Business internet

Ethernet in the First Mile – EFM

I’m happy to say that Ethernet in the First Mile is starting to get customers excited. EFM?  Yet another !”£#@ acronym do I hear you say?

Yes and actually EFM is quite an exciting proposition in 21CN enabled exchanges around the country. That’s around 600 now with notionally 1,100 by the time BT has finished the rollout.

EFM is a copper based Ethernet service to the customer, capable of carrying high bandwidth connections without the need for fibre into the customer premises. It provides “up to” 10Mbps (<3km from the exchange).

The beauty of the technology is that it bundles up to 5 copper pairs from the exchange to the premises to attain the bandwidth throughput. If any of these pairs “go down” then the service will rate adjust to a lower speed based on the remaining circuits rather than failing completely.

Whilst customers don’t necessarily get the reliability and uptime of a fibre leased the EFM circuits are considerably cheaper with much faster installation lead times (and don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying EFM is unreliable – it’s basically the same as ADSL).

What’s more we can incorporate EFM connections into an MPLS VPN/PWAN.  EFM gives businesses far more flexibility in the type of circuits they can build into a network design.

It does strike me that anyone thinking of getting into the ISP business these days is onto a loser.  Timico has its own direct connection to BT for EFM.  This is in addition to circuits for SDH, framestream, Ethernet, SDSL/ADSL, ADSL2+ and 3G (wireless). 

We also have direct connectivity with BT Wholesale, BT Openreach, Telewest/NTL/Virgin (whatever you are used to calling them), Global Crossing, Claranet, Tiscali (ahem) and Cable and Wireless, notwithstanding our links to transit providers and peering exchanges such as LINX.

I’m not saying that the situation is different to what it was like 5 years ago when Timico started. At that time our decision was to buy Atlas Internet to get into the game and since then we have added two further acquisitions.  The complexities and the scale required to be competitive have however changed.

Our first BT central pipe (ie wholesale ADSL connection) was a single 34Mbps link.  Now we are into multiple 622Mbps and multiple Gigabit fibre.  These represent large cost commitments that new entrants should balk at or at least recognise that they would have to have very deep pockets.

Note 1  !”£#@  = “bloomin”

Note 2 apologies to friend and blog reader Dan Ellin who has made some comments on Facebook regarding the number and incomprehensibility of acronyms in this industry 🙂

Business internet

Carphone buys Tiscali

I know this is big news in every single media outlet there is today.  CPW has bought Tiscali for £236m making it the second largest broadband provider.

So what can I add to all that is being said?  Whilst the “big six” is now the “big five” there are still hundreds of small ISPs out there serving niche, mostly business to business customers.  The time will come very soon I think that this base of hundreds of service providers will have to shrink. 

Many ISPs are now 10 – 15 years old having started during the initial dial up boom.  Most are “owner operated” with proprietors facing a difficult time ahead and the need to find capital to invest in new capacity and at the same time facing the cost pressures applied because of consumer ISP pricing strategy.

Another tier of B2B ISPs is going to emerge as clear winners.  Just being an ISP will not be enough. These will be specialist Communications Providers able to satisfy the complete range of business communications requirements. These companies already exist but the gap between them and the rest will become wider and the day will come where most of the small businesses will disappear.

Business engineering

Cisco on acquisition trail

I see that Cisco is notionally on the acquisition trail which doesn’t come as a surprise.  It is a good time to be cash rich.

It wouldn’t surprise me either to find out that Cisco has been sniffing around the Nortel Carrier Division.  It would be a great fit.  I don’t think it will be too long before we find out.

We haven’t really seen consolidation happen on the big scale in the tech world yet this turndown.  Timico has picked up some ADSL customers from defunct ISPs and may yet pick up a business or two.

Tiscali has been trying to be “consolidated” for a while now but is struggling to make it happen!  It should only be a matter of time one way or another.

Business internet

Tiscali heavily criticised on BBC

Tiscali featured on the BBC’s Watchdog consumer programme tonight.  A number of unhappy people were heard venting their fury about the company’s service levels.  I suspect that if they focussed more on their most important asset, their customers, they wouldn’t also be in the news because of their financial woes.  It takes a huge amount of effort to win new customers.  Businesses neglect them at their peril.

This is one reason why businesses in particular need to make sure they have a business oriented, responsive,  service provider.  Tiscali is aimed at a low cost market.  At the end of the day you get what you pay for (or not as was the case on Watchdog!)