.

Number of channels

As DWDM wavelengths are much closer together than those of CWDM, DWDM can pack in significantly more channels:

  • CWDM typically uses eight channels but can support up to 18 or more.
  • DWDM provides up to 88 channels or more, depending on the multiplexing technique used.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has standardised the nominal wavelengths and channels for CWDM (G.694.2) and DWDM (G.694.1), as shown in the comparison below.

CWDM vs DWDM: Comparing wavelengths and channels

Diagram comparing the available channels and wavelengths of CWDM (typical 8-channel plan) and DWDM (typical 88-channel plan)

 

Distance

CWDM wavelength spacing is not suitable for signal amplification, so its range is limited compared to DWDM:

  • CWDM is typically used for distances up to 80km (50 miles). It’s commonly used in short-haul, metropolitan or regional networks
  • DWDM wavelengths can be amplified to support transmission distances of hundreds or thousands of kilometres. It’s ideal for regional or long-distance networks.

Cost

CWDM systems tend to be cheaper to set up and run than DWDM networks:

  • CWDM’s “coarse” wavelength spacing typically requires fewer, simpler components than DWDM.
  • DWDM uses more sophisticated laser equipment to control wavelengths more precisely and amplify signals for longer distances.

Although the price difference between CWDM and DWDM equipment has narrowed, CWDM systems can be cheaper to install per kilometre than DWDM deployments.

What is CWDM suitable for?

CWDM is a low-cost, relatively high-capacity optical networking solution that’s ideal for a range of networks over shorter distances. Here are some common use cases for CWDM solutions:

Metro access networks

CWDM is often used to interconnect multiple locations in a city or metropolitan area. It’s a cost-effective technology for metro access networks or metropolitan area networks.

ISP connectivity

Internet service providers (ISPs) may use CWDM over passive optical networks to provide fibre to the premises – the “last mile” supplying ultrafast broadband to homes and businesses. In addition, ISPs may deploy CWDM to transmit data between their data centres or points of presence (PoPs).

Enterprise networks

For businesses, CWDM provides a low-cost way to interconnect different offices or data centres in a local area. For example, it can provide scalable connectivity across a business park, city or region.

Data centres

Data centre businesses require high-capacity, low-latency links between storage systems. With CWDM, they can reduce the number of fibres needed while maintaining sufficient bandwidth.

Video distribution

Broadcasters and streaming services can use CWDM to transmit multiple channels of ultra-high-definition content over a single fibre. Similarly, CWDM may be suitable for interconnecting local video surveillance systems.

Overall, CWDM offers a simple way to increase your fibre network’s capacity using existing infrastructure. However, DWDM can give you far more channels, longer distance connections and greater bandwidth.

Optical wavelength solutions for your business

Ultimately, your choice of networking technology depends on your business needs and budget. If you’re looking to upgrade your network to meet the ever-increasing bandwidth demands of AI, 5G and IoT, we can help.

At Neos Networks, we’re helping businesses nationwide transform their networks with Optical Wavelengths up to 400Gbps and other high-capacity connectivity, so get in touch.

 

We’ll be happy to design a scalable network to future-proof your business.

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What is a network-to-network interface (NNI)?

Network-to-network interface

A network-to-network interface (NNI) is a connection between different networks. We explain NNIs, how they work, and how they can help you expand your business connectivity quickly and efficiently.

What is a network-to-network interface (NNI)

In telecommunications, a network-to-network interface (NNI), also known as a network node interface, is a physical or virtual connection between two or more different networks. It defines the signalling and network management between two networks, allowing them to communicate seamlessly regardless of the underlying protocols they use.

Like an efficient motorway interchange that allows smooth traffic flow between different roads, NNIs ensure data moves smoothly from one network to another.

What are NNIs used for?

Telecom providers use network-to-network interfaces to connect to other network operators. Typically located in data centres or points of presence (PoPs), NNIs ensure seamless data exchange between the networks of different service providers.

Example NNI connecting two network service providers

Example of network-to-network interface connecting two network service providers

 

In addition, network service providers may use NNIs to interconnect or expand their own networks. For example, UK providers use exchange backhaul and NNIs to extend high-capacity gigabit connectivity nationwide.

