broadband End User internet Net

Openreach Profit Incentive in Action

Openreach’s sub-contractors may not all be so bad after all.

I finally had BT Infinity installed a few weeks ago. Having watched the installation of Huawei DSLAM at the end of the road some time before that with much anticipation, I pondered how badly BT Openreach and its subcontractors would botch the job and ruin the frontage to our community, while also yearning to finally break beyond the 14 Mbps glass ceiling I have endured for 3 years.

With regular broadband I have been fortunate, being on brand new copper and only 100 yards from the primary connection point with a short run thereafter to the exchange; thus I’ve always had the top end of the advertised broadband speed. My problem was with up, though, not down. Regular readers will know I am a home-based professional nomad, and as such uploading documents to file servers etc. in a timely manner is rather important. 1 or 2 Mbps just doesn’t cut it.

I had done my research and knew that an Openreach engineer would have to visit to install Infinity II. Forums and blogs were full of details about cable models and data extension kits and Openreach engineers having to run new cables through peoples’ houses. In this industry, we would hardly trust them to dress themselves in the morning half the time let alone undertake works in our nicely decorated hallways. I was scared.

Turns out though that the BT Homehub 5 has an integrated cable modem, so that problem went away (and I note it has better in-house coverage for WiFi than its predecessors — I have been fortunate enough to have had a Homehub 2, 3 and 4 and a Businesshub 3 to play with — and it didn’t nerd up VoIP with SIP ALG either). Also, as the cabling in the house is only 3 years old and to modern standards, the engineer felt no need to run a new line or change face plates — useful as it is a large integrated one that includes TV aerial, satellite, etc. — and just plugged it in. The entire installation took about 20 minutes, including the jumpering in the PCP and DSLAM.

What struck me most about my Openreach install was that my neighbour was also having it done in the same installation slot. The engineer visited both premises and did what he had to do onsite, and then visited the PCP/DSLAM to do jumpering just once (i.e., he simultaneously did both jobs). Furthermore, he called me on my mobile from the PCP/DSLAM to check if it was working, thus negating the potential need for going back and forth. Turns out the sync speed is virtually the advertised 76Mbps up down and 19 Mbps down up, with the reality not far off (up is almost dead on, down hovers around 50/60 so far).

The engineer was a sub-contractor to BT Openreach, working for Kelly Communications. These sub-contractors are often derided for cherry picking easy jobs, making out that the customer wasn’t present when they were, so they can complete as many of the low-hanging fruit as possible to boost their profit margins.

I am not sure whether Openreach Direct Labour would’ve had the initiative to simultaneously perform two installations, thus, ultimately, reducing lead times and increasing customer satisfaction. I do know that Openreach Direct Labour, upon realising that there was insufficient copper in the ground between a PCP and the exchange to install a new line in a colleague’s home, had to get another engineer to pull it through and then that engineer couldn’t just provision the line, they had to get another one to do it (no doubt you can imagine how long that sorry saga took). If that job had been sub-contracted, I wonder whether it would’ve been done more efficiently and ultimately to a better level of customer satisfaction?

The incidents we have all endured at the hands of Openreach are many and would shock anyone. Anne Robinson and Watchdog even did a piece on it. Many of these incidents involve sub-contractors, however I think we are in danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater here as clearly the profit incentive is doing some good in certain circumstances….. it may even work to overcome the inherent moral hazard in the way Openreach’s prices are calculated (i.e., the industry often pays for inefficiency, directly through the charge controls and indirectly through non-Openreach brand damage). Surely, the real challenge is how to we promote the positives and negate the negatives.

Lots of posts on t his site re BT engineering visits – check out this one on BT engineering visit lottery

Business Regs

Openreach structural separation – a call for inputs

trefor_thumbI happen to be writing a paper. It will probably never see the light of day…. though maybe in an archeological dig of Esher in 2,000 years time there could be some interesting head scratching going on if it were uncovered.

The subject is, broadly, “Arguments for and against the structural separation of BT”. In a nutshell, should BT’s Openreach subsidiary be wholly separate, or should we have the status quo….. or maybe some hybrid in between.

The arguments against I have largely got to grips with – one only has to look at the railways to see the issues generated by Network Rail’s status against the train companies which I would suggest is a potentially analogous situation for a future structurally separate Openreach….. but I could especially do with some inputs on what you all think for the arguments for might be.

Feel free to comment away!


Engineer security

Is Huawei in your network a national security concern?

I am reminded that yesterday’s post on how would Huawei spy on your network has an additional dimension in the UK in that a significant chunk of BT’s 21CN infrastructure is based on the Chinese vendor’s kit. I hadn’t noticed that this hit the headlines a couple of months ago.

The BT Huawei deal would have been based on very attractive commercials spread over the lifetime of the contract. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on its wisdom from a national security perspective. I don’t have any details to suppose there is a risk other than what I already covered yesterday and then I couldn’t assess the level of risk. That’s somebody’s job.

One wonders whether the powers that be might be might at this very moment be redrawing rules of engagement for secure national networks roll-outs. I can’t imagine that UK defence networks touch any part of 21CN anyway. They will be totally separate. Won’t they?

