Archive for the 'BT' Category

BT DSL outage

I’m sure many of you were affected in one way or another by the recent DSL outage, caused by the North Paddington exchange. The latest is that from BT is that water got into the exchange, starting an electrical fire, which was put out by more water, causing a flood in the basement.

The above picture is an example of the severity of the situation. However I really must praise the sterling work of BT in not only working around the clock to rectify the issue, but also in notifying their customers using Social Media. Their twitter stream (@BTcare) was a hive of activity all day, and was backed up by their status blog depicting progress. In fact the above picture comes from their own Flickr stream. Info was then compounded upon by key clients, such as Gradwell (@gradwelltweets), who posted a list of exchanges that were affected (some 437!)

Although many of us in the industry view BT as a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to embracing change, they really are showing us all how best to adopt and embrace new media. And although they have been tripped up by their BTcare account more than once, these mishaps will inevitably help them create a more fulfilling user experience. The whole episode also helps to shoecase how Twitter, blogs and other social media devices, when used in the right way, can really enhance the way a business can communicate with it’s community. We can all learn a thing of two from BT.

This is NOT a party political broadcast

So we have heard the budget, and to be honest, there are few surprises for us telco’s. We all knew that this would be an ideal opportunity for Labour to posture somewhat prior to the election to gain votes. And that is exactly what they’ve done.

The one thing for me personally that has been interesting is both parties use of the advancement of broadband in their respective manifestos. The Tories have confidently stated that they will get 100Mbps lines to 90% of the population by 2017. Last year Labour confidently announced that their USC for #digitalbritain would be a paltry 2Mbps per household. This has been subsquently revised to providing ‘superfast’ broadband by 2020. However despite elaborate methods of financing this from each, there doesn’t seem to have been much thought as to how this would be delivered, and more importantly, who will deliver this.

Fibre is and has been the obvious method. Much noise has been made for both BT and Virgin Media to provide access to their ducts for other carriers use. However when the purported cost to deliver fibre to each and every premises is between £5bn and £30bn you can see the massive investment needed. Hence the government’s involvment. Many different technologies have been considered to deliver ‘next generation services’ today. Satellite, LTE, WiMAX and even BPL (that’s an acronym for Broadband over Powerlines) have been mooted as being able to service those much talked about not-spots, that are rightfully threatening the validity of the #digitalbritain manifesto.  The disappointing factor is that there seems to be little communication with telco’s to understand how best to deploy services that will help Britain move into a digital future.

In my view, there are 2 key issues that stop any government really moving forward with providing high speed universal access.

  1. Lack of communication with those in the trenches – I’m sure the likes of BT and Virgin Media have been consulted about their opinions on providing high speed access to all (or badgered to open up their ducts). However what the government hasn’t done is try to assist smaller providers who have worked in other more rural areas to try and deploy networks designed for tomorrow. An example of this can be found by the inequality in the tax rates paid out on fibre by the likes of BT and smaller providers, such as Vtesse. If there is at least parity, then this will spur people like Vtesse to create efficient models to provide high speed access in areas the not-spots.
  2. The government inherently doesn’t GET the internet – This is a massive statement to make. However on one hand the government is trying to deploy a set of foundations to provide universal access, whilst on the other, introducing the Digital Economy Bill to massively restrict our use of the internet. Ever so slightly hypocritical. The government seems hell bent on protecting the revenues of industries who also don’t get the internet, instead of helping them to adopt new business models to fully embrace the internet.

Once the government realise that providing universal access is less of a political game  whilst engaging with those who could spur innovation, then will we truly see a landscape conducive to providing nationwide high speed access to underpin a digitally thriving economy.

BE vs BT

Not wanting to turn this blog into a long sales pitch. However I recently came across a video showing the performance of a BT line against a BE line. Although it’s not a like for like test (the BE line being an Annex M and the BT line being an ADSL Max), it still shows the level of throttling that occurs within BT’s core network at peak times.

To Infinity and beyond?

Fibre to the Cabinet

Well the trials have finished and amid all the fanfare, BT have officially launched their brand new FTTC service, providing up to 40Mbps down and up to 10Mbps up. Named BT Infinity (surely ironic) this promises to be quite a compelling offering for both domestic and business users hoping to adopt applications that require a large amount of bandwidth to be transferred across the last mile.

Now I’ll be honest in saying that I’m not the biggest fan of BT. However they deserve praise in being fairly quick to market with this. BT retail pricing seems competitive against the main competiton (being Virgin Media’s 50Mb service) whilst although geographic penetration is very limited, there are already over 100 enabled for the service, with quite a few exchanges planned for roll out. However saying that, there are still a few things that deeply concern me about the service.

Firstly it’s key to remember that essentially Infinity is a VDSL based service, meaning that BT will rely on their copper infrastructure from their local cabinets. This means that end user sync rates are still determined by the same factors that determine DSL. However even more important to note are their roll out plans for cabinets attached to exchanges, as even thought BT say they’re to enable a certain exchange for FTTC, it does not mean that they will enable all cabinets associated to that exchange. There are already stories of certain exchanges enabled where only half of the cabinets will be able to provide the service. Not good

Secondly it will be interesting to see how the underlying bandwidth is managed. It’s a well known fact that 21CN has been having some well documented congestion issues, and there is little doubt that Infinity will not help if BT can’t sort out the current issues that the’re already having. Infinity can only have a larger drain than the current access methods used. BT have gone some way to negate this being an issue, by deploying the same usage policies applied with thier ADSL2+ sericves. For the consumer, this has the added threat of reaching your limit faster than previously, due to having the ability to download a lot more.

Thirdly as expected, this will have very little impact on those in the not-spot areas around the country, as BT only plan to enable current market 3 exchanges. Therefore it won’t make major inroads into the USC set within the Digital Britain report. Further woe for those in rural areas.

However from my perspective, the main thing to take away from this is the fact that we are starting the process in moving away from copper in the last mile to fibre. This move will be painful for most, as we discuss the most viable ways to deploy it whilst making the end user propositions cost effective. However as it is used more and more within certain political party manifesto’s, it is sure to become a bigger plane for debate within various wide ranging communities. Hopefully this will mean more wide ranging action.

Will we be propping up BT?

Ofcom recently launched a review into whether they should raise Openreach wholesale pricing to compensate for BT’s burgeoning pension defecit, that currently stands at c.£9.4billion. We use Openreach for the metallic path to underpin our DSL in our direct channel, and in line with current gu-estimates, may be hit with a price raise of up to 4%. In the market, we’re not a big Openreach customer, but for the likes of Carphone Warehouse, Easynet et al, that 4% could be millions. Even worse is the prospect that Ofcom could raise this in line with further fluctuations with BT’s pension defecit.

Admittedly when comparing this with other industry regulators actions, this is no different. Ofgem actively police British Gas and include their pension defecits in their charges. The same goes for the respective watchdogs for the postal and water industries. However as Openreach is meant to be a private entity, this presents an intersting argument for it’s competitors. The harsh stance to take would be that due to BT’s poor management policies in allowing this debt to grow to such an insurmountable proportion, this is now having a direct effect on the rest of the industry. From my perspective, BT has always made a lot of noise about how they have been proactive in rectifying their defecit gap. Indeed in May, BT stated that they would make annual payments of £525million into their pension scheme over the course of 3 years. If this has to come directly from the competitors of BT then I’m sure there will be a few wry smiles about this prospect from within the BT tower.

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.

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.


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