When a Welsh business crosses the pond to Silicon Valley

When I set up Comtek and began repairing IT equipment in my garden shed, I could never have imagined the company would end up competing with the big players in Silicon Valley.

More than twenty years on, and that’s exactly what has happened. After becoming established in the UK repair market, expanding across Europe and setting up residence in the ex-Nortel manufacturing centre in Belfast, the foundations of The Comtek Group have very much been laid.

We’re now embarking on a new challenge, and following our acquisition of the intellectual property rights (IPR) and trademarks of telecoms equipment manufacturer, Sorrento Networks, we’ve truly gone international by setting up office in the United States; quite a feat for what was a small repair company based in Deeside, North Wales!

Welsh heritage

Although the garden shed was originally in Reading, it wasn’t long before demand was outstripping the level of repair possible from such a small workspace. In Wales, the Comtek Group HQ was founded, and it was here that we really cut our teeth in the telecoms industry; repairing equipment for much larger enterprises and operators, with a healthy store of spares waiting to be used up.

We were also able to increase the number of engineers working at Comtek, which broadened our expertise and the range of equipment we can repair. No matter what model or what manufacturer, our engineers are likely to be familiar, making our team one of the most agile and informed in the telecoms industry.

We recognise that customers return to us time and time again because of our broad expertise. It therefore made complete sense to utilise this knowledge base for internal training within Comtek. Whether it’s an ex-Nortel engineer teaching a Cisco engineer about fibre optics, or that Cisco engineer training an apprentice on how to repair a router, we have a company structure that encourages learning from others and boosts our skill-set as a team.  This was critical when the opportunity to purchase Sorrento Networks IPR and trademarks emerged.

Manufacturing as well as repairing

Sorrento Networks’ high speed optical networking solutions – known as DWDM – are well respected for their resilience, reliability and scalability.  The technology allows companies to cope with the increasing demands for bandwidth without having to resort to the costly process of network expansion through laying new fibre.

We’d already been repairing Sorrento Networks’ equipment for years when we took the opportunity to purchase the Sorrento IPR & trademarks. Subsequent to Comtek owning the Sorrento IPR & trademarks, we decided to go one step further and use our expertise to not only repair Sorrento equipment, but to re-establish and continue the manufacturing of the Sorrento product line.  This made the Comtek Group the only WDM manufacturer in the UK!

In May this year, in order to support US users of Sorrento Networks equipment, we announced the opening of an office in Pleasanton, 25 miles north of San Jose in California, and we’ve taken on a number of key Sorrento engineers.

We’re pleased to say we’ve already hit the ground running. As well as manufacturing new Sorrento equipment and supporting the networks of established Sorrento customers, we’ve also launched a Nortel repair service from the California premises in order to provide our multi-vendor equipment repair and support service.

The Future

The future is bright for the Comtek Group as an international company. Telecoms infrastructures across the world are stretched to capacity, and with more data crossing them every day, a fault or outage could cause businesses to grind to a halt; we’re committed to ensuring this doesn’t happen.

Telecoms infrastructures need to run as efficiently and effectively as possible – whether it’s through quick repair and regular maintenance, or by increasing bandwidth through DWDM technology – in both scenarios, in the UK and the U.S., we’re ready to help.

Askar Sheibani is the CEO of the Comtek Group. He founded the telecoms repair and support company in 1989. Comtek has since grown from strength to strength, opening offices in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Deeside and Belfast. 

Image credit: Patrick Nouhailler