Access to non defence networks that are strategic could also be a problem. For example how are all our power stations connected? The telecommunications infrastructure itself? Imagine if nobody could make a phone call or send an email for a week? How about the oil refineries? No oil = everywhere grinds to a halt. I’m sure you can come up with other scenarios.

I dunno.

PS takes me a while to catch up with the news, I know.

broadband broken gear Business

Broadband speed bits or bytes, no bones broken, just the advertising agency

Broadband speed bits or bytes – ISP PRs gets it wrong

I just lurve it when I see technical cockups in advertising & pr blurb from technical companies selling technical products – broadband sped bits or bytes.

It happened in this blog post ostensibly written by TalkTalk CTO  Clive Dorsman.
Now it’s BTs turn. On page 8 of today’s Times their half page advert tells us that with Infinity for business you will be downloading a big 200Mb file in less than half a minute. That’s because Infinity is “as much as 6 times faster” than the UK average broadband speed which the BBC told us in March of this year is 12Mbps. So a 72Mbps broadand service can download a 200Mb file in under half a minute. By my calcs it should take less than 3 seconds, ok a bit more if you chuck in some packet overhead.

If I were BT I’d get a new advertising agency. This one’s rubbish. Even if you accept that very few people get the max advertised “up to” speed of “Infinity” broadband it would not be unreasonable to say “(up to) less than 5 seconds”.

You can check out our broadband here. According to BT it’s a lot faster than theirs 🙂 Broadband is broadband is broadband, right? Wrong.

Photo is of the BT ad. Serendipity eh. I only read a hard copy paper about once a year. I’m only doing so today cos I’m en route to Laandan on a rare trip without my laptop. ISPA council, AGM & awards. Wish us luck:)

Update 6/7/2014 This subject is getting almost boring as I periodically meet people who get their broadband speed bits or bytes mixed up. When I point out the error of their ways they shrug it off. However to us purists it does matter 🙂


This blog post comes to you courtesy of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the excellent WordPress for Android app.

Business fun stuff ofcom

Smart SEO makes a difference – NewNet wholesale comms provider

Web presence makes a huge difference to your business these days. You need to be on the front page of Google search rankings or you ain’t on the web.

I’m not saying we are up there for every search term we would like – that’s work in progress. However NewNet, our wholesale business is very much getting it right.

Check out the two screenshots below. The first is the top of the page showing the results for the “wholesale comms provider” search term. NewNet comes top for both paid for and organic. The other organic results on that page are mostly BT and then Ofcom. The second just shows you the rest of the screen. Nice.

google rankings wholesale comms provider



broadband Business internet Regs

Rural broadband roll out slips by 2 years – National Audit Office #BDUK

Rural broadband roll out schedule slips

The National Audit Office Last Week spilled the beans that the rural broadband roll out schedule for the BDUK funded superfast broadband project was going to slip 2 years to 2017.

This is not good news. It’s not good news for the rural communities that desperately need faster internet access and it’s not good news for the government which has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment that the UK would have the “best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015”.

For those of us involved with this BDUK rollout it has been clear for some time that a 2015 completion was not achievable. Lincolnshire, which was one of the earlier counties to place its contract with BT already has a delivery completion date that ends in March 2016. Counties that are later in the contract placement cycle should expect to see 2017 on their schedules.

The slippages look to me to be down to a combination of red tape and resource. Red tape everywhere you look at it and resource constraints at BT. I’m told that Lincolnshire’s BDUK contract with BT slipped by 3 months as it got close to placement because BT couldn’t assign enough staff to the project (this could quite possibly have been because the delays caused by the red tape had knock on effects from elsewhere in the rollout pipeline).

The other comment made by the NAO relates to the fact that BT’s contribution to the pot would appear to currently be only 23% of the total as opposed to the matched investment that was trumpeted before this project started. Both BT and DCMS have vociferously denied that BT will come up short saying that not all of the projects have been committed to yet.

My own sources tell me that BT has seen a lower take up of superfast broadband in Cornwall than it had planned. This has allegedly affected the ROI model and consequently the amount of money that BT deems sensible to throw into the pot for subsequent rural rollouts.

You do need to look at this in two ways. Firstly the “Cornwall” model only worked in the first place because the EU funding brought the time to recoup BT’s investment down to 13 years (or so I’m told). A lower take up would push this time out further. You might take the view that 13+ years is a very long time to see a return on investment nowadays. However you might also think that this is a long term infrastructure investment for which BT will reap the benefits for decades to come and what difference does a year or two here and there make.

It would also appear from the NAO website that in June 2013, the government revised its target, and now aims to secure delivery of the rural broadband programme by December 2016, as well as 95 per cent superfast coverage by 2017. I missed that one. They kept it very quiet. The last time I heard was that they weren’t officially allowing County Councils to place contracts that extended beyond 1015 because of the need to have spent the funding by then but that they were giving an unofficial wink that it would be ok for them to do so.

I refer you to a post what I wrote1 in November 2011 saying there wasn’t much confidence in the industry that the government target (best superfast broadband in Europe by 2015) was in any way achievable.

The object here is not to gloat. In fact I’m not sure what the object is. Perhaps I’ll finish with some observations.

Firstly nobody should underestimate the importance of the UK having a fantastic broadband network. The competitiveness of UK PLC in the 21st century depends on it. This applies to both rural and urban areas. I’m pretty certain that the political classes understand this.

