broadband Business

Wholesale Broadband Connect (ADSL2+): Latest BT Rollout Plans

The latest most up-to-the-moment skinny on BT’s plans for rolling out Wholesale Broadband Connect (WBC), the company’s ADSL2+ product.

Just had an email from BT Wholesale announcing the intention to “significantly extend the availability of Wholesale Broadband Connect – copper to around 90 per cent of UK premises during Spring 2013. This means an additional 2.5 million premises will have access to up to 20Mb/s broadband (ADSL2+). The expansion of the rollout plan is set to bring the total number of UK homes and businesses with such access to roughly 22.5 million. “

The current WBC enabled exchanges serve more than 17.6 million premises. The up to 90% rollout plan is set to include more than 400 additional ‘rural’ exchanges, serving more than 900,000 ‘rural’ premises.

“As BT Wholesale expands the footprint for advanced copper broadband, as previously advised, it will gradually withdraw its legacy broadband products. For example, IPstream, which offers speeds of up to 8Mb/s will be retired within the advanced copper broadband footprint by Spring 2014, as more and more customers are migrated onto more advanced services.”

I’ve cut and pasted some more detail below in the form of questions.  BT has of course a business to run and the process of extending ADSL2+ to more exchanges is part of this. We shouldn’t forget that the ultimate goal should be to get fibre to every premises in the UK which in the short term does not necessarily stack up with the BT commercial proposition.

Q. Is your legacy broadband retirement plan connected to this ~90% rollout intention?

A.  They are not directly linked but do complement each other.  We are looking to withdraw legacy broadband services in line with falling demand whereas our next generation broadband services will roll out wherever it is commercially viable.  This extension to the rollout plan means that many more end users should be able to get next generation broadband services as traditional broadband services are retired.

Q.So what’s the latest position on BT Wholesale’s WBC advanced copper rollout plan? 

A. This table outlines our current plans*:

  Exchanges in WBC footprint Homes & businesses served from WBC- enabled  exchanges UKpenetration 
Enabled today (July 2011) 1,336 17.6m ~70%
“Up to 80%” announcement 1,804 20m ~80%
“Up to 90%” announcement 2,604 22.5m ~90%

* May be subject to change





Q. How many Market 1 exchanges have been enabled to date and how many lines do they serve?

A. This table outlines the Market 1 position*:

  Exchanges in Market 1 footprint  Homes & businesses served from WBC- enabled exchanges Market 1 penetration(nb Market 1 comprises 11.7% of UK lines)
Enabled today (July 11) 11 54.5k 1.88%
 “Up to 80%” 137 380k 12.82%
“Up to 90%” 539 1.32m 44.44%

* May be subject to change



broadband Business internet

Broadband Connectivity: Superfast IP Networks, 21CN and MPLS Mixing and Matching

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.

broadband Engineer internet

Wholesale Broadband Connect Hits 1 Million ADSL2+ Lines in March 2010

Launched two years ago, BT’s Wholesale Broadband Connect pushes past 1 million lines, still a ways to go.

Wholesale Broadband Connect (ie broadband on 21Century Network) was launched by BT two years ago this month. There is always pressure to get new products out in a timely manner and BT is no different though their job is harder because the size of the ship makes for difficult steering.

The first (brave leading edge) service providers started to offer ADSL2+ services based on Wholesale Broadband Connect in the Autumn and by March 09 there were 10k subscribers. At this point BT probably kept quiet about the actual number of customers.

One year later the dial has moved significantly and BT now talks openly about the size of their 21CN estate having broken through the 1 million customer barrier in March 2010. In the intervening year their systems have also improved and fault rates come down to approaching those of the mature 20CN broadband product, ADSL Max.

I realise that we all want every thing faster, better, sooner but progress is being made. Still a long way to go mind…

broadband Business

BT Launches Fibre to the Cabinet Broadband (FTTC)

Today BT launched Fibre to the Cabinet broadband (FTTC).  The trials as reported in were conducted during the later half of 2009. By the completion of the trial phase BT had finished 1,750 installations over three exchanges: Glasgow Half Way, Muswell Hill and Whitchurch, with a fairly high success rate considering this was a trial.  Well done to Lee Martin and the team at BT Wholesale for their work here.

The overall results, we hear, are a ringing endorsement of the technology. The average speed seen is around 25Mbps with the range being between 17Mbps and 39Mbps. Our trialists ran at around the average.

BT is now launching four flavours – two consumer and two business, the latter having the faster 10Mbps uplink. Timico will also be launching the product though we are waiting until there is a little more coverage.

Post trial there are 32 exchanges (2,000 cabinets) enabled in Q1. By May there should be 103 exchanges and a further 63 planned for adding by September. In terms of premises passed there will be 500k by the spring, 1.5 million by the summer and 4 million by the end of 2010.

There are a number of other developments coming down the jungle path of the connectivity world   ADSL2+ Annex M is about to start trialing at BT Wholesale. Annexe M offers the opportunity to trade some downstream speed in exchange for more upstream. We don’t yet have pricing or an indication of the speed improvements though this is not going to be dramatic – a few hundred kbps.

This product does overlap with FTTC but should, when released, be immediately available in all ADSL2+ enabled exchanges. The ADSL2+ rollout will cover 55% of homes by March 2010, and 75% by March 2011. The lag between ADSL2+ and FTTC means there will be quite some time before FTTC is a viable mass alternative.

You might ask what difference does a few hundred kbps make but if a business is looking to use SIP trunks this might mean the difference between making VoIP viable or not.

The one other development being discussed is true QoS over the 21CN network. BT has however been talking about this for a year and a half and whilst Q3 is mooted as a possible launch date don’t hold your breath.

