Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

Don’t block me #DEAct #DEAPPG

It’s a while since I covered the Digital Economy Act, its ramifications and repercussions but last week saw the court hearings take place for the BT/TalkTalk Judicial Review. I was somewhat mistaken in the belief that we might also hear the output of the JR last week but this is not so. The judge needs to go away and deliberate in the way learned people deliberate (this is either hand on chin looking thoughtfully into the distance or chin on chest looking down at interlocked fingers).

The media is already saying that the DEAct implementation is going to be subject to long delays – it already is – we have been waiting for the publication of the Code of Practice for months now. What has been going on in the meantime is further lobbying by Rights Holders to try and get ISPs to block access to websites that promote or support copyright infringement.

Initially this was seen as strange because the DEAct already provides for this to be looked at in the event that the three strikes mechanisms isn’t seen to be working. Cake and eat it springs to mind.

With hindsight it looks as if this was an insurance policy on the part of the RHs in case the DEAct was thrown out in court or subject to delays.

Ed Vaizey has already met with ISPs and RHs in round table meetings to digital content and piracy, the second time being on 23 February 2011. No agreements were made and I believe this is a very long way off. A further meeting is being held next week.

Blocking is likely to be expensive, ineffective, have unintended consequences (eg innocent websites being blocked), seen as censorship, stifle the open growth of the internet ecology and require huge involvement of the judiciary – I certainly would not be happy with ISPs or Rights Holders taking ownership of choosing which sites to block.

Come on guys. Lets try and see a bit of sense here.

Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

@edvaizey answers to @tom_watson questions – take note @Marthalanefox #DEAct #deappg

portcullisYou have to be particularly interested in a topic to read Hansard, the report of parliamentary proceedings. Twitter has made it a lot easier, albeit hit and miss – you typically have to catch the tweet in the stream as it happens.

This week Ed Vaizey gave some answers to questions put by ISPA Internet Hero Tom Watson MP. Specifically Mr Vaizey said that the impact assessment on the DEAct suggested that the additional costs that would have to be applied to consumers broadband lines would have a relatively small but permanent effect of reducing demand for broadband connection by between 10,000-40,000. All assuming that the ISPs would pass on the full costs to their customers.

There are a few observations to make here.

Firstly the obvious one is that this goes against another government policy of trying to promote digital inclusion. Might the government now want to subsidise 10,000 – 40,000 broadband connections to offset the fact that they will not now be able to afford broadband. I wonder whether Martha Lane Fox, the government’s own Digital Inclusion Champion has any comments to make here?

The second point concerns the numbers used in the Impact Assessment itself. There is very little confidence within the ISP industry that the government got this right.

The Impact Assessment assumes that the total annual cost to all ISPs is between £30m and £50m. TalkTalk and BT have been suggesting that the annualized costs to their companies along are considerably higher than the total assumed for the whole industry.

The Impact Assessment clearly needs reviewing. Broadband expansion has been largely down to big cost reductions by ISPs in a very competitive market place. There is a clear relationship between broadband penetration and cost of the service. It has long since got to the point where consumer ISPs especially have had to expand their value proposition away from pure internet access because in itself this service had become unprofitable.

It would not surprise me to see a new Impact Assessment based on real costs showing a massively higher number of people that would be excluded from the broadband market.
I guess we will have to wait until after the Judicial Review to see what happens. In the meantime, c’mon Martha get your boxing gloves on. There is a fight going on here.

Link to Hansard – includes some other DEAct related questions from Tom Watson.

Business net neutrality ofcom Regs

BT Wholesale Content Connect – Net Neutrality or Competition Law issue? #DEAPPG #NetNeutrality

Yesterday’s BT announcement regarding Wholesale Content Connect, the Content Delivery product caused some consternation amongst the NetNeutrality fraternity. The fuss is that this product potentially allows ISPs to sell guaranteed delivery of content (mainly video) to online Content Providers (CP) eg YouTube et al.

I would be surprised if this product takes off.

Firstly it would have to be cheaper than what an ISP is currently paying BT for bandwidth otherwise it would be cheaper for the ISP to just buy more bandwidth to accommodate the video. I am waiting for info on the pricing but my gut feel tells me it will be more expensive – BT’s selling point is quality here.