The red tape associated with dealing with any public source of funding is very thick and difficult to cut through. It is so in order to protect the hard earned (and seemingly easily taken from us) money that we hand over to the taxman from being ill spent.

Governments and the permanent administrative staff who toil on our behalf do not have a good track record in spending this money wisely when major projects are concerned. Who expects the HS2 high speed rail project to come in on budget? Certainly not the Mayor of London.

I don’t have the answer when it comes to red tape.

It has seemed for some time now that what is being done with the BDUK rollout is handing back a monopoly to BT. Realistically there is no one else in the game. Does it matter as long as the network gets rolled out? Some of this is down to the environment established by BDUK. Again we have to remember that the government does have a duty of care to ensure that the cash is wisely spent. Part of this is ensuring that critical national infrastructure, as is the broadband network, is in safe hands. In this case “safe hands” has been interpreted to mean “big network operator” which seems therefore to have locked everyone but BT out of the game.

It may well be that the economics of the countryside mean there is only room for one infrastructure supplier. There is healthy competition between BT and Virgin in more populated areas. There is now definitely no competition in rural areas.

I would like you to consider the following points for discussion:

The government splits off the rural bits of the Openreach network. BT can keep the bits that compete with Virgin.

This network is run in the same way as Network Rail. Perhaps its management could be periodically put out to tender.

The government (us) funds a complete fibre rollout to all communities (Fibre to the Premises or FTTP) covered by this network.

The money for this comes from the scrapping of the HS2 project which sounds as if it could be hugely more expensive than is currently budgeted and in many people’s view a waste of time.

The fact that we were never going to achieve a 2015 date for “the best superfast broadband network in Europe” is almost a moot point. You can understand why politicians like to make statements that puts them in a good light. Although the will was still there I think they realised early on that it was a mistake so make this statement as the focus changed to “what constitutes the best superfast broadband network” together with some b”!!5&*t about putting together a scorecard to measure it. I haven’t heard anything about the scorecard in some time.

None of the political bluster really matters. At the end of the day the only sensible objective is for the UK to have a complete fibre to the premises network and to have this sooner rather than later. We can’t use traditional business case benefit methodologies to find out if this makes sense. I’m sure that this is how they worked out the ROI for HS2. Nobody really understands what benefits will accrue from a universal fibre network. This therefore requires a leap of faith on the part of the government and unfortunately this is a risk they are unlikely to take.

I realise that handing part of a private company back to what would effectively be public ownership sounds counter intuitive. People have criticised BT’s costs. Whatever people say about BT’s cost and overhead base it is difficult to imagine a scenario where a publicly owned company without a profit motive would do better.  BT does actually maintain that its cost per metre benchmarks very well against similar networks in other countries and I wouldn’t want to argue the point.

It could be a bullet we should bite. Service provision could be provided by BT, Virgin, Timico or any other ISP who cared to do the business. It would just be a matter of buying wholesale bandwidth off the new company and sending out a router. It would provide for a properly competitive market.

Government intervention is the only way this is going to happen and would have the added benefit of consigning the utterly pathetic 2Mbps Universal Service Obligation (or whatever it is called these days) to the recycle bin.


1 Some of my writing has been influenced by the plays of Mr Ernest Wise.

broadband Business

Connectivity conversation in the Isle of Man

Manx Telecom broadband

Was chatting about broadband to a neighbour of my Mam and Dad in the pub near their house this weekend. He has to ration the use of the internet between his kids who all want it for different applications at the same time – Xbox Live, iPlayer etc. Unfortunately Manx Telecom still operates ADSL2+ and his connection isn’t fast enough to run the whole family’s internet needs simultaneously.

This unfortunately is what a monopoly does for you. We are lucky in the UK that we have Virgin. Virgin is what will have driven BT to invest in FTTX. Nothing else. What other motivator would it have had. In a monopolistic situation if I were the incumbent I’d be squeezing my assets for all their worth. Manx Telecom is a private company and I guess is doing just that.

Footnote 7//7/2014 Last time I was home in Peel in the Isle of Man I had a very mixed experience with mam and dad’s wifi. I have to say that the tech support lady was top notch. She patiently waited whilst I went through the motions of testing the router, upgrading to the most recent firmware (ours was yonks out of date) etc.

In the end we concluded that mam and dad needed a new router. Next time I’m over I’ll pop into the Manx Telecom shop and pick one up. Timico did offer to send one but mam and dad are knocking on a bit. the last thing they need is to find themselves trying to call Manx Telecom for support only to find that they have an unsupported router.

Look out for some holiday posts from the Isle of Man this August. It’s my favourite place to go on holiday. Innit:)

Finally on a totally different note Manx Telecom were used as a test bed for 3G by O2 way back in the day.

broadband Business

BT only game in rural town

Rural broadband providers drop out of BDUK competition leaving BT only game in village.

I hear that Fujitsu has withdrawn from the race for the BDUK funding. It always seemed strange to me that Fujitsu would be chasing the contracts in the first place. Someone like Virgin maybe companies with an established network and pedigree in the UK.

Its a shame for rural areas that Virgin didn’t see any economic sense in pursuing the farming market.