NNIs are also a vital component of internet exchange points (IXPs). They interconnect multiple internet service providers (ISPs), enabling them to exchange network traffic.

How does a network-to-network interface work?

Simply put, a network-to-network interface defines how two interlinked networks communicate. For example, it specifies the physical connections and data formats to allow seamless data exchange. It also exchanges routing and signalling information to ensure network traffic is routed efficiently.

Exactly how NNIs work depends on the type of networks involved. For instance, MPLS-based networks use protocols like Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs) to route traffic.

To maintain performance across networks, NNIs typically support Quality of Service (QoS) and Service-Level Agreements (SLAs). They may also include encryption and authentication controls to ensure security.

How can NNIs help your business?

NNIs offer several benefits for businesses and network service providers looking to expand their networks or connect to other carriers. Among the advantages of NNIs are:

  • Interoperability: NNIs interconnect networks with different networking protocols and architectures, allowing seamless data exchange between providers.
  • Flexibility: Designed to work with various networking technologies, NNIs can connect different network types.
  • Scalability: By connecting multiple existing networks, NNIs allow you to scale up without investing in new network infrastructure.
  • Quality: With support for QoS, traffic engineering and SLAs, NNIs can help you prioritise traffic and guarantee service levels across networks.
  • Simplicity: Interconnecting multiple networks enables you to centralise and streamline network management.

In short, NNIs can enable you to interconnect or expand your network as efficiently as possible, minimising costly changes to your underlying network architecture.

NNI solutions with Neos Networks

At Neos Networks, we’re helping businesses and network service providers grow with our high capacity network. Boost your network by connecting to NNIs in over 20 data centres and selected exchanges nationwide.

Joining our ultrafast network gives you:

  • Flexibility: Extend your reach with 550 unbundled exchanges and 90 on-net data centres across the UK.
  • Scalability: Connect to 1Gbps, 10Gbps or 100Gbps NNIs using Ethernet or Optical Wavelengths.
  • High availability: Get up to 99.95% uptime with secondary backup routing and monitoring from our Network Operation Centre 24/7, 365 days a year.
  • Quality of Service: Configure QoS and SLAs with NNIs to optimise resources and guarantee performance across networks.
  • Fast deployment: Quote and order online with our connectivity pricing tool, LIVEQUOTE.

If you’re a larger business with multiple dispersed sites, our point-to-NNI services enable you to interconnect your sites efficiently with bandwidths you can scale as you grow.

Point-to-NNI

Point to NNI Ethernet

 

For growing network service providers, backhaul and NNIs are a quick and cost-effective way to extend your reach.

We’re already helping UK service providers like Colt leverage NNIs to expand gigabit connectivity nationwide, so get in touch. We’ll be happy to help you supercharge your network.

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What is 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE)?

10 Gigabit Ethernet

10 Gigabit Ethernet is an ultrafast business Ethernet service that provides reliable, low latency connectivity. We explain 10 Gigabit Ethernet, how it differs from other Ethernet services and how it could benefit your business.

What is Gigabit Ethernet?

Gigabit Ethernet is a networking technology based on Ethernet standards that provides data transfer rates up to 1 billion bits per second, or 1 gigabit per second (1Gbps).

Standardised by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) in 1999, Gigabit Ethernet is an evolution of Fast Ethernet, which delivers speeds of 10 or 100 megabits per second (Mbps). It works over copper-based cables or fibre optic cables.

As Gigabit Ethernet is fully compatible with earlier Ethernet standards, it’s often deployed in enterprise backbone networks serving 10/100 Mbps local area networks (LANs).

What is 10 Gigabit Ethernet?

10 Gigabit Ethernet – also known as 10GbE, 10GE, or 10G Ethernet – is a networking standard that offers data speeds up to 10 billion bits per second (10Gbps).

Released in 2002, 10 Gigabit Ethernet offers significantly higher data transfer speeds than Fast Ethernet (100Mbps) or Gigabit Ethernet (1Gpbs). Like Gigabit Ethernet, 10GbE can run over fibre optic or copper cables.

