Posts Tagged 'DSLAM'

A look back on 2009

This is an article that I have written for print publication. Any feedback would be appreciated.

2009 has been a strange year for carriers providing last mile DSL access. Back in January in the midst of the recession there were worrying times being forecast for carriers as they struggled to get to grips with the financial downturn. With networks struggling to plug widening deficits, previously planned network expansion was put to one side, as capital was shunted to other areas seen as more important to stopping the rot.

At the turn of the year, there were 4 main wholesale DSL carriers: BT Wholesale, Cable and Wireless, the Carphone Warehouse Group and Tiscali. Due to the recession, BT Wholesale were stalling with the roll out of 21CN, Cable and Wireless were just re-entering the channel after a strategic exit only a few years back, Tiscali were involved in a very public tug-of-war between Sky, Vodafone and the Carphone Warehouse Group whilst the latter themselves had only just entered the wholesale market via their wholly owned subsidiary Opal Telecom. As the year progressed and we started to move towards a brighter financial climate, the industry took a marked turn for the better. Many people debate about the exact period when we started to look more optimistically at the future. However I believe that when Brown put the ball in the court of the Telco’s by stating that the infrastructure behind Digital Britain would spur growth in the economy, there was a paradigm shift, as the masses adopted what we had already realised; that telecommunications was a fundamental component to the kick-start of the British economy.

Throughout the course of the year, the broadband landscape has changed considerably. The main difference being the acquisition of Tiscali into the Carphone Warehouse group and their subsequent ambitious plans for 2010. Whether they will demonstrate the traditional pains of large scale acquisition traditionally felt by other large carriers such as Tiscali and C&W is yet to be seen. BT Wholesale has also started to gain traction with 21CN and in particular their WMBC offering. Cable and Wireless can also pat themselves on the back as having a fairly successful year, as they managed to win the Tesco contract, whilst deploying their much heralded MSP platform. However one of the big changes to the market has been the introduction of BE into the wholesale arena.

BE have always had a very compelling consumer offering; being the first to market with Annex M ADSL2+, whilst having one of the largest coverage areas of the tier 1 DSL networks. With a topology designed to underpin high bandwidth usage, they were setup from the onset to provide ADSL2+ to their subscribers. BE have entered in a very timely fashion. One of the key topics of the year has been the increased financial burden of bandwidth costs on service providers due to applications such as iPlayer and Pirate Bay. This has led to in depth debates including key industry and government personnel about how best to manage the use of bandwidth intensive applications. Solutions such as bandwidth caps, application charges and even application restrictions were mooted. Due to their mesh dark fibre-based VPLS core, BE can legitimately claim to provide solutions future-scaled to support the continued rise in bandwidth by end users. Also with a commercial model that alleviates central based usage charges, they’ve provided a low cost-of-entry into the ADSL2+ market for channel partners.

As we move into 2010, the wholesale broadband market is much changed from that of 12months prior. Both Carphone Warehouse and 21CN have ambitious growth targets planned for 2010. The latter introducing wholesale Ethernet-in-the-first-mile and fibre-to-the-cabinet trials. Many people have stated that the window of opportunity for new wholesale partners is fast closing due to this. However in my position, the consolidation in the industry has reached a natural plateau, with all the main DSL carriers now proving to be more mature in systems interface, product portfolio and commercial model used. Even BE as the new player can be seen to have an edge in some aspects of their proposition. By using ISAMs (Intelligent Service Access Managers) at the exchange with the capability of terminating Ethernet and seamlessly training the DSL to work at its optimum performance (known as seamless rate adaption) they have made the step to solidify their position as a force in the market both now and for the future. By also providing unparalleled visibility and control of their ISAMs to all service providers, they have allowed tecchies to fault find, diagnose and alleviate traditional 3rd line issues, which in turn has led to a vast reduction in the number of support tickets raised with them.

Even though this has been in the market for roughly 6months, already the features are proving compelling, even as compliment to a 21CN novation plan. With products such as bonded DSL and symmetrical DSL soon to be available from the port, they’ve positioned themselves as a prominent player in the next generation access sphere. Add into the mix backhaul capacity capable of supporting their lofty ambitions and the capital of their more illustrious parents, it’s no wonder BE are proving to be more than just an interesting alternative in the wholesale broadband market.

Fluidata/Be Wholesale offering

It’s been an exciting couple of months at Fluidata. We’ve always known the potential of AnnexM as a direct replacement for legacy SDSL. We’ve gauged how popular it’s been within our own client base. And we’ve been successful in aggregating it with services from other carriers. However, my own feeling that there has always been potential to offer a true wholesale platform around AnnexM is now being realised. Over the last few months there has been a lot of discussions between ourselves, Be and O2 regarding the best way to make this viable. Sometimes these conversations have been prolonged, but it’s now a reality. And a unique one at that.

Because initially the Bethere network was deployed specifically for transferring data, they have always made the invesmtent to provide services that allow for high speeds and little contention. By provisioning NTL based 1Gb and 10Gb fibre backhaul at their majority of their DSLAM’s, they’ve limited the possibility of contention arising at these points. Also, backed by O2, they’ve been able to proactively monitor contention throughout their network. This has proved attractive to a consmer audience that regularly uses services such as online gaming and P2P. However, this also has had it’s advantages to businesses who also hold similar values.

Now other ISP’s and service providers can have access to the largest AnnexM ready network in the country. With an ethos of ‘ease of use’, the flexibility afforded allows for maximum control of each tail. From full port functionality to no capacity charges, this offering really does make it easy for partners to fully provision, maintain and support their circuits in a way rarely seen within the industry. By delivering the platform via L2TP, partners now have the ability to compliment their existing centrals with a progressive NGN offering.

For me personally, managing this offering will be a new challenge. After being on the receiving end of a few channel offerings, I have an insight into the levels of service a channel partner may expect. Hopefully this will translate itself into a channel experience beneficial to both ourselves and our partners. If the last few months were exciting, the next few will be even more so!


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