Unfortunately we are heading back to a BT monopoly for many areas of the country. The shame is that this doesn’t make it efficient for me and you, the taxpayer that is handing their cash to BT to “service” rural communities. There is no incentive for BT to cut costs.

broadband Engineer

And then there was light

News today is they are electing a new Pope and I have a working broadband line. It was fixed this lunchtime by BT’s Lincoln area ops manager who turned up at our house with two new VDSL modems – just in case one of them didn’t work, fair play. It took ten seconds to unplug the old one and plug in the new and hey presto, it lit up.  Where there was darkness now there is light. It is better to light one small candle than to sit alone in the darkness etc etc etc1.

The Davies household has now breathed a collective sigh of relief. It’s a bit like the feeling you have when your petrol tank goes from nearly empty to full. You feel you can go places.

I’m not going to dwell too much in this incident but I do feel it is worth a little post mortem on how it was fixed.

Yesterday our NOC asked for the ticket to be escalated – basically raised up the priority list to ensure that someone did turn up at the next appointment. Today the escalation was rejected – it would appear that three engineering no-shows was not sufficient reason for escalation.

Also yesterday I dropped BT’s regional director an informational note linking to the blog post and highlighting the fact that it had been covered by The Register, ISPReview and quite possibly elsewhere. I also said that the next appointment was set for Friday – the first day I would be able to work from home and thus be around to let an engineer in. It was a belt and braces approach to making sure that someone turned up on Friday. It wasn’t in anyone’s interests for there to be another no show.

The issue was processed at director level and this morning the BT ops manager rang my wife to ask if he could pop around this afternoon which as you know he did to smiles all round.

Apparently over the last twelve days or so the volume of tickets requiring engineering visits has shot up. My solution is not scalable. I can’t drop BT senior management a note for every customer fault and not everyone venting their frustrations in a blog post is going to have that blog post covered in the mainstream media.

Lets hope there will be a lesson or two learn’t from the incident, though I fear not. BT has a huge organisation to run and change is not easy. I did ask whether the 1,000 engineers being taken on by Openreach would help but I’m told that they are specifically targeted at supporting BTVision which is unlikely to influence resource levels on FTTC.

Fibre broadband modem light at the end of the FTTC tunnel. Tune in tomorrow for the next exciting blog post from

That’s all…

1 I realise that one is not totally relevant but I thought I’d stick it in anyway 🙂

broadband Business Net

The BT engineering visit lottery – get yer tickets ere

Broadband engineering visit lottery results in 3 cancelled appointments.

BT has some great engineers on the ground. I witnessed one in action recently when he did some troubleshooting on my line and found a corroded pair of wires creating noise. The knock on effect was a modulated line with slower speeds. It was fixed. Great.

On Thursday Mrs Davies called me whilst I was in London to say “the internet isn’t working”. Now I love her a lot but whenever she says the internet isn’t working it is working and usually it is down to user error with whichever gadget she happens to be playing with. Either that or Microsoft software.

On this occasion I got home and found that indeed “the internet wasn’t working”! A quick skeet showed me that the VDSL modem was kaput. A technical term for “knackered” – from the same school as vorchsprung dorch technik (or however they spell it). It’s kind of ok because we all have mobile connectivity in our house. Frustrating for my wife who has grown used to “lightning” speed connectivity. Lots of “” in this post btw.

The upshot of it is largely that the kids couldn’t play Xbox live games and she who must be obeyed could not catch up with the Hairy Bikers on the iPad in the kitchen. Not the end of the world I’d say but certainly noticeable from a family feedback perspective.

My parting shot on the way in on Friday was “Not to worry” and “I’ll get someone out with a new modem”.

4g Business mobile connectivity ofcom

4G spectrum auctions – bidders include BT

Trefor DaviesOfcom has announced the bidders in the 4G spectrum auctions. There are seven in total. Thought about bidding myself but I didn’t really have a firm plan of what to do with it if we managed to secure the spectrum.

The bidders include all the ones you would have expected – EE, O2, Vodafone and 3 in their various official corporate guises. Also PCCW who already offer a limited 4G fixed line replacement service in the UK. Then we have a company called MLL Telecom which has existing mobile spectrum licenses and provides managed networks  in the UK.

Finally, and perhaps most interesting, is Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited, otherwise known as BT. This business was only registered in June of this year and has already had two name changes: initially BT Facilities Services Limited (until sept 2012) and then BT Ninety-Two Limited (changed only last month).

I don’t have any inside track here – BT is being very tight lipped regarding their plans – but if I were a betting man I’d say this was another step on the road to BT becoming a fully fledged mobile network operator, again.

At some stage after divesting itself of Cellnet BT realised it needed to be in mobile and so is now an MVNO, partnering with Vodafone.  Buying 4G spectrum would be a natural step forward here.

Modern 4G kit is very flexible and can carry multiple operators networks – both in the modem and in VLANs applied to the various backhaul circuits. BT, with its own spectrum would be able to easily launch 4G services piggy backing on someone else’s existing infrastructure and the company has good relationships with both Voda (through the MVNO) and EE from its work in the Cornwall superfast broadband project.  Indeed the company won an award earlier this year for demonstrating the solution that could be used in a country wide 4G rollout.

It would be a big move for BT, upping its mobile ante, especially as the incumbent mobile operators are fighting a headwind of revenue erosion, but converged networks are the way forward and for a company of BT’s size it has to have a mobile play.

