Superfast all IP networks are not just around the corner they are here already, at least if you are a business. The big growth area in business networking is in Ethernet data circuits that are rapidly replacing ADSL as the business connectivity of choice.
In fact businesses are keeping their old ADSL connections as a backup to their new Ethernet circuit so whilst the market for broadband is relatively flat the general business of internet connectivity is seeing a boom.
At Timico we will see almost twice as many Ethernet circuits installed in 2010 as we did in the first five years of our existence. Next year we expect the number to at least double again.
This is happening because cost of Ethernet has come down dramatically over the last 18 months and is happening at a time when the use of IP networks for serious business applications (offsite backup, DR, Citrix, hosted voip, sip trunks, video conferencing etc etc) is seeing a big growth in demand.
This is fine and exciting but the other big change is the advent of broadband connectivity over the BT 21st Century Network (which incidentally is also the carrier for the Ethernet services). BT saw quite a slow start to their ADSL2+ service but this year has seen connections ramp up and go through the 1 million subscriber mark. At the same time BT Wholesale is getting its act together in starting to productise some of the advanced features available for broadband on 21CN.
These include Annex M services already launched by BT. Annex M allows ADSL2+ subscribers to trade some of their downstream bandwidth for more upstream. Users can get up to 2.3Mbps according to the spec though the usual caveats regarding quality of the line etc apply.
BT has also added an Elevated Best Efforts tier to its standard Best Efforts ADSL2+ service. This allows for higher minimum levels of performance for individual circuits at the busiest times of the day.
The final improvement is going to be Real Time QoS, currently in trials and due for release at the end of March 2011. The addition of Real Time QoS to the portfolio will finally make a real 21st Century Network of 21CN.
Currently best practice for rolling out VoIP over broadband to businesses is to provide a separate line for the VoIP traffic. With Real Time QoS this has the prospect of changing so that very small businesses can run both voice and data over the same ADSL line.
Although businesses are starting to use their internet connectivity more and more suggesting that more than one ADSL might be appropriate in any case this is being catered for by the introduction of Fibre to the Cabinet FTTC (see many posts and pages on this blog) and Fibre to the Premises which should satisfy the bandwidth needs of many businesses for the immediate future.
The beauty of this newly connected IP world is that the ADSL network will nicely complement the Ethernet network. Whereas ISPs have been able to offer QoS over Ethernet their QoS offerings over ADSL have never really matched Ethernet for the levels of control. Although running an uncongested core network will go 95% of the way to assuring a quality experience the lack of control at the BT Exchange has always taken a little of the edge off the story (or shine off the ball seeing as this is still the cricket season).
In 2011 businesses will be able to run MPLS Wide Area Networks, mixing and matching connection types with uniform levels of QoS. The caveat here is that BT is not planning on rolling out multilevel Class of Service over ADSL (or FTTX) but having Real Time QoS for critical applications such as VoIP is going to be a huge step up from where we are today.