Archive for September, 2009

BT and O2 join up

Interesting news in the channel recently about how O2 have signed up with BT Wholesale to provide both fixed line data, broadband and consultancy services. On the surface this seems like a good opportunity for O2 to take a giant step into providing their client base with a converged solution based around their primary mobile offering. However one has to wonder why a comapny who has invested at the least £200 million on it’s own network would then make a further investment in providing a similar service based on another network.

The concept is sound. O2 have a massive mobile subscriber base, consisting of both consumers and businesses of all sizes. With their centre of excellences, they have one of the best support networks around for resellers of their products, to underpin their business offering. By offering their clients a unified solution consisting of business broadband seems like a sure fit. However, for one reason or another, this has never happened.

The acquisition of the Bethere network has enabled O2 to be a major player in the comms market. However so far, the market that has benefitted the most has been the residential market. This does not mean that the network cannot be used for businesses, just that so far, there have been few able to use it in this way. However with the advent of the wholesale channel, the network is now being used by business ISP’s as a primary offering to their client base, and is proving extremely successful in providing high bandwidth low latency services. As more exposure is given to this channel, it will be interesting to see how this is viewed by the powers that be in O2.

There’s nothing to say that a Be/O2 offering can’t co-exist with a BT service, as inevitably in the areas where Be don’t have an exchange unbundled, a rebadged BT service will be used. However, for my 2 pence, although BT Wholesale have persuaded O2 to sign a 5 year contract, I firmly believe that O2 will fully realise what an asset they have with the Be network, before we get anywhere near to the expiry date of their new contract with BT.

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BT Openreach reacts to Digital Britain report

Warning: this post contains a large number of acronyms!

Interesting news this morning about how Openreach is reacting to the recent Digital Britian report in providing universal 2Mb broadband services. Using a method called Broadband Enabling Technology, or BET for short (yet another new acronym), Openreach proposes to provide a stable broadband service at distances of up to 12Km from a client’s nearest exchange. For premises situated within a current ‘not spot’ (thank the BBC for that term!) this could prove a viable alternative to using a mobile network or satellite operator, as having a fixed line broadband service would prove a lot more consistent, and also would not be as susceptible to enviromental conditions.

At first glance, it seems that BT have taken the idea of SDH and applied it to longer distances. Looking at the way this is depoyed, it seems that BT Openreach is extending the reach of it’s SHDSL services past the previous 5Km barrier. Currently there is little technical information about how they will do this, bar stating that they have made some “modifications and the use of a repeater unit”. However, it’s interesting that they’re using what was previously thought to be an end of life product, superseeded by both EFM and Annex-M, to provide services to the out of reach.

Since the Digital Britain report, there has been a lot of talk about how to provide a nationwide service capable of providing a universal 2Mb for a number of applications such as BBC’s iPlayer, VOIP and VOD to name but a few. Many different access methods, such as HSPA, WiMax and even satellite links have been considered in rural areas not deemed capable of obtaining a traditional fixed line ADSL service. In their various guises, they have provided a large amount of competition to fixed line operators whose coverage does not extend to ‘not spot’ areas. However these efforts have been largely independant to each other, and despite the advancements in technology within the fixed line communications sector, there hasn’t been a lot of options for people out of reach of their exchange. HSPA has proved not consistent enough, with users depending on mobile network coverage. With recent news of the Orange and T-Mobile merger, this could be something that may improve moving forward. Satellite broadband still does not have a large enough market penetration rate to be considered as a viable nationwide alternative. And WiMax is often used in backhauling bandwidth to out of reach areas, as opposed to a last mile access method.

By BT bringing this product into it’s portfolio it will go someway into giving it’s wholesale partners options to provide their ‘out of reach’ client base with a solid service for extensive use. With speeds of 1Mbps both down and up on a single copper pair, this is a positive step by BT in the right direction.