That’s my bet and I’m sticking with it. We will find out soon enough.

broadband Business

#FTTC video outtakes #broadband #fibre

Broadband video case study – the outtakes

Just browsing through some bits of video left on the cutting room floor after we finished the FTTC case study. Thought a couple or three might be of interest.

The first one was taken with a GoPro camera positioned inside the cabinet filming the door opening and the Openreach engineer coming in to do some work. In this one you can see one of the cameramen filming the cab from the outside.

Bit like the David Attenborough nature stuff where at the end of the programme they show you how they did the filming. Nothing particularly dramatic such as a close encounter with a shark or a yeti. We were however filming outside a school and a very concerned headmaster did come out so see what was going on. He went away though I sensed that he would have been happier if he had shooed us away.

The second film is a short one taken from the outside with the open cabinet so that you can see the workings. No GoPro camera inside this time – obv we had to do multiple takes to get all the different angles in.

The third is one I took of the BT crowd in my conservatory. Of course you only see me in the case study but in actual fact there was a huge support team including the outside catering van, make up artists, continuity, clapperboy, director, producer, personal masseuse etc – you get the drift. I couldn’t fit them all in the conservatory so you get four.

Some of them will be at my Xmas bash so if you are coming to that you will be able to chat with them in person. Not often you get the chance to meet the people behind the movie eh?

Some of you have asked for a video showing the process of the installation. I didn’t get any of that off the production team but I will ask. Bear with…

broadband Business

Superfast broadband video case study by Timico and Openreach

Superfast broadband video case study

Never before seen footage of the inside of the Davies household now viewable on tinterweb.”

This is it, the video you’ve all been waiting for. Well I have anyway. A few weeks ago we shot some footage around and about Lincoln and chez Davies for a video case study of a Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) aka superfast fibre broadband installation.

Get your popcorn and fizzy drinks ready and settle in to your favourite armchair to watch this much anticipated movie. I don’t have an agent yet but if any major studios are interested in talking then you know how to get hold of me.

That’s all folks 🙂

Link to what BT has on their website

4g Business

4 G E E L T E 4 ME?

4G EE LTEEE is doing a good job at building up market expectation. Today the mobile network operator launched its pricing plans, available from the end of this month.

Consumers can have unlimited calls and texts with 500MB of data for £36. Remembering that I used 60MB of data in one minute on the O2 LTE trials I suspect that not many people will stay on this plan. The options are:

500MB £36
1GB £41
3GB £46
5GB £51
8GB £56

I assume that this comes with a phone though it isn’t clear. Their site suggests you can get the Nokia Lumia 920, 820, Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE and Note 2 LTE, HTC One XL and the iPhone5 plus a few other also rans (sorry).

If you use up your data allowance you won’t be able to access the internet until you buy a data add-on (ok). It isn’t entirely clear but it looks like the cost of a data add on is £6 for 500MB or £15 for 2GB so it makes sense to get your plan right in the first place.

I note there is a roaming package for £5 a month though this doesn’t seem to apply to data which in my mind is what I am most likely to use when roaming – checking restaurants, bars, local attractions (library locations etc).

The speeds are quoted at 8 – 12Mps on average.

It also looks as if they will not be blocking VoIP

Business ofcom Regs

So much to do so little time…

Not sure whether I mentioned it but I’m off on holiday after this week – going to see the London2012  Olympics.

You would think that the world would drop everything and focus on the biggest sporting event to hit the UK (ok mostly London) since ever. I’m amazed at how much is still going on in the world of internet legislation. So much so that most of it will have to be left to others for comment.

We have consultations over the Draft Communications Data Bill. Then the Interception of Communications Commissioner has published his annual report – interesting reading I’m sure.

Oh and did you know that the Welsh Government (iechyd da)  announced that it has selected BT to implement the Next Generation Broadband Project for Wales. BT was also the successful bidder in North Yorkshire which has become first county to deploy BDUK broadband (if I can call it that). Note the Welsh Government is also launching a Business Crime Unit.

Next up is EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes who has outlined the European Commission’s general conclusions following on from last year’s consultation on wholesale access to telecoms networks – good stuff.

You don’t need me to tell you that Ofcom has published its Communications Market Report for 2012 – I’ll definitely be reading that but not whilst I am on holiday.

You may not have noticed that the IP Crime Group, which was formed in 2004 by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to bring together experts from industry, enforcement agencies and Government to work together on piracy and counterfeiting issues, has published its latest annual report.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills launched a consultation on enhancing consumer confidence by clarifying consumer law. In addition to goods, the consultation also looks at services and digital content.

Finally uSwitch has published a report on broadband billing.

All exciting stuff eh? Unfortunately you will have to gen up on all this yourselves as I won’t have time to do it. All good reading for when you’re on the beach.


PS Lists and links have very kindly been provided by ISPA.

broadband Business

FTTC Update – Light at the End of the Fibre (Almost)

GPO cabinet 10 in LincolnBT FTTC cabinet 10 in LincolnFibre broadband install

Looks like my FTTC cab is in situ at last – progress. I think I have found out why there is a delay to the fibre broadband install though. The old cabinet (number 10 in Lincoln) is full. There is no space to feed in any fibre tails so it is going to need a new and bigger pressed Aluminium cab fitting.

