Wired for success

Join us as we sit down with Orbital Net CEO Ben Doherty to explore the Kent-based independent internet service provider’s remarkable 25-year evolution

In today’s digital era, businesses rely heavily on the internet to function efficiently. From communication and collaboration to sales and customer service, nearly every aspect of modern operations is intertwined with online connectivity. If (heaven forbid) the internet goes down, chaos swiftly ensues.

Given the critical role of internet connectivity, the market is flooded with a myriad of solutions tailored to meet diverse business needs, and organisations face the daunting task of selecting the most fitting option – one that aligns with their unique requirements. 

Guiding businesses through this complex landscape is where Orbital Net excels. As a leading UK provider of fast, reliable, cost-effective communications services, the company offers comprehensive support to help firms discern and select the most suitable solution, tailored to meet both their immediate needs and future aspirations.

Based in Bekesbourne, on the outskirts of Canterbury, Kent, Orbital has emerged as a frontrunner in the industry over the past 25 years. At its helm stands Ben Doherty. Ben’s journey with Orbital began at the tender age of 17 when his passion for technology led him to pursue a role in 1st line technical support. Little did he know then that this would be the start of a lifelong commitment to Orbital’s vision. Ben learned the business from the ground up, growing with it and rising through the ranks to become CEO in 2023, succeeding the company’s founder Darren Brown.

According to Ben, Orbital’s differentiator is its personable and agile approach. “We treat our customers as individuals,” he says. “We aren’t an ‘out of the box’ supplier; we source and provide the technology required to future-proof businesses. In terms of products, we refuse to confine ourselves to a conventional portfolio. Instead, Orbital thrives on building and creating connectivity solutions tailored to specific needs, wherever and whenever necessary. We are always adopting new products to add to our armoury.”

A notable trend, Ben observes, is the increasing demand for diverse connectivity options from Orbital’s clientele. Recognising the necessity for backup solutions, the firm ensures complete diversity to mitigate any potential connectivity failures. “This added layer of security offers the ultimate peace of mind, particularly for the expanding market of 24/7 businesses.”

With a rich history spanning a quarter-century, summarising Orbital’s journey is no small feat. The fact that the independent internet service provider (ISP) has not only survived but thrived for over 25 years stands as a significant achievement. “Through unwavering passion and perseverance, we have steadily grown and adapted, even in the face of formidable challenges posed by industry giants,” states Ben.

For Ben, some of the key milestones include being among the pioneers in the UK to introduce fixed wireless services, unbundling 35 telephone exchanges in Kent (with more yet to come), establishing a fibre infrastructure above and below ground, and launching the innovative brand Vfast Parks to revolutionise park home broadband. He explains: “Orbital Net has effortlessly adapted by prioritising innovation and responding to evolving customer needs and technological advancements. Our agile approach to service delivery has kept us adaptable and ahead of the curve. As a company committed to crafting tailored solutions, we eagerly embrace new technologies to not only meet but exceed customer expectations.”

Last year, as Orbital celebrated its 25th anniversary, the company took the opportunity to reflect on its achievements and honour the invaluable contributions of its team, gathering employees from across the organisation for an event at The Abode Hotel in Canterbury. “This was the first time we had nearly all of our employees together and it was such a pleasure to finally put a face to all the names,” says Ben. “We enjoyed a dinner and entertainment featuring a live drumming band and held our inaugural Employee Awards Programme. Our staff actively nominate each other, recognising outstanding dedication to their roles. It’s a practice that really helps keep our workforce engaged and rewards them for all their hard work.”

Ben details that Orbital’s main focus over the last few years has been its people and building a team that can support the business to reach its aspirations. “Our senior leadership team consists of 11 people from across the business. They not only represent their respective departments but also proactively anticipate challenges, enabling us to take a proactive stance rather than merely reacting. These individuals have the skills and dedication to face anything that comes our way. When the chips are down, a real collective strength of ours is to come together to find the answers and overcome obstacles.”

Orbital has a global presence, serving the US and Canada, as well as the UK. From a technical perspective, managing the cross-over in international regulatory requirements can present a challenge. “We leverage our close partner relationships to deliver third-party services while ensuring quality of service,” asserts Ben. “Maintaining our high standard of service delivery hinges entirely on the strength of these partnerships, underscoring the importance of nurturing and fostering them to meet our customers’ needs effectively. Managing operations across different time zones adds another layer of complexity. It’s intriguing to delve into the intricacies of ensuring resilience across multiple marine cable structures, although I understand it might not be as captivating for everyone – I’m just a techie at heart!”

Numerous exciting initiatives are currently underway and in the pipeline for 2024. One of the most significant endeavours is Orbital’s internal Integrated Digital Transformation – a huge project aimed at enhancing support for customers with greater efficiency. The overarching aspiration is to establish Orbital as the primary supplier for park operators in the UK and the largest independent ISP providing connectivity for businesses, nationally and beyond. This transformation represents the most substantial internal shift ever undertaken by the group as it transitions towards more innovative systems to accommodate the expanding workload and embraces automation wherever feasible.

At present, it’s all systems go at Orbital as the business gears up to unveil its new website in the coming months, accompanied by an extensive national brand awareness campaign. “We are also doing a lot of work on our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG),” adds Ben. “Recognising opportunities for further impact throughout the organisation, we’re ramping up our green initiatives, as well as increasing our charitable endeavours.”

Orbital maintains a strong presence within the vibrant Kent community, sponsoring two esteemed sports clubs, Gillingham Football Club and Kent County Cricket Club, alongside supporting the Kent Teacher of the Year Awards. Ben shares: “Recently, we had the pleasure of participating in the Media Day for the launch of the new Cricket Season. We look forward to building a long-term partnership and getting to know the fellow club members and sponsors who share our dedication to Kent businesses.”

Another key focus is on empowering staff to give back. Recently, Orbital rolled out a new perks program and hosts multiple events every month for its ever-growing team to join in. “It’s important that as we grow, we retain our entrepreneurial roots, and the best way of achieving this is by facilitating interactions between our new hires and senior leadership to impart our drive and ambition,” says Ben. “We’re passionate about scaling in a way that upholds the ‘customer-first’ attitude we instil across the business.”

As Ben reflects on Orbital’s journey and looks towards the future, one thing is clear: the company’s commitment to innovation, excellence and customer satisfaction will remain unwavering, driving its success for years to come.

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