Posts Tagged 'ISP'

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.

What people want

So far, our new wholesale department has been receiving a lot of publicity in relavant publications. This has resulted in a lot of enquiries from other ISP’s looking to have access to Be’s AnnexM services. A number of interesting converastions have been had with various commercial and technical bods, as to the level of service they require for this to fit into their portfolio, and as such, it’s been extremely interesting for me to see what people really want from their carrier.

Having been on the other side of the fence for so long, it’s nice to see how some of these requirements mirror my own image of how a carrier should provide a service. Features such as full visibility and control of the DSLAM for diagnostic purposes shouldn’t only be provided to ‘premier’ partners, but instead should be made available to every partner. Having access to a UK based support team that talk ‘your language’ (instead of the language of BS…) should also be something that is prevalent. Having to raise a ticket and wait for up to 4 hours for a response stating that “our enquiry has been received” in this day and age is not how ANY company should operate. Let alone someone in telecomms.

It’s also interesting to understand how partner’s envisage their client’s usage, and how their requirements change appropriately. For clients who want to provide a redundant tail for resiliency to sit alongside a BT circuit, the fact that there are no ongoing monthly management costs and no central pipe charges sits well with them, as it can offer full visibility of ongoing costs for frugal finance teams . For clients who have a large voice estate, the amount of bandwidth afforded helps them to provide a large number of channels to their client base. For clients who use these within a bonded platform, the ability to look at live DSLAM stats, see error seconds and turn off interleaving means that you can obtain the best performance for your platform.

There are going to be requirements that the channel does not meet. However, in these instances, it is important to keep the lines of communication open between partner and carrier, so that any feedback that is obtained, is seen to be acted upon. This is exactly how I would want to be treated as a partner, and hopefully is the level of service our partners will come to expect as the norm in their dealings with us.

The mess that is Tiscali

It’s been an interesting last few months for all connected with Tiscali. Back in January last year, there was a glow of positivity surrounding the Tiscali group, as they went ahead with their phased roll out of Annex M ADSL2+, helping them to get a foothold ahead of their competitors. Coupled with their new wholesale programme, things were looking up for the group. Their PR team was doing a good job of diverting attention away from the internal issues that were surrounding the amalgamation of so many conflicting systems, obtained through the acquisition of smaller ISP’s. And their marketing team loved to portray their beleaguered employers as a victim in the row with BT back in the summer of 2008. So where did it all go wrong for Tiscali?

Well, first of all, some connected with the group refuse to even admit that the group is in trouble. Despite being left with a battered reputation after being passed around between Carphone Warehouse and Sky for the best part of a year, they have been relentless in their pursuit of new customers. Witness the mess with 186K/Eezee DSL/Mailbox which left their clients without Internet access for as long as two weeks. Unless they changed to a Tiscali-owned supplier (ie Nildram or Pipex). Still there has been no official word from Tiscali as to the reasons behind the mess with 186K. However, this has been merely one of the number of issues effecting the group.

It is well known that there are a number of big hawks circling Tiscali’s carcass. Last year, Vodafone had a £1.3bn bid for the global group rejected. This set the wheels in motion for both Sky and Carphone Warehouse to test the waters of the UK arm, with bids in the region of £450mil coming thick and fast…and ultimately being rejected. However, only recently the Group has now relinquished it’s International Network (TiNet) to a private equity firm. Whilst in a statement made during the acquisition Mario Rosso, CEO of the group stated that he hoped to conclude the sale of Tiscali UK by the end of march.

So where does this leave Tiscali? Well if you have a service through them, expect a different name on your bill for starters. I doubt much else will change, as TiNet will still supply Tiscali (Both Italy and UK) with IP services, and Sky or Carphone will now probably have a unique agreement with an international carrier to extend it’s product portfolio. However, it will have a major bearing on the ISP sector within the UK, as no longer will there be just Virgin and BT offering triple play, but by acquiring Tiscali, Sky will also have that ability to provide triple play services. And what if they are a supplier to you? Well tread carefully. Very carefully, as they could be here today, but gone tomorrow.


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