Secondly I haven’t seen a problem where video quality sucks other than on low bandwidth connections and this product would not fix that (silk purse/sow’s ear). Admittedly my own experience is of business broadband rather than consumer but I suspect the point remains. This position could well change of course as more and more people watch video online.

BT Wholesale Content Connect (WCC) is a product that inserts the “paid for” content into the network near to the end user, avoiding the ISPs own backhaul connection. There are three levels – basic, standard and premium. Only basic has been launched.

Basic does use the ISPs own backhaul as opposed to inserting the content after this point. Standard and premium will be available to the few ISPs that use PTA to connect to the network (as opposed to L2TP – sorry for the acronyms) and operate their own backhaul as opposed to BTW’s shared WBMC service.

This might make sense commercially as I can’t see a CP striking agreements with hundreds of ISPs for what might be a very low number of video streams. An aggregator might – is BT going up against the likes of Akamai and Limelight – global players? In which case I still need to understand the benefit to the ISP? I guess where I am coming to is that I can’t see CPs today doing a deal with anyone here. This might change if people are willing to pay more for premium content – eg HD or 3D HD.

The other point is that there are already Content Delivery Networks out there so this is just another one. Existing CDNs inject content into an ISP’s core network as a cheaper way for both the ISP and content providers of delivering the content than via internet transit. BT and their ISP partners will have to sell BTWCC as a better overall deal but I can’t see content providers paying for bandwidth that is currently paid for by the ISP. Moreover CDNs operate internationally and not just in a single country! Why would a Content Provider want to deal with a CDN that only operated in the UK?

Now correct me if I’m wrong but I think that there is only one ISP in the UK that uses PTA – BT Retail (BTR) or two if you want to include BT Plus Net. There are technical reasons why ISPs don’t use PTA, not the least of which is that it doesn’t currently support IPv6 or L2TP forwarding.

In the absence of there being an obvious business model for the ISP what other motives might there be for the launch of the WCC product? It could be that BT is lining up BT Retail to offer a product that is unavailable to the rest of the market even though to Ofcom’s eyes it is being made available as a product through BTW. This might offer BTR a competitive advantage over other major consumer ISPs in being able to provide a guaranteed video product.

From a cost perspective it wouldn’t matter how much BTW charged BTR for this because it would all be recovered at the group level. I’m not saying that this is the motive but it could be one.

Coming back to the opening paragraph there is a scenario that this isn’t a NetNeutrality issue at all but a UK competition law issue. Time will tell – a real business model might appear.

I would say that from a Net Neutrality perspective this is all a fuss over nothing and the advice to politicians is still to sit on the fence. Ofcom might want to consider taking a microscope to the product though, just to be on the safe side. It certainly could add to the argument in favour of breaking up BT into its components. As far as ISPs go those of us who aren’t consumer players aren’t yet involved in the debate. As far as BT goes its cards are currently right up against its chest so who knows whether WCC, as advertised, is a good business or not.

Link to BT video

Sorry about all the acronyms. If they mean nothing to you I would just brush over them and go for the general gist.

broadband Business

Read All About It – Wheel Invented – Or a Call Upon the People of Lincoln to Vote for Superfast Broadband

With a population of only 110,000, Lincoln is not on the list of Exchanges to be enabled for superfast broadband in the forseeable future.

Of course, the wheel was almost certainly invented before anyone could read all about it. However I do get the feeling that we are somehow still in the stone age. This afternoon I registered with the BT “Race to Infinity”.  I want superfast broadband (whatever that is).  Here are the stats from Lincoln, my hometown.

Percentage of votes 0.77%
252 votes have been cast out of a total of 32,844

With only 16 days to go this spells disaster. Lincoln is not on the list of Exchanges to be enabled in the forseeable future. With a population of only 110,000 or so (at least within the general area) you would think that constituted a reasonable sized conurbation. Clearly not reasonably sized enough!

This does pose an interesting question. Lincoln is not in what is described as “the final third” – the 33% of the country that is broadband impoverished so I would find it difficult to see a situation where the government would fund connectivity under its recently published superfast broadband strategy.

How therefore does the government decide which communities it should fund?

