Breakdown may cost city big investment


07-11-2001

A multi-million pound investment in Cambridge Science Park may be scrapped after a telephone fault exposed weaknesses in its infrastructure.

Worldpay, one of the fastest-growing businesses on the park, had planned to build a new data centre there to complement its existing operation in Jersey.



But at 11am on Sunday a fault in the telephone exchange serving the park left it cut off from the outside world with no way of speaking to clients and customers.



By the time NTL had restored communications at 1pm, Nick Ogden, chairman and chief executive of Worldpay, was seriously thinking about building his new centre somewhere else.



He said: 'I think everyone on the park was in a communications black hole for about two hours.



'The infrastructure in Cambridge creaks sometimes but on the Science Park it's critical if you want to encourage businesses to be here. To have just one exchange is very, very worrying.'



Worldpay already employs 150 people on the park. The new data centre would handle international cash transactions on the Internet between businesses using different currencies.



Multilingual staff would talk to customers, while financial experts would sort the exchange rates. It is a complex operation which would be unable to function without phone lines.



Mr Ogden said: 'Luckily our main processing centre is in Jersey but we were looking to build a major data centre here. Thank crikey we didn't spend the millions of pounds on that.



'If the situation remains as it is we cannot site it here, it's as simple as that.



He added: 'We have had problems with the power and now have to have a huge on site generator. The power supply frequently goes out and everyone is painfully aware that road access on to the park is frankly abysmal.'



Mr Ogden, a 45-year-old former traffic cop, set up Barclay Square, the world's first online shopping mall in 1994.



People all over the world wanted to shop there but they did not want to work out the prices. The idea for Worldpay was born.



A spokeswoman for NTL said the power failure had only affected part of the park. It had been put right as soon as possible and well within the time agreed under the service level agreements it had with its customers.



She said: 'I understand, of course, Mr Ogden's frustration with it but it was an isolated incident. NTL engineers are currently investigating why this power outage occurred.



'NTL prides itself on putting its customers first.'