However, this also raises a lot of questions. All the marketing info we’ve been fed with relating to 21CN has previously made us aware that providing ADSL2+ from all of their exchanges was something BT were looking at having in place by 2012. It will be interesting to find out whether (should initial trials be successful) this may impact the rollout of Bt’s 21CN network. Also it will be interesting to find out the costs to the end user for this, as if it is using SHDSL technology, I couldn’t imagine the price point being markedly different to that previously. BT Openreach have admitted as much by stating “If there is funding to help meet the additional costs involved in deploying the technology, BET could offer a reliable and cost-effective solution to assist the Government’s ambition of delivering a minimum 2Mb/s service to virtually all UK homes”. Also, apart from throwing more copper pairs into the mix, it’s not really a scaleable solution for future bandwidth use.

All in all, it’s nice to see BT finally providing something that seems born out of market pressure. As mentioned, trials are being conducted currently. It will be even more interesting to see whether this proves both a commercial and technically sound option moving forward.

ADSL2+ Annex-M Comparison

We’ve been working on quite a lot of marketing info in recent weeks, to showcase the properties of Annex-M ADSL2+ compared to services available in the market currently. Seems that quite a lot of the channel either is not aware of either the efficiency, speed or cost to their client base of Annex-M, or is awaiting the arrival EFM. We’ve recently installed a demo suite in our offices to demonstrate our Annex-M in action against that of other carriers. We can also showcase our MLPPP platform in action, and the results we’ve obtained using this. The below graph helps to show not only the price point of AnnexM, but also how well it can perform in optimum conditions.

Annex-M ADSL2+ comparison graph

Annex-M ADSL2+ comparison graph

A large number of our client base who use our Annex-M services do so to underpin bandwidth intensive applications, where traditionally they would have deployed a costly leased line or legacy SDSL circuit. This helps them to decrease their overall cost of ownership, whilst improving on the performance of the applications they run within their network.

The big Twitter debate

Over the last two years, Twitter has taken the Internet by storm. Early adopters (myself included) saw it as just another method by which to communicate to your network, and dismissed it on this basis. However, as celebrities such as Britney Spears and Ashton Kutcher started to jump on board, Twitter slowly started to become more of a mainstream media tool. This was further enhanced by events such as the River Hudson plane crash and the terrorist events in Mumbai. Now Twitter is seen as a fundamental broadcasting medium by many to obtain relevant news.

However, the problem with Twitter is that there doesn’t seem to be any obvious way to monetise their service. They have a massive subscriber base, all of which obtain a free service. Now they even have a large enterprise and corporate client base who use their service not only to promote their brand and products, but also to connect with their client base. Due to the size of Twitter’s user base, the temptation is always there to sell out to a larger player, and there has been a lot of speculation relating to an acquisition by Google. Real time search is the one area within their portfolio that they’ve had problems coming to terms with. However, with Twitter’s real time feed suddenly Google would have specific relevant information about up to date trending topics, of which to target their adverts too. The immediate benefits of this are there for all to see. Google can instantly monetise a service that currently does not have any obvious income stream. Whilst for Twitter, they have direct access to Google’s massive resource pool to be able to compete against the likes of Facebook, who with the acquisition of FriendFeed are slowly encroaching into the space of real time search. Also, Google’s track record of amalgamating newly acquired assets into it’s estate is strong, as is shown by the success of both YouTube and Blogger being able to keep their brand identity and prove successful in their respective markets.

However, Twitter does have an ace up it’s sleeve. With the use of hashtags, Twitter has a direct way of keeping a handle on the latest trends being discussed. They have large investors behind them providing them with the capital to increase their infrastructure. Also, despite the fact I mentioned earlier that their lack of an obvious business model was a problem, it definitely constitutes a nice problem . Currently their valuation is built solely on their subscriber base and their infrastructure. The minute they disclose their intentions, their value would rocket to potential investors, and may well even see them go down the IPO route. Remember that the guys behind Twitter are also the same guys that started Blogger, and sold it successfully to Google.

For my two pence, I think that Twitter would be silly to ignore the threat of Facebook, and sell in a hurry to the likes of Google and Apple. They have an extremely strong brand and an even stronger user base which they can use to their advantage. And just as Google did with the implementation of Adwords, if they can find a way to monetise the mammoth amount of hashtags flying around, I think they would stand a good chance of seeing off the combined Facebook/FriendFeed threat.


My tweet stream

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