I can envisage a four tier society

  1. Areas where the business case easily merits initial investment – ie those where “FTTC/FTTP are currently planned
  2. Areas outside the above that can only get conventional broadband and are not in the plan for FTTC/FTTP
  3. Deprived areas that are currently not spots or have very slow connectivity and are obvious candidates for funding
  4. the final 10% that BT said it could not service even with the currently envisage level of funding

Now either BT isn’t doing a very good job promoting the Race to Infinity or nobody wants the product.

My message to the people of Lincoln?

We are talking wheels here.  When the wheel was first proposed to Og (3rd cave along) 10,000 years ago he didn’t at first appreciate the benefits. It was only after ha started using it that he saw the light (lightening of his load anyway).

Get voting!

PS Og and 10,000 years are made up names and dates. I could have Googled it I suppose…

Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

BT and TalkTalk granted Judicial Review on Digital Economy Act & DCMS launch inquiry #DEAct

BT and TalkTalk were today granted a Judicial Review of the Digital Economy Act at the High Court. A judge will now scrutinise whether the act is legal and justifiable on privacy and mere conduit grounds.

Also announced today by the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee is an inquiry into protecting copyright online and the effectiveness of the DEAct. The call for evidence has asked for comments on a number of questions including:

• Whether the new framework has captured the right balance between supporting creative work online and the rights of subscribers and ISPs.
• Whether the notification process is fair and proportionate.
• The extent to which the associated costs might hinder the operation of the Act.
• At what point, if at all, consideration should be given to introducing the additional technical measures allowed for under the Act.
• Intellectual Property and barriers to new internet-based business models, including information access, the costs of obtaining permissions from existing rights-holders, and “fair use.”

This is good news. I am afraid we have to ask ourselves why this was not gone into during the initial parliamentary process running up to the passing of the Act.

The deadline for response is Wednesday, January 5.

broadband Business

Superfast Broadband Coming to Cornwall and Scilly Isles

BT announced today that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are set to become one of the best connected locations in the world under an ambitious £132 million BT and Cornwall Council project, supported by European funding. It will bring superfast broadband to the vast majority of businesses in this area by 2014. The project will benefit tens of thousands of local businesses, create 4,000 new local jobs and protect a further 2,000.

It is expected that other ISPs will be able to offer services using the infrastructure in the same way that they buy off BT Wholesale today. Operational details of this have yet to be announced. Rollout will be announced on a rolling basis, agreed by the project partners in consultation with internet service providers.

Business piracy Regs surveillance & privacy

BT TalkTalk judicial review results expected this week #DEAct

Andrew Heaney of TalkTalk tells me that they are in theory expecting to hear the result of the Judicial Review into the Digital Economy Act  this Thursday.  He didn’t seem hugely optimistic that this date would actually be met.  I guess considering the obscene haste with which the DEBill/DEAct was rushed through we should reasonably expect the judge to take his time on this one and make sure he gets it right.

Business Regs surveillance & privacy

UK Music piling on lobbying – DEAct consultations delayed

The consultation on the Initial Obligations Code required as part of the Digital Economy Act has been delayed. Originally due out at the end of July it missed this date and because it has to be issued whilst parliament is sitting was not therefore published during the summer break.

This is currently slipping week by week presumably whilst the government tries to make its mind up regarding the content.  I am also told that potentially the Cost Sharing part of the DEAct might need to be referred to the European Commission which would mean a three month delay. It looks likely that the launch of the Code of Practice which has to be done in January 2011 will be a softly softly low key affair. I can’t imagine that the CoP will be in a usable state at that time.

Business voip

HD Voice Peering Federation launches in UK

Next Gen interconnect carrier XConnect has in the UK today launched The HD Voice Peering Federation, a High Definition Voice initiative. This is something that was discussed at the Internet Telephony Service Providers’ Association (ITSPA) HD Voice workshop I chaired back in June. Whilst it is still early days should provide a good breeding ground for high quality voice interconnects amongst VoIP service providers.

Without such an initiative HD voice services would forever be high (quality) walled gardens with no contact with the outside world.

The initiative is supported initially by vendors Polycom, Broadsoft and Dialogic and has signed up Simwood,

Business internet piracy Regs

BT TalkTalk ISPAs Judicial Reviews and Feargal Sharkey

Much in the news yesterday was the request from BT and TalkTalk for a judicial review into the Digital Economy Act. Nobody I spoke to from the ISP industry had any further details of this other than to say that Sky and Virgin were notably absent from the story line.