With its higher bandwidth and lower latency, 10GbE is being widely adopted in enterprise LANs and wide area networks (WANs) to address the growing data demands of artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, and IoT.

What is the difference between 10Gb Ethernet and 1Gb Ethernet?

10Gb Ethernet differs from 1Gb Ethernet in its data transfer speed, use cases, implementation and cost:

  • Speed: 10GbE provides up to ten times faster data transfer speeds than 1GbE. 10GbE takes advantage of the full-duplex protocol, meaning it can transmit up to 10Gbps of data in both directions simultaneously.
  • Use cases: 1GbE is used in various scenarios, from home networks to business environments. By contrast, 10GbE is typically used in high-performance enterprise applications like data centres, storage area networks and cloud computing infrastructure.
  • Implementation: 1GbE commonly uses Category 5e twisted-pair copper cables for connections up to 100 metres and fibre optic cables over longer distances. 10GbE typically uses Category 6 or 6A short-distance cables, fibre cabling for longer distances, and 10GbE-capable switches, network interface cards, and routers.
  • Cost: 1GbE hardware tends to be cheaper than 10GbE equipment because it’s less sophisticated. However, the cost difference between the two is narrowing as technology improves.

Despite its significantly better performance, 10GbE remains fully interoperable with 1GbE and earlier Ethernet standards.

A CISCO 10GbE-enabled router showing 1G and 10G Ethernet ports

10GbE-enabled router showing 1G and 10G Ethernet ports

 

How does 10 Gigabit Ethernet work?

10 Gigabit Ethernet operates like other Ethernet services, using a similar format of frames and packets to transmit data. That’s why it’s fully compatible with traditional Ethernet and easy to integrate into existing networks. However, there are significant differences between 10GbE and traditional Ethernet.

First, 10 Gigabit Ethernet achieves a higher data transmission rate by encoding and modulating data differently, depending on the type of cabling used.

Second, 10GbE is designed to operate in full-duplex mode only. That means it simultaneously transmits data in both directions on one channel, improving network efficiency and reducing latency.

Like 1Gbps Ethernet, 10GbE can use various types of fibre optic or copper cabling, depending on the purpose and reach of the network.

Types of 10 Gigabit Ethernet

The IEEE has introduced various 10 Gigabit Ethernet standards for LANs, WANs and other applications over different distances. Copper-based cables can be used for connections up to 100 metres. For longer distances, 10GbE uses:

  • Multimode fibre, which divides the light signal into multiple paths for different channels, with a range of up to 300 metres
  • Single-mode fibre, featuring a single path, suitable for longer distances up to 40km (25 miles) or more

Here are some common 10 Gigabit Ethernet standards in order of maximum reach.

Common types of 10 Gigabit Ethernet

Name IEEE standard Cable Max distance
10GBASE-CX4 802.3ak-2004 Copper (twinaxial) 15m
10GBASE-T 802.3an-2006 Copper (twisted pair) 100m
10GBASE-LRM 802.3aq-2006 Fibre (multimode) 220m
10GBASE-SR/SW
(for LAN/WAN)
802.3ae-2002 Fibre (multimode) 300m
10GBASE-LR/LW
(for LAN/WAN)
802.3ae-2002 Fibre (single mode) 10km (6 miles)
10GBASE-ER/EW
(for LAN/WAN)
802.3ae-2002 Fibre (single mode)

40km (25 miles)

 

In addition to IEEE standards, several manufacturers offer proprietary 10GbE types, such as 10GBASE-ZR/ZW, with a maximum range of 80km (50 miles).

What are the benefits of 10GbE?

Many advanced computers and mobile devices can now read files at speeds of 10Gbps. However, when numerous devices connect and share data over your network, bottlenecks may occur.

10 Gigabit Ethernet solves this problem. With 10GbE, you can achieve speeds up to 10Gbps for content downloads or uploads.