I got this from the Openreach engineer who has just been to sort something out for me. He checked the cab and indeed it was chocker.

The work involved in fitting the new one is just a couple ofGPO cabinet 10 in Lincoln - right next to a pedestrian crossing days but I guess that Openreach will have had to reapply for planning permission. To complicate matters the old cab is on the pavement right next to a school pedestrian crossing. There will be some umming and aahing in the planning department over this one.

In the first photo on the right you can see where they dug in the new duct work leading to the existing chamber on the corner – there is no way this cab would have fitted next to the existing one by the pedestrian crossing. Note of course the cab wasthe old GPO cabinet 10 in Lincoln probably there before the crossing – they used horses in them days.

The last photo is a close up of the “full” old cab. One does wonder why they didn’t apply for planning permission for the new shell at the same time as the new FTTC cab.

The planning permission bit is guess work but I’m probably not far off the money.

4g Business mobile connectivity Net

Global Telecoms Business Innovations Awards

ballroom at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel for the Global Telecoms Business Innovation AwardsHad a great night at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel. I was there as a guest of BT Wholesale for the annual Global Telecoms Business Innovations Awards. My hosts won an award for their work with mobile network operator Everything Everywhere in rolling out 4G infrastructure that allowed the sharing of backhaul connectivity. Basically you can now have multiple VLANs terminating at different nodes. In the Cornwall project the BT POP was in Bristol and EE in London (I might be wrong with the specifics here – lemonade has a funny way of playing tricks with my memory but you get the gist).

The video below is of Chet Patel, MD of Markets at BT Wholesale and David Salam of Everything Everywhere picking up the awards which I’m sure will find a treasured spot in their respective HQ receptions 🙂

It’s a serious power networking evening and well worth going if you get an invite. BT won another award with Genband, the company that  Timico partners with for our VoIP infrastructure.

My sincere thanks go to Dave Axam at BT for being such a welcoming host. I’ll be writing up the 4G aspects of the Cornwall project sometime soon. 4G was used to provide internet connectivity for some of the more inaccessible parts of the county.

28/9/13 update – comparison of O2, EE and Vodafone 4G networks in London

Business online safety Regs

EU cookie legislation – a look at some of the implementations

EU Cookie Directive 2009/136/ec of the European ParliamentUK Cookie legislation  (DIRECTIVE 2009/136/EC) became law on May 25th 2011. This is the one where websites are meant to give you the opportunity to opt out of visiting them if they are using cookies. Cookies can be very “invasive of privacy” though in varying degrees and some potentially not at all. The law, whilst being passed with good intentions has had some unintended consequences, notably affecting some cookie functionality that is useful and likely unintrusive.

I imagine that most of us with a website use Google Analytics. We all like to look at our traffic levels – well I do anyway. There has been some confusion as to exactly what is being required of website owners – rumours for example that sites only using Google Analytics cookies would not be made to comply as GA was “beneficial and not intrusive”.

You may or may not know that I am on the Information Commissioner’s Office Technology Reference Panel. This is an expert body of representatives from stakeholder groups in information and technology related industry sectors.

The ICO, which is the industry regulator, has given the UK a year to implement the cookie directive. This year is up at the end of this month and naturally there has been press comment and a flurry of businesses making adjustments to their websites in an attempt at compliance.

One year on exactly what will the ICO do re enforcing the law

broadband Business

It’s Nice When Someone Impresses When You Are Not Expecting It – BT Wholesale Broadband Performance

My home ADSL has occasionally been causing me issues with the broadband performance dropping right off. I know it isn’t the Timico network because I can see our network utilisation and when I have problems at home there is plenty of capacity available in our backhauls.

So gnashing my teeth I blamed BT and pulled a favour. As a one off they took a look at the Lincoln exchange to see if it was suffering congestion. Blow me down if they didn’t send me a graph showing that usage never get near capacity.

Business piracy

Who will sue who next?

Good old BT has stepped into the litigation fray and is suing Google for patent infringement. Yay. It doesn’t seem like yesterday that BT was in court trying to extract cash from US ISP Prodigy over its use of HTTP links.

What a world this is becoming. I recognise that Intellectual Property needs protection but it does seem at times that the feeding frenzy is doing nobody any good other than a global community of lawyers .

You can almost picture the scene, the birds of prey (legal eagles),  hovering at a safe distance, kept aloft by the thermal currents rising from the technology battlefield below.  If anyone wants to draw me a cartoon depicting this I will stick it in this post 🙂

It would be interesting to see how much the average price of a smart phone is driven up by the overhead incurred in legal fees spent defending patent litigation.

broadband datacentre Engineer

Domain Names for Sale – Protecting the Openreach Superfast Fibre Broadband Roadmap #fttc

Following yesterday’s post I can confirm that hyperfast-openreach, ultrafast-openreach and uberfast-openreach domains are available for sale for all suffixes. There is a domain name checker here if someone from Openreach wants to take a look. I can arrange purchase if they drop me a line. All part of the service. No problem.

They need to get in quick. We all know how difficult it is to bag a good domain name. It’e even worse these days because you also need to get the twitter name. It’s easy for people to hoover up twitter names because they are free. All you need is a load of email aliases.