This is likely to be because the latter two are far more closely aligned to the content provision industry with BT and TalkTalk being really just (or largely in the case of BT) connectivity providers.

People should not get too excited at the prospect of a Judicial Review. This is just a process of checking to see that the legal process was followed. Did it receive the required number of readings in Parliament? etc.etc

broadband Business internet

The BT Broadband Interviews – Part 5 – Future Capabilities

Final part of an interview recorded for BT for their FTTC launch.

broadband Business

The BT Broadband Interviews – Part 3 – Drivers

Part 3 of an interview recorded for BT for their FTTC launch

broadband Business

The BT Broadband Interviews – Part 2 – Directions

Part 2 of an interview recorded for BT as part of their FTTC launch.

broadband Business internet

The BT Broadband Interviews – Part 1 – Markets

First in a series of videos recorded by BT as part of their launch of FTTC.

Business internet

BT market research into ICT buying habits of SMBs

I am always happy to hoover up any market research data up for grabs and at yesterday’s ISP Forum  BT analyst John Kiernan presented a summary of a study that BT had conducted into the ICT buying habits of 255 small and medium sized businesses.

The following factors were ranked in order of importance:

  • price is the major factor – no surprise here
  • SMBs then wanted to be able to buy services as part of a bundled package
  • the ICT product or service that they bought needed to last/be future proof but SMBs are prepared to try something new
  • SMBs need strong tech and after sales support
  • being local is not a major consideration – only 22% of those questioned felt this was important

Most SMBs look to the internet and their own existing suppliers to keep up to date with products and services. They have little interest in buying as a result of sales calls.

The last couple of years have been tough for UK SMBs with GDP falling for 6 x quarters in a row. According to JK growth was slow or non existent for most SMBs in 2009 and only slightly better for larger business.

A few other sound bites that were interesting:
Only 60% of SMBs have a website.
Only 14% see competitive advantage from ICT – smaller biz recognises it best

Finally what keeps SMBs awake at night? Finding new customers, leaving the recession behind growing their business, profit and cashflow. I can’t see these factors being specific to SMBs however.

I’ve got the slides if anyone is interested – I’m sure that BT would be happy for me to let you have them.

PS that’s the 20 minute talk distilled into a 20 second read 🙂

broadband Business internet

ISPs Plunge Knife into Broadband Enabling Technology (BET) #digitalbritain #finalthirdfirst

A Digital Britain session at today’s BT ISP Forum at the BT Tower saw a vocal opposition to Broadband Enabling Technology (BET) as a prospective technology to meet the Government promise of a 2Mbps Universal Service Commitment by 2012.  Bit of a mouthful that.

Firm pricing is not yet available, but we are potentially looking at an installation cost of £850 for a single line with 1Mbps capability, £1,050 for two lines with up to 2Mbps.  Moreover, although the minimum demand per exchange has not yet been firmed up, it is likely to be 15 subscribers.

There was absolutely zero interest in this product from the 60 or so (guess) ISPs in the room. It is seen as too expensive, to the point where it is not dissimilar in price, if you need 15 users in an exchange to sign up, to the

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 Engineer

Fire in Paddington Exchange – Or is it a Flood?

O2 tell us this morning that a flood has taken out the Burne House Paddington telephone exchange in London – they have 115 cell sites down as a result. Apparently fire engines have been seen pumping water out.

Funnily enough The Register is reporting a similar story but this time the Paddington Exchange is down because of a fire!

I suppose they could both be right – pump in water to put out fire – pump water back out afterwards!

It ain’t April 1st until tomorrow so it must be true.

5pm Wednesday – latest news is that the exchange will be down until midday on 2nd April – you heard it first on !