While it may cost more than 1GbE to implement, the benefits can more than offset the expense. With 10GbE, you can:

  • Prevent data bottlenecks even when multiple computers share bandwidth in a server cluster
  • Boost employee productivity with a more stable connection, eliminating interruptions and delays
  • Improve customer response times, especially when many customers and employees are connected at the same time
  • Simplify your IT by increasing your connection speeds using one server instead of combining multiple Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Strengthen your security with a fully contained fibre network that requires physical access to the router

Overall, 10 Gigabit Ethernet provides much higher bandwidth and lower latency than 1GbE, making it suitable for data-hungry enterprise applications.

What is 10 Gigabit Ethernet used for?

10 Gigabit Ethernet is used in various business applications where high speed and low latency are critical, including:

  • Data centres: connecting servers, storage systems and networking equipment
  • Network service providers: enabling backbone networks and ensuring reliable services for customers
  • Cloud computing: connecting cloud environments and providing virtual services
  • Banking and financial services: enabling real-time trading transactions and reliable customer service
  • Media and entertainment: handling large files for video and other content creation
  • Education and research: connecting universities and research organisations for collaboration and data sharing

Whatever your business, a 1Gbps Ethernet connection can lead to bottlenecks. For example, when 100 devices share a 1GbE connection, each is limited to 10Mbps throughput, which can slow down or interrupt connections.

That’s why many UK businesses are turning to 10GbE to meet the increasing bandwidth demands of cloud computing, AI, 5G, and IoT.

Do you need 10 Gigabit Ethernet?

Whether 10 Gigabit Ethernet is right for you depends on your needs and budget. If you’re a data centre business, network service provider, or operating in data-heavy industries like financial services, media, online retail or health care, then 10GbE may be an ideal solution.

At Neos Networks, we offer a range of scalable, high-performance Business Ethernet services to suit your business, from 10Mbps to 100Gbps. If you’d like to discuss how best to boost your connectivity, get in touch.

 

We’ll be happy to supercharge your network for the future.

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What is backhaul in networking?

What is backhaul in networking?

Backhaul is the link between a network and its subnetworks – a critical part of high capacity network infrastructure. Learn all about backhaul and how it can supercharge your business’s network.

What is backhaul?

Backhaul in networking refers to the infrastructure that connects a local network, or subnetwork, to a backbone or core network. It’s typically a high capacity, low latency link designed to transmit data efficiently and fast.

Think of networks as roads and the data as the vehicles travelling along them. A backbone network is like a motorway, the main road ensuring traffic travels quickly and efficiently between major cities.

Backhaul is like the major roads branching off the motorway, connecting local towns and regions to the main highway.

Backhaul examples

Internet service providers (ISPs) use backhaul to deliver internet access. ISPs connect you to the internet through a backbone network connecting data centres linked to an internet gateway.

Backhaul, or exchange backhaul, is the subnetwork that connects these data centres to local exchanges. These exchanges typically link to street cabinets, which link to your router by copper or fibre optic cable, delivering internet to your office or home.

Backhaul is also used for mobile data access. When you browse the internet on your mobile phone, your device connects to cell towers in a local Radio Access Network (RAN).

Backhaul is this local RAN and its related infrastructure, which connects your mobile device to a wired backbone network and the internet.

How does backhaul work?

Streaming illustrates the significant role backhaul plays in network architecture. When customers use a streaming service like Netflix, their data travels through several stages of the network.

How exchange backhaul works, connecting data centres to local exchanges
  1. Data Centre: When a customer requests a movie, the content is retrieved from Netflix’s servers in a data centre.
  2. Backbone network: The data travels through the backbone network, a high capacity network that connects regions, ISPs and data centres to the internet and cloud services.
  3. Exchange backhaul: Backhaul connects the backbone network to your local exchange, ensuring the data is transported efficiently to and from the internet.
  4. Access network: If the customer uses a fixed-line connection like DSL or fibre, the data may pass through a street cabinet connecting to their home or business.
  5. Router: The data reaches their router, which creates a wired or wireless local area network to deliver the movie to their laptop, mobile phone or smart TV. You connect your devices to the router by Wi-Fi or by plugging in an ethernet cable.