Not that I’m encouraging you to go signing up new twitter accounts. That would be irresponsible. That’s all for now. I’m off to the Christmas Tweetup.

broadband Business

Superfast Broadband: Openreach Launches FTTC Exchange Availability Checker Map

BT Openreach has launched its own FTTC Exchange Availability Checker map (or in BT parlance Superfast fibre broadband map). This comes over a year after a similar tool was provided on this blog. Openreach asked me to pull that map.

This new one does go some way towards replacing the one on the blog though it doesn’t go into the detail by cabinet. I may look at reproducing it using just the exchange data – it is easy enough to do.

For now I will content myself with letting you know about Openreach’s version. No grudges.

Just a couple of observations re the Domain name Openreach is using – Following the recent discussion on prefixes I wonder whether BT has bagged the hyperfast-openreach, ultrafast-openreach and uberfast-openreach domains. They should don’t you think?

Finally I’m somewhat miffed to see that there is no date for my exchange in Lincoln although another exchange in the city has already been done.  If you live in North Hykeham you are quids in. Must be some benefits to living there I suppose.  Now Tref stop that. I can see why people get emotional over not having superfast fibre broadband.

If you want high quality superfast broadband for your business email me at [email protected].

broadband Engineer Net olympics

Olympics Broadband Numbers BT Style – #Olympics #LOCOG

Usain Bolt - billions of fans want to see him win at the London 2012 OlympicsThree years or so ago someone placed an order with BT. Uhuh!  But this was no ordinary order. The order read something like this:

  • 80,000 connections across 94 locations
  • 4,500 miles of internal cabling
  • 60Gb per second available bandwidth
  • 1,800 wireless access points
  • 16,500 telephone lines
  • 14,000 SIM cards
  • 14,000 cable TV outlets

Juicy eh?  If you were a BT salesman taking that Olympics broadband order you would be planning your retirement. Unfortunately it isn’t that simple.  This is what BT is providing for the 2012 London Olympic Games and the order was probably taken by CEO Ian Livingston himself1 .

There are other interesting numbers to dwell on.

broadband Business

When is a Spade Not a Spade? When it’s a Superspade! #BT

BT's new spade for digging through Tarmac and reducing the cost of civil engineeringNo surface is too tough for superspade. Grass and soil it doesn’t even notice. This baby likes to flex its muscles by digging up tarmac. In fact it is so soft on your hands that labourers using it are often mistaken for office workers (until they ask for four sugars in their tea and give the game away).

Most people have a whinge about BT somewhere in their portfolio of anecdotes. Last week I found myself in the slightlyBT's new spade for digging through Tarmac and reducing the cost of civil engineering unusual position of heaping praise on the company! Now I’m adding more positive comments!

BT Group has announced a series of innovations that on the face of it are largely aimed at reducing the cost of digging in fibre. These include:

  • a new spade that can cut through tarmac eliminating the need for a separate “civils “team
  • micro-trenching for faster deployment in environmentally sensitive areas
  • a mini DSLAM to provide cost effective coverage for low density areas and multi-tenant dwelling units (ie blocks of flats)
  • conductive concrete – a cost effective option for meeting electrical safety needs and which lowers civils costs
  • a polymer based plinth that allows faster, lower cost all-weather deployment and which is environmentally friendly and
  • a power supply infrastructure that removes the need for a meter installation visit and reduces deployment time by two weeks.

I can almost hear the deep intakes of breath and the look of amazement on your faces as you read this. I’m not sure whether your incredulity is down to not believing that BT could innovate in this space or whether you think that these developments are not particularly significant.

Well actually whilst each of these innovations may seem trivial what they collectively do is send out a signal that BT is trying to do something about the aspect of it’s business that is often criticised as being one of the barriers to cost effective fibre broadband rollout (FTTC & FTTP) and that is the cost of digging trenches.

When the Caio Report came out in 2009 it quoted a figure of £29Bn as the cost of rolling out fibre to every home in the UK. Of this something like £24Bn was supposedly the civil engineering cost.

Looking at it simplistically you can see that halving the cost of the civil engineering effort has a massive effect on the total cost of the network roll out with, presumably, a knock-on positive effect on the business case.

I have no idea how the announcements herein will affect the overall costs for BT. Only time will tell. For now at least the messaging is right.

broadband Business

Who Wants to Trial the 80Meg FTTC Broadband? #digitalbritain

BT is looking for a few good people to trial their 80/20 FTTC broadband product. Interested?

The title says it all. BT has announced the schedule for the 80Meg down 20Meg up Fibre To The Cabinet product and we will be looking for trialists.

The first stage of the process involves a change to the DSLAM profile.  This activity is already underway and should be completed by January. The new frequencies that allow FTTC broadband to run faster will also be programmed in to the Openreach OSS system by January to allow the line checker to work at the higher speed.

In early January there will be a limited technical trial with up to 150 existing customers followed by a wider trial with no restriction on numbers between Jan 28th and the end of March 2012. The only caveat here, apart from the usual guarantees that there are no guarantees, is that users participating in the trials must be able to get a minimum downstream speed of 15Mbit/s and a minimum upstream speed of 5Mbit/s on their existing FTTC.

Note the availability checker will only be able to show product variants of up to 40Mbps until the formal launch later in 2012.  It’s certainly an exciting week for FTTC news.