Business internet ofcom

Fibre rates inequity iniquity

The Digital Dales Colloquium was held at Timico HQ in Newark on Friday and packed out the main lecture theatre. With the focus of how to get rural areas onto the internet much of the meeting was spent debating the lack of level playing field when it comes to bidding for projects that involve European funding.From a third party perspective BT appears to have much of this stitched up because their existing deal on rates paid for their network infrastructure is based on a volume play. This means that BT can assume lower costs for fibre runs where new market entrants putting fibre in the ground perhaps for the first time incur much higher charges. The chart below, pinched from network provider Vtesse Networks MD Aidan Paul’s presentation, shows how the rates applied to fibre vary depending on how many fibres you have in the ground on a given route. Clearly if you are an incumbent operator with a large market presence this method of rating is going to give you a significant competitive advantage over a new player. The figures represent rateable value applied to each kilometre of fibre.

tone rateable value per fibre
Rates payable per kilometre per fibre based on number of fibres in ground

The weird nature if the curve doesn’t inspire confidence. Moreover as a separate discussion point these rateable values are quite high numbers and in my mind represent an impediment to the competitiveness of UK plc in general. What is more surprising is that despite the growth in BT’s fibre business the actual rateable value of the corporation has dropped considerably. Your guess is as good as mine as to why this is though no doubt BT has very competent staff involved in its negotiations with the Valuation Office.

BT Rateable Value
BT rateable value over past 15 years – note significant drop this year – source Valuation Office Agency Central List for 2005 and 2010
growth in BT fibre access revenues - source BT Regulatory Accounts
growth in BT fibre access revenues – source BT Regulatory Accounts
growth in the amount of  BT fibre
Growth in the amount of BT fibre in the ground – an astonishing number – source BT statutory accounts and Form 20F

Vtesse has been involved in a long running litigation to try and redress this situation. Lord Justice Sedley recently pronounced: “It is now evident . . . that Vtesse has a tenable argument that, contrary to the VO’s case and BT’s claims, the 2008 Ofcom report shows that it is possible not only to disaggregate BT’s rateable holdings but to assign a hypothetical rental value to their fibre-optic cables. If that can be done, there is arguably a gross disparity in BT’s favour between the rateable value of its and Vtesse’s cables. . . . By contrast, the injustice of allowing the continuance of what may be a radical inequity in the rating system will go unredressed by the proposed disposal.” The BIS select committee Chairman Peter Luff MP has also spoken out about this: “Government intervention at this stage should concentrate on changing policies to encourage investment in the NGA market. Perhaps the best example of this is the business rating system which currently discriminates in favour of BT and against its competitors. We believe that the Government should consider a reduction, or even a temporary removal, of business rates on fibre optic cable. This would be a more effective use of limited public sector funds than direct financial intervention.” In other words removing business rates on fibre runs would be a good way of promoting investment in connectivity for rural areas. I don’t have a handle on the relative numbers but I would say this was also a much fairer way of funding investment in NGA than the 50 pence phone line tax.

broadband Business Regs

Broadband Enabling Technology (BET) Not High in Popularity Stakes, Could Upset the Digital Britain 2mbps Cart

BT today appealed to its partner community for more trialists for their BET service.  Currently in pilot phase,  Broadband Enabling Technology (or BET) uses SHDSL to offer a broadband connection speed of up to 1 Mbps over a distance of 12 Kms from the local phone exchange. By using another line and bonding them together the speed can be effectively doubled up to 2 Mbps.

BT is testing this technology at the following exchanges:
Badsey, Worcestershire
Dingwall, Scotland
Horsham, West Sussex
Inverness Culloden, Scotland
Leyland, Lancashire
Llanfyllin, Powys
Ponteland, Northumberland
Twyford, Berkshire
Wigton, Cumbria
Wymondham, Norfolk

So far there have been around 40 installations which isn’t much across 10 exchanges (cf 1,750 FTTC on 3 exchanges). I’m not sure why there have not been more takers – whilst it is targeted at less densely populated rural areas there must be more people in those areas wanting to get on the internet. The plan is, in theory, to roll out a further 200 exchanges but I don’t think it is a done deal yet with the decision to go to production not yet being taken.

BET has aroused some emotion amongst rural dwellers looking for equality with city slickers in the broadband stakes.  They complain that an up to 2Mbps service (as mooted by the Government’s Digital Britain Review) doesn’t really cut it.  I guess the pressure is going to be on BT to make sure that this service does enter production regardless of uptake. Interesting though.

Timico is not a BET trialist but if you need help with getting on the trials by all means drop me a line and I will point you in the right direction.

