Precision feels pull of broadband

13 Jun 2003

The days when multinational meant big business are long gone and even small indigenous firms can now have a number of international offices. Precision Software, a Dublin-based firm with 80 employees, has offices in Coventry, Rotterdam and Chicago. With such a spread of locations, it needs particularly good communications links.

With its headquarters in the Rathmines area of Dublin, the company was established in 1984. It specialises in developing software for international trade and logistics, trade compliance and personal shipping. Over 900 customers in more than 45 countries worldwide using Precision’s TRA/X solution to manage their global trade processes.

According to Ken Whelan (pictured), IT manager at Precision, the company relied upon traditional dial-up access until 1999. At that stage, in need of greater bandwidth, it opted for an Eircom leased line. Just over a year ago, it started looking at alternatives. “DSL and other broadband solutions were coming on stream and we decided to consider our options,” says Whelan. The high price of a leased line solution was one of the main reasons for the company’s decision to shop around. “The cost difference was quite substantial when we compared a leased line with other solutions,” he recalls.

Unlike those situated in many other areas in the country, Precision did have options when it came to broadband. “Eircom’s DSL solution was available in our area, as was the Leap Broadband wireless service,” says Whelan. “One of our main reasons for choosing Leap was that it offered a symmetrical service – 1Mbps (megabit per second) upstream [inbound] and downstream [outbound]. Eircom’s 1Mbps service was asymmetrical, with an upstream speed of 256Kbps,” he remarks. With the company trading large quantities of information between its various offices, it was felt a symmetric service would be the best bet.

Leap, the provider of the service is a relatively young company, starting life in February 2002. Buying the assets of Formus, another telco that had gone into liquidation, the company has been commercial active since July 2002. At present the company serves central and southern Dublin with transmitters at RTE and Three Rock Mountain. The company is also planning to locate another transmitter on the Northside of the city in the near future.

However, Precision didn’t have any qualms about signing up with a newcomer to the scene. “We went and spoke to some of their existing customers and got very positive feedback,” says Whelan, who signed Precision up to Leap Broadband just under a year ago.

Using the Leap Broadband service requires a small antenna on the roof of the premises, around the size of a paperback book. A cable then runs down into the office where it is connected to a box with an Ethernet port – a gateway to an internal network.

According to Whelan, the installation process was relatively painless. “They came one day and did a line of sight test on our roof. They were back a couple of days later to install the equipment. They arrived at ten in the morning and were finished by lunchtime.”

Whelan has no complaints about the service. “We haven’t experienced any outages since we started using it. In fact any difficulty we’ve had has been purely due to the amount of traffic at our end,” he laughs.

With this in mind, Precision has decided to upgrade its service. The company signed up to Leap Broadband’s top package last year, which at that stage offered a 1Mbps service each way and is priced at €299 a month. However, the telco has recently upgraded its offering and Precision has decided to go for a new service which provides a 2Mbps service each way, although it does cost substantially more – €750 a month.

“Over the past year or so, our branch offices have begun to take on a greater amount of the workload and the level of communications has increased. We’re connecting via VPN between sites and a faster service will improve this process,” said Whelan.

With much of the fuss regarding broadband going to DSL, it’s easy to forget that alternatives are available. If this example is anything to go by, it may be the case that alternative services such as wireless broadband may give the big-name telecoms operators a run for their money.

By Dick O’Brien