Note also it is quite possible that we are entering the domain of inadequate wifi performance on individual routers. Whether yours can handle 80Megs is something to consider.

Anyway if you are interested in testing the 80/20 FTTC broadband product drop me a line on [email protected] (obviously your cabinet has to be FTTC enabled!) and I will get back to you as soon as we have more info.

If you want to find out more about FTTC check out the resources here  . Commercials here.

broadband Engineer

Superfast Broadband: Pat on the Back for BT #FTTC

It’s fast moving this new web based world of ours. Some of it is faster moving than others.  This morning I woke up to the news (in the twitter stream – thanks to @ruskin147) that BT was looking to pull forward the rollout plans for “superfast” broadband. To do this the company is taking on an additional 520 engineers and bringing forward £300m of spend.

Competition is great. Clearly Virgin, with its 100Mbps service, is forcing the pace here. BT is saying that by 2014 it will be serving two thirds of the population with download speeds of 70 – 100Mbps.

I realise that I have occasionally been known to be a critic of those responsible for our national broadband infrastructure. On this occasion I’m going to hold back and say to BT:  Well done. This is a good decision. Keep it coming.

Business Regs surveillance & privacy

Newsbin2 court ruling means BT has to ask permission to perform maintenance on network

The High Court this morning ruled that BT would have to block Newzbin2 within 14 days and pay its own costs.  The ruling can be read here.

It’s an interesting read and seems to run roughshod over BT – there seem to be no guarantees that the same order would be made against other ISPs which puts BT at a competitive disadvantage.

Seems crazy, but BT also now needs to seek authorisation from the movie studios when it wants to perform maintenance on their Cleanfeed filtering system, if the studios don’t reply quickly, then BT can apply to the courts to be allowed to do this – extract from the ruling below:

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

BT Calling Time on 20CN Broadband #ipstream #datastream #retirement

I learned today that BT Wholesale is taking steps to phase out 20CN broadband products IP Stream and Datastream and is entering discussions with industry (ie me & others) re the future of SDSL.  I don’t think there were many Datastream based ISPSs (Tiscali being one that springs to mind) but the withdrawal of IP Stream  is good news for the many in the country whose broadband speeds are “up to 8Mbps” max.

The replacement will be based on 21CN technologies that include ADSL2+ ( “up to 24Mbps”) and FTTC (“up to 40Mbps) though if you live in an area that is only currently served with 8Megs I wouldn’t get your hopes up re the latter.

BT expects to have completed the withdrawals/migrations by the spring of 2014. It will go like a shot.

Whilst not part of the communication from BT I understand that the drivers for the change are partly equipment obsolescence and partly to stop spending cash on a 20CN network that still has growing demand.  Vendor support for the ADSL DSLAM kit is stopping and it doesn’t make sense to invest in the older more expensive 20CN network when to do so for 21CN is better all round.

ISPs like Timico will have plenty of time to migrate customers from one technology to the other and I imagine that these customers will by and large be eager to make the change.

SDSL is likely to be replaced by FTTC/FTTP.  There are far fewer exchanges supporting SDSL than ADSL and these will almost certainly be in more densely populated areas and near to businesses.

More news on this in due course and as necessary.

Footnote 1/7/11

Looks like I read the briefing in haste – so here is a leisurely repentance. Datastream is going UK wide.  IP Stream is only going within the WBC footprint. This means if you are an 8Mbps user in an area that already supports 24Mbps you will have to move over whether you like it or not.

Unfortunately for those on the digital  periphery it means that you will probably continue to get your old service.  Sorry to get anyone’s hopes up.


broadband Business

FTTx Update – BT Superfast Broadband Will Soon Surpass 5 Million Homes

At some point in the coming month BT’s superfast broadband service will surpass the 5 million home mark.

I’ve been a bit quiet on the fibre updates recently. I just sat in on a BT conference call on the subject. BT is contemplating changing the frequency specification on its “superfast” broadband product which will bring speeds potentially up to 80Mbps instead of the current 40Mbps.

I questioned whether this would reduce the reach of the service but apparently it increases it. The issues are potentially higher levels of cross talk and interference on lines but the higher frequency position is the standard that has been adopted elsewhere in the EU – must be ok then.

For punters it shouldn’t make any difference as BT is likely to specify both services at the same level. In other words they will say 80Megs and the underlying delivery technology will be irrelevant. This won’t quite be true because those benefitting from FTTP should get the stated maximum throughput whilst the FTTC lines will average out at a lower speed over their copper lines.

The current FTTP trials have slipped by 6 months. This is down to the odd technical hitch but also whilst BT gets a better handle on the delivery costs. By the end of the trials they should be in a position to decide what is the most cost effective technology. I can’t imagine it will be FTTP but am prepared to be pleasantly surprised. As it stands BT is currently sticking to its position that it will use FTTP for exchange fed lines and FTTC for cabinet fed with 25% of lines in areas where BT has targeted for FTTP being FTTP.

In the near term it won’t really make much difference to end users which flavour they get. Their usage behaviour doesn’t seem to change much whether they have 40Megs FTTC or 100Megs FTTP. This does suggest that the world has not yet produced services that need the faster speed. However build it and they will come, as the saying goes.
BT expects to pass its 5 millionth home with superfast broadband by the end of June 2011.