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.

broadband Business

BT Announces Business Grade Service Level Assurance for Broadband

For those who are interested in this kind of thing BT has announced that it will be introducing a higher grade of Service Level Assurance for broadband than the current Enhanced Care product.

Enhanced care offers a 24 x 7 service that includes a 3 hour response and 20 hours time to fix.

New in Q3 (September ish) will be “Business Care” product that offers 24 x 7 cover with 7 hours to fix – essentially same day. This is good progress as businesses are becoming increasingly dependant on their broadband lines and downtime = loss of cash. Note no guarantees are on offer here.

It is all subject to confirmation but it is progress.

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.

Business internet media video

BBC piles the pressure on ISPs with internet TV

Channel 4 and Talk Talk have joined Project  Canvas, the BBC’s set top box standardisation effort that already includes the BBC, ITV, BT, Five.

The end goal is to connect the internet to your TV and allow programmes to be streamed over your broadband connection.  The BBC press announcement doesn’t go into schedules but it does talk about offering services that include:

Linear TV (eg Freeview, Freesat) with HD and storage (pause, rewind, record)
Video-on-demand services (eg BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 40D)
Other internet-based content or services (eg Flickr, Amazon, NHS Direct)

My only point in regurgitating this BBC news is that the time is not so very far away when consumers will have to start factoring the cost of all this downloading.  What is perceived to be a free TV programme is effectively going to become Pay As You Go and the cost of an hour’s watching will be something known to all. I can see kids being given an allocation by their parents just in the same way that they have pre paid mobile phones.

As a footnote my kids have been trying to persuade me to buy them a new 42″ flatscreen LCD TV for the “den”.  I’ve beaten off the assault by saying that we don’t actually have a source of HD video other than their own laptops and PCs.  Even this line of defence looks as if it will only be shortlived.

More TV related stuff:

Sony 4K Ultra HD TV

TV detector vans – the truth

Boring TV & better things to do.

broadband End User

BT Chairman has Only Broadband Service in the Village!

Lucky Sir Michael Rake enjoys exclusive Hambleden broadband service.

Lovely piece reported by the BBC today, where British Telecom (BT) has admitted its chairman is the only person with broadband service in the village of Hambleden on the Oxfordshire-Buckinghamshire border.

BT said Sir Michael Rake’s broadband service connection was part of a trial of new technology. The village, they say, is too far from the exchange for a standard ADSL service.

The article doesn’t go into which technology was being trialled, but here’s a thought: BT could set up Sir Michael’s home as a POP and run tails from there. That way everyone in the village could get broadband service connectivity, and all would be happy. Sorted.

Business internet

The market for IPVPN

I note that three carriers have launched a wholesale IPVPN proposition. BT, Cable and Wireless and Opal have all opened up for business into the reseller channel. This really does reflect the growing opportunity in this space brought on by lower cost IP connectivity and greater use of internet/cloud based services.

Timico has been offering such MPLS based services for almost five years.  We call them Private Wide Area Networks (PWANs). This year the number of Ethernet leased lines we will have installed for customers looks like being 50% as many as we did in the first five years and next year the way things are going I expect the estate to double.

When we started to offer PWANs in the market there were very few ISPs doing it.  This was partly because the vast majority of ISPs had low bandwidth 34Mbps central pipes that did not support L2TP, a practical necessity for the provision of MPLS PWANs.  Many still don’t have the technical knowhow even if they have the right connectivity and it is quite common for small ISPs to resell another’s IPVPN and claim it as their own.

This announcement from these 3 carriers effectively creates a dividing line between the haves and the have nots. Those who can build their own networks and those that just resell others’.  None of these “builders” has the reach to provide a network that is exclusively their own.  They all buy tails from BT Openreach for the many locations in the UK outside their own network footprints.

Our own approach is not to offer wholesale connectivity.  We want to build up the Timico brand in the  business end user community. We do operate our own MPLS network though and I see this as being of strategic importance in building the successful  Communications Service Provider for the business market of the future.

Archived Business

Timico conference wrap up

I’d just like to thank all who came to the Timico conference at Stapleford Park in Leicestershire on Wednesday.  This is an annual event that we hold to get closer to our customers and to brief them on up and coming technologies and products.