By the way all this came out of the BT Wholesale ISP Forum that is periodically held at the Post Office Tower in London.  A great venue and a great chance for the industry to discuss all things internetty.

Business internet Regs

Review of 2009

If you have managed to keep a job in 2009 it has probably not been a bad year for you. For consumers, fuel apart, costs have by and large come down as vendors compete more aggressively in the tough market conditions. In the UK we haven’t started paying for it yet. If you have been out of work in 2009 I guess it will have been a different story.

At work Timico continued to grow both in sales and profitability. It hasn’t been easy but the year end looks as if it will be significantly up on last year.

Highlights in the year include decommissioning our last 155Mbps ATM connections to BT, followed later in the year by our 622Mbps pipes. They have been replaced by resilient Gigabit Ethernet Hostlinks.

We also set up our new Network Operations Centre in Newark and saw the successful move of the NetOps team up to Nottinghamshire from Ipswich.

One of the big success stories of the year is the growth in the high bandwidth leased line business. Uncontended (ie dedicated connectivity) leased lines are becoming more affordable and companies are increasing offloading (at least some) corporate resources into the ”cloud”. We have similarly seen a growth in our MPLS estate with some customers signing up for hundreds of connected sites.

2009 also saw some major technology introductions. ADSL2+ was introduced early in the year. The technology is capable of “up to 24Mbps” though we only quote 16Mbps to our customers – most users will not get the max performance and I think it is better to manage expectations in this way rather than have unhappy customers.

Timico was the second ISP in the country to sell Ethernet in the First Mile and have also been participants in the BT Fibre To The Cabinet  (FTTC) trials, the early stage of the much promoted £1.5Bn investment in Next Generation Access technology.

“Digital Britain” was also a much used “buzzword” during the year. It is easy for me to criticise and I realise it is a lot harder when you are making the actual decisions but I am afraid that we will look back and decide that the present Government did not do a good job on this one. The first 4 months of 2010 are going to be very important with laws being passed or not passed that will potentially adversely affect every internet user in the UK.

Don’t get me wrong though. 2010 is going to be an exciting year with lots happening. More tomorrow.

broadband End User

What Type of Traffic Uses Up Broadband Bandwidth?

It is interesting to see the mix of traffic on the Timico ADSL network and thus what is taking up the broadband bandwidth usage. As a B2B ISP the profile will be dramatically different to that of a consumer provider.

For example the amount of bit torrent traffic is fairly low at around 6%. This compares with up to 40% sometimes seen on residential ADSLs. There are legitimate business uses of P2P but it does suggest that a few customers are hitting it hard. The nature of P2P is that it will hog all available bandwidth which actually makes it a highly efficient protocol for transferring large amounts of data. In fact the 6% of P2P traffic on the Timico could well be largely down to half a dozen ADSL2+ customers hitting it hard which represents a tiny proportion of our customer base.

The usual business type applications such as email and VPN are apparent on the chart but the biggest driver is clearly simple web browsing. No great messages here regarding bandwidth growth.

There are however some hidden gotchas. This chart was a snapshot over one working day sometime recently. It does not, for example cover the Ashes cricket matches where video streaming saw a huge growth as people at work tuned in on Skyplayer. How many business managers knew that their staff were watching the TV all day instead of working?  It is costing them twice – in the salaried time spent watching the cricket and in the cost of the bandwidth.

Also it is daytime usage and does not cover night time where a significant amount of file transfer traffic takes place. We do see a small rise in P2P in the evenings –  Timico provides thousands of corporate homeworker ADSLs. However the overall bandwidth falls significantly for us after 5 o’clock which is the exact opposite to what is seen in the consumer world. It will be interesting to periodically track the changes in usage and look at where the trend takes us over time.


broadband Business

21CN trials successfully completed

Yesterday I signed off our ADSL2+ service for production. As one of a small number of ISPs selected by BT for the trials we have been careful not to rush too quickly into using the 21CN network. As it was new we felt it was important to make sure that the customer experience matched our own business quality requirements.

After a few hundred trial connections we have been getting more of a feel for the actual performance capabilities of the network.

ADSL2+ is marketed by some ISPs as a 24Mbps technology but in fact it is unlikely that customers will achieve such high connection speeds as the actual speed achieved is very dependent on the customer’s distance from the exchange and the quality of their line. Because of this, we are promoting our offering as an “up to 16Mbps” service. As with existing ADSL connections, users experience a range of speeds. The highest we have seen so far is 19Mbps so there is a chance that people could get a faster connection than advertised.

Transparency for business customers is very important, as is responsive and professional support. I am extremely proud of the technical service levels which we provide free of charge to customers. Timico operates exclusively in the UK with its own in-house staff, rather than outsourcing customer support functions to UK or overseas contractors.

Business internet

Timico Goes Live With 21CN

Following on from my last post on BT’s IP Stream Connect slip I am pleased to be able to tell the world that Timico has taken delivery of its own 21CN Hostlink connection. The Hostlink is a resilient 1Gbps Ethernet link to BT’s 21CN network and allows Timico to connect ADSL2+ tails for customers using the BT Wholesale Broadband Managed Connect (WBMC) service. ADSL2+ is the latest generation of broadband offering up to 24Mbps performance.

Timico is as I understand it one of only a handful of ISPs in the UK currently with a 21CN hostlink utilising BT’s WBMC product.

If anyone reading wants to try out the service drop me a line at Timico. A list of enabled exchanges is available here.

Onwards and upwards.

PS it would be completely disingenuous of me to let you go away believing that you will get 24Mbps performance out of this service. It all depends on how far you are from the exchange. A typical ADSL Max connection does 5Mbps whilst the specification is up to 8Mbps. The chart below should give you some idea of likely performance.