Building a broadband company in 60 days; the Cuckoo tech story

Dan McClure

Dan McClure

Head of Technology

Sign up journey

Our first customer is live on Cuckoo broadband today. That’s no mean feat in a lockdown. We’re building our broadband company on the principle of transparency, so here’s how we’re doing it.

We’re making broadband simple, for good

Before we dive into our 60-day tech adventure, I feel it’s important to give some explanation to how broadband actually works. Now, most people know that the Internet is a global network of billions of computers and other electronic devices. But how does your home actually get online?

I’m not going to go into packets, protocols, IP addresses, socket layers, or routers in this article. There are many great write-ups in the wild, written by much more intelligent people than me. I highly recommend ‘How Does The Internet Work’ by Stephen Li.

The Internet works through a packet routing network in accordance with theInternet Protocol (IP), theTransport Control Protocol(TCP) and other protocols.

How does broadband actually work?

As an Internet Service Provider or broadband company, we are the enablers. At Cuckoo, we have coined what we feel is the best analogy when it comes to explaining what we do: the ‘3 layered cake’

Top layer
Here’s us. Switch customers. Fix issues. Bill them. Do good.

Middle layer
Think kit at telephone exchanges and network centres. They route the data.

Bottom layer
Lay and own the wires. Digs up roads. Think Openreach, Virgin Media and HyperOptic.

UK Broadband infrastructure diagram

There are lots of different technologies to connect consumers at home. The best are Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) and the latest capability Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). Cuckoo will sit on top of these technologies to provide the consumer experience. We don’t care whose cables they are, as long as it provides the best service for our customers.

“Cuckoo is network and infrastructure agnostic. We are the consumer layer for the internet that acquires, bills and services people”

The three wings of Cuckoo

  1. Acquire customers
    We acquire customers through our website. We’ve created a best-in-class signup journey that allows customers to switch over to us in minutes. Our UX principles are smooth and simple.
  2. Bill customers
    We have developed our own proprietary billing experience. It enables us to manage customers over the cloud, no matter what technology or service they are using on our network.
  3. Service customers
    Our continuing endeavour is to provide the best customer experience in the industry. We constantly iterate to improve the tools and experiences for our customers, from our referral engine to our support hub. As we drive forward we are looking at opportunities to automate our service layer and develop in-house self-help tools so customers can help themselves, all from their Cuckoo account.
Cuckoo egg blue

Our technology principles

We have a technology agnostic approach at Cuckoo, though we do have some principles when writing and deploying code.

Scaleability

We’ve built our stack so that it can scale. We’re building on top of AWS and as far as we know, we’re the first fully serverless ISP in the country. What this means is that when you click to join, we can carry out computing functions really, really fast. Even at scale, without having to rent racks of servers.

“Some ISPs still manually add each customer at the end of a working day”

Lift and shift

People across the world suffer from rubbish broadband. We’re building our tech stack so that it is network, infrastructure and region agnostic. Watch out Australia.

Agile but diligent

We code fast but tight. We have a small integrated team that means we can move quickly. Sprint by sprint.

2 Spider-men pointing at each other: Me, fixing bugs I caused in previous "bug-fix" commits

Agnostic stack

Our approach is to use the best technology for the job. For example, we wouldn’t build a bloated C# application to call a single endpoint that returns an address. Below is our customer-facing sitemap: each of these interactions connects to a different part of our tech-stack.

Diagram of cuckoos tech services

Summary

So we’ve now switched our first customer. And built our website, billing and service infrastructure to test with our first batch of users. Here’s what you can look forward to:

Switch broadband, for good.