We crammed 120 or so guests into the Grand Hall at the hotel and had a mix of both internal and external speakers.  I would particularly like to thank Dennis Turner, Chief Economist at HSBC bank,  Nigel Scott, Director of Customer Engagement at BT and  David Hiscock, Director of Product Management of the Nortel Carrier business for their valuable contribution and insights on the day.

Dennis Turner in particular made a bold prediction that he recession would end and lo and behold I woke up this morning to the BBC news telling me it had done so!  What  foresight!  I’m thinking I might even change banks to HSBC – provided they can agree to my suitably large overdraft requirements  🙂

Stapleford Park, luxury country house hotel and scene of the Timico 2009 customer conference
Stapleford Park, luxury country house hotel and scene of the Timico 2009 customer conference

Footnote: Friday’s news regarding the recession is somewhat more sombre – in fact the economy shrank by 0.4% over the last quarter.  Perhaps I’ll stick with my existing bank!

datacentre Engineer

GigE replaces old ATM infrastructure at Timico Docklands datacentre

I’ve been rolling my sleeves up at our Docklands Datacentres today. Having decommissioned all our old 155 Mbps STM1 pipes and replaced them with 622Mbps STM4’s we are now gearing up to replacing the 622’s with resilient Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to the BT21CN network.

The picture below shows part of the rack containing our first ever 155Mbps connection.  For those interested this was an STM4 partitioned into 4STM1’s.

For those not interested the real point is that this complete rack that was originally pretty much dedicated to hosting our central pipe connectivity to the BT ADSL network can now be replaced by a single port in a 3U chassis. You can get around 13 of these switches in a rack, each with potentially up to 15  GigE connections. In theory that’s up to 195 connections instead of just 4 with 313 x the bandwidth.

That’s progress folks.

STM4 Mux

Old STM4 chassis. Couldn’t get the whole rack in view. This is only half of it.

3U chassis supporting up to 15 GigE connections
3U chassis supporting up to 15 GigE connections

What replaced it!

broadband Business internet mobile connectivity

O2Be and the Ever-Growing Complexity of the Broadband Service Landscape

Met with O2/Be last week to discuss their LLU broadband play. O2 has been winning awards for their consumer broadband service. They have an ADSL2+ solution that already supports Annex M.

For the uninitiated Annex M allows a service provider to trade some downloading speed on a broadband service in exchange for a faster (up to 2.5Mpbs!?) upload.

O2/Be have unbundled around 1,240 exchanges and so have one of the largest LLU footprints in the UK. They also claim to have 500,000 customers so in understanding the options for the provision of broadband service in the UK they are one of the companies that need looking at.

A complex web is being woven in the UK broadband landscape. Clearly O2 is serious. When they bought Be the LLU estate numbered no more than 30 or so exchanges. A lot of cash has been expended to turn it into the figure it is today.

O2 is telling the world it wants a seat at the table and is willing to put up a stake. It does have a different approach to Carphone Warehouse, the leading LLU player in terms of size, in that it only offers the broadband connectivity. Currently O2 relies on Openreach for the underlying analogue line.

Having looked at the economics of LLU myself it makes a lot more sense if you are taking the voice path as well as the ADSL. There are other benefits with LLU in that an ISP can tailor its own services and thus offer a differentiation in a crowded market. It still needs subscriber numbers to make it pay and at the consumer end it is unlikely that the service provider will want to offer too many variants – simplicity of broadband service means lower costs to sell, provision and support.

This brings me on to another point and that is that BT is now introducing FTTC which at 40Mbps down and 5Mbps up blows all the LLU operators ADSL2+ offerings out of the water, at least in terms of speed. There are then only two players in the game – BT and Virgin with their cable proposition. Other players will have to line up behind one of these two as a wholesale customer and note that Virgin does not yet have a wholesale proposition.

Now FTTC is in its early days of rollout but the footprint is likely to be the same Market 3 footprint as the unbundled exchanges, ie the densely populated parts of the country that make business sense.

So I think for the moment that LLU players have a market window that is probably no more than two years for their unbundled services. Two years will scream past, if the past five at Timico are anything to go by.

