Jobs bonanza at Plusnet as customer base grows

Jamie Ford
Jamie Ford
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YORKSHIRE broadband provider Plusnet is to create up to 100 new jobs in the next 12 months as it continues to grow its customer base.

The Sheffield-based firm, which employs just over 700 staff, has 500,000 customers, up from 400,000 in 2010, and the number is growing.

To accommodate the rapid growth, Plusnet is moving its two offices in Sheffield under one roof at The Balance in the city centre. Staff will start moving into the new building from the end of March but chief executive Jamie Ford is already contemplating the next move.

“It might sound strange, but we’ll need to start looking for a second site almost as soon as we move,” he said. “We’ve probably got about 18 months in one building and then we’ll need to expand to a second site to accommodate future growth.”

Plusnet, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this month, has come a long way since its launch as a start-up internet service provider in 1997.

At that time, dial-up internet access was starting to change the way people communicated and Plusnet founders Paul Cusack and Lee Strafford were determined to be part of the revolution.

The company is now part of BT after it was sold in January 2007 for £67m.

Mr Ford, who became chief executive in 2010 after two years at BT, is overseeing the next stage of development.

The company, which has expanded its services to include phone as well as broadband, is currently trialling fibre-optic broadband technology, which is used for both high-speed and multiple internet access in the home.

The latest technology, with speeds of up to 80Mb and 100Mb, follows a successful trial of its 40Mb fibre-optic broadband, which was subsequently brought to market last April.

Mr Ford said: “The need to develop new products to stay ahead of the curve is essential.”

He added: “We also continue to adapt our traditional broadband technology to make it more relevant for our customers. The internet is becoming more central to people’s lives. It’s good news for us and the industry but it means we have to improve what we do.”

Ofcom reports have highlighted discrepancies between advertised and real speeds of UK broadband providers. A new code will come into force in April, demanding that at least 10 per cent of customers can receive the advertised speed.

Mr Ford said: “Average speeds in the UK are increasing but there are lots of factors that affect speed. Since I have been at Plusnet, we have not made promises outside of our estimates. We give individuals a speed range for where they live and once they are set up we confirm that speed.”

As part of its 15th anniversary milestone, Plusnet commissioned a report by the Centre for Future Studies looking at what the internet will look like in the next 15 years.

The report suggests that the internet will include everything from smart appliances which talk to each other to clothes that monitor our health; from cars that can’t crash to mobile technologies and cloud platforms that run our businesses.

Mr Ford said: “So far, the internet has been all about sharing, communicating and engaging with content online.

“The next 15 years will see an exciting transformation take place, where we integrate ‘smart devices’ into the home, and the net becomes much more about rich services.”

Making the connections

Internet service provider Plusnet was launched in 1997 by Paul Cusack, who later went on to create the hardware retailer Ebuyer, and Lee Strafford, who led the business through most of its development up to the sale to BT in January 2007, for £67m. BT went on to acquire another internet service provider, Brightview, for £15.8m. Mr Strafford was due to stay with BT after its acquisition of Plusnet to head up the firm, but a boardroom bust-up resulted in him being dismissed without a pay-off.