Exchange backhaul plays a critical role in this process. By providing high capacity transport between the backbone network (2) and the customer’s local access network (4), backhaul ensures their content is transmitted efficiently, ensuring a smooth streaming experience.

So, if you’re a network service provider, backhaul can be a vital link between your data centres and the customers you supply.

Backhaul connected to an access network providing connectivity to businesses, office buildings and homes

Types of backhaul

Backhaul solutions can be divided into two broad categories: wired or wireless.

Wired (fixed-line) backhaul

Wired or fixed-line backhaul uses cables to transmit data, which can provide higher bandwidth and lower latency than wireless backhaul.

Wired backhaul can use fibre optic, copper, ethernet or coaxial cabling. Today, wired backhaul tends to use fibre as it offers very low latency and the highest capacity to satisfy the growing demand for data.

Wireless backhaul

Wireless backhaul is used where wired backhaul is either impossible or not cost-effective.

Wireless backhaul typically uses microwave signals, which can make point-to-point and point-to-multipoint connections over medium to long distances. For remote areas or areas without wired infrastructure, satellites can be used to transmit data over long distances, while Wi-Fi can extend networks locally.

What are the benefits of backhaul?

For network service providers, investing in exchange backhaul is a strategic move to enhance your network capabilities and competitiveness. By deploying high capacity fibre backhaul, you can get:

  • Longer reach: Extend your network into new areas to expand your customer base.
  • Lower costs: Exchange backhaul can be a significantly more cost-effective way to expand your network than building your own infrastructure.
  • Faster speeds: High capacity fibre backhaul can boost speeds for your customers.
  • Lower latency: Direct fibre connections can reduce latency, resulting in a smoother gaming or video conferencing experience.
  • Greater resilience: High capacity backhaul allows you to build in redundancy to bolster your network’s reliability.
  • Better scalability: Fibre backhaul has huge potential capacity, so you can scale up your network as you grow your business.

In short, exchange backhaul is not only a great way to extend your network reach. It’s also vital to support a competitive customer experience and meet the ever-growing data demands of AI, 5G and IoT.

Exchange backhaul with Neos Networks

If you’re looking to boost your network with exchange backhaul, we can help. With Neos Networks, you can extend and supercharge your network with our UK-wide high capacity network, including:

Ethernet backhaul

Our Ethernet backhaul gives you:

  • Up to 99.95% availability: Your 1Gbps and 10Gbps backhaul is protected across our MPLS core network: traffic is automatically rerouted to a secondary path should an issue arise.
  • Scalability: Upgrade your backhaul at 1Gbps increments from 1Gbps to 10Gbps.
  • High throughput: 1Gbps and 10Gbps backhaul can be configured to take jumbo frames (MTU size of up 9100 bytes), simulating a throughput like optical wavelengths.
  • No distance limits: Deliver services from exchanges in Scotland to data centres in Manchester or London, as required.
  • Network-to-network interfaces (NNIs): Meet growing customer demand with our 100Gbps NNIs in 20 data centres nationwide, from Edinburgh and Newcastle to Leeds, Manchester and London.

Optical backhaul

For faster speeds, consider high capacity optical backhaul with Optical Wavelengths or Dark Fibre.

With Optical Wavelengths, you get:

  • Up to 99.95% availability: Low latency, highly available service, including dedicated wavelengths.
  • Flexibility: Choose between 10Gbps, 100Gbps and 400Gbps across the UK.
  • Diversity: Route separation protects against outages.
  • Resilience: Managed switching adds resilience to your network.
  • Guaranteed bandwidth: Always receive the full bandwidth you pay for.

We’ve already helped several network service providers achieve their ambitious growth plans, supporting:

  • brsk to roll out 100Gbps services to key regions across the North of England and the Midlands
  • Giganet to enable their national network service and boost their capacity offering tenfold
  • Gigabit Networks to supercharge connectivity in and around the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby

If you’re a network service provider, AltNet or any business wanting a cost-effective way to expand your high capacity network nationwide, get in touch. We’ll be happy to help you supercharge your network.

We can connect you anywhere in the UK

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