Coming back to O2/Be their play thus far has been very much into the consumer market. They look to be a solid player and I have heard good things about them from peers in the ISP community. Their sortie into the business market is through an L2TP play with relative newcomer Fluidata. I have nothing to say against Fluidata, not having worked with them but they are small and O2, if it is serious at the wholesale, game will want to do it in-house.

What their long term strategy is though is a difficult one to call. Owned by Telefonica they should have the deep pockets to play. Play what though? When there are likely to be only two players and one of them is BT then you either have to be satisfied with being a reseller of BT or Virgin or you buy one of them. I can’t see the regulator letting O2 buy BT, it would be ironic if they did.

They might let them buy Virgin though.  And then where does that leave Vodafone, a business that is only dabbling in broadband at the moment…

The UK communications industry has never been as exciting a place to be as it is now. Any informed comment/feedback to this post will be read with interest.

Engineer voip

Thus pulls out of VoIP and leaves customers to fend for themselves

Had this link sent to me via the industry grapevine today.  Basically Thus  is closing its “Pipecall” voip service and appears to be leaving customers to their own devices.  This isn’t just a case of people going off and finding an alternative provider.  They need to be able to port their numbers. Typically only BT has porting agreements with absolutely everyone so in this case  Thus’ beleaguered customer base is probably stuck with whatever solution (and pricing) BT might be able to offer them. And it might not be a VoIP solution.

Thus is particularly a special case as the company likely hosted its own numbers on its own interconnect to the BT network.  THUS is not a member of industry trade body ITSPA and does not therefore adhere to the ITSPA Code of Practice in which members endeavour to offer porting to other members.  

The Pipecall user base would almost certainly have had more choice had they been dealing with an ITSPA member company.  Many ITSPA members use wholesale partners to host their numbers and interconnects to what is after all a declining network (ie the PSTN – it doesn’t make sense to invest in “old fashioned” network infrastructure). Thus (not very good pun intended) migration between Communications Providers on a wholesale platform is a lot easier.

As it stands Pipecall customers probably now need help with their comms. If anyone wants to get in touch for advice feel free to contact me  directly. I’ve pasted below the content from the Thus/Demon website on this subject for ease of reading. Oh and by the way Timico is just investing in a major VoIP platform infrastructure upgrade.  Watch this space.  We are in it for the long run.

Why is my account being cancelled?
THUS has made the decision to close the platform which carries the service you are currently using.

Why are you putting an end to the service?
The platform has reached the end of its serviceable life. It is not possible for THUS to effectively maintain it and deliver acceptable levels of reliability, performance and security and as such, the decision has been taken to close it.

What are you putting in place or what are you offering to do with our numbers?
There will not be a directly comparable Voice Over Broadband service available from THUS. See below on how to port your numbers to an alternative provider.

What is being done with my details that are held in your database / system?
These will be deleted.

How do I port my numbers?
Customers wishing to port their numbers should contact BT. If they select an appropriate product from them, BT will port the numbers over themselves when the service goes live.

What will happen to the personalised IVR on my service?
As the service is closed all IVR functionality will be lost. Customers will need to replicate what they had with their preferred new service provider.

What will happen to my stored faxes etc on the control panel?
This functionality will be lost with the service termination.

Will my hardware work with any provider?
We can’t guarantee that it will. However the Voice over Broadband service was built using industry standards, so should your new service also be SIP based, your hardware should still function.

What if I need to collect previous CDR data or invoices post the closure date?
These will be available for 3 months afterwards.

When will the system close?
The system is due to close at the end of September.

I’ve heard about the cease of service but I haven’t received my letter of notice?
The letters were all sent out to our customers registered addresses at the end of August.

While the numbers are being ported, will that cause any downtime to my service?
No. Should your new provider follow the correct procedure there should be no downtime.

Will support still be available after the closure date?
As the service will no longer be operational support will not be available.

I am still within my 12 month contract, will that cease also?

I am in credit on my account, will that be paid to me in full?
Yes – Please contact Customer Services by email via [email protected] or via telephone on 0845 009 0080 (Contactable between 9am-5:30pm Mon-Fri) so that we can arrange for any outstanding payments to be made to you.

How long does it take to port a number?
You will need to speak to your new provider to find out the timescales.
The minimum lead time is 5 working days but your new provider may take longer.