broadband Engineer

TalkTalk Ethernet Exchanges Added to List

Another quick update just to say I’ve now added the Talk Talk Business Ethernet and EFM exchanges to the lists in the Ethernet section of the blog. Also a statement from Virgin Media on the subject.

broadband Business Cloud virtualisation

EFM Growing at 53% Year-on-Year Driven By Need to Access Cloud

Rhossili beach far away in time

These days I back up all my family photos on both an external hard drive and online on Google+ (it’s free and so far I haven’t hit a limit).

In August I had two holidays. From surfing on the Gower I brought back 2GBytes of photos (not including those I took on the Galaxy S2 which automatically upload when in range of a wifi and most of which had done so before I got home).  Wild camping on the Isle of Mull generated 2.4Gigs of media including video.

That’s not only a lot of storage for one month’s activity but it is also a lot of bandwidth used to upload the photos to Google+. Assuming my home ADSL does 1Mbps upload speed, which it doesn’t, and assuming no packet headers, which there will be, it would take me around 10 hours to upload that lot.

In the office I have a 100Mbps connection and the whole of August can be uploaded in the the background in a fairly short time. The bottleneck is probably the Google+ server at the other end though I am not familiar with Google’s i/o speeds for a given account if they have any.

With cloud services the upload speed, long ignored as secondary by the ISP community, is becoming a critical factor. At Timico our ADSL sales into the business sector are still increasing but at nowhere near the rate of Ethernet. Although an Ethernet circuit is of much higher value than an ADSL (or FTTC) line the number of lines is growing nicely.

The first 8 months of this year have seen an increase in Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) activity levels of 53% over the same period in 2010.

This is happening for a number of reasons. Firstly EFM is more reliable than ADSL and carries a Service Level Agreement. Secondly is the symmetrical performance – EFM can have up to 10Mbps upload as well as download. This combination is important because companies are increasingly using resources in the cloud as part of the day to day running of their business and many of these online resources, such as VoIP, are mission critical.

Large businesses have been using Ethernet for years – they were traditionally the only ones that could afford the cost. They also have the distributed systems and resources that requires the reliability and speed. Now SMBs are moving into the cloud – 48% of those in the UK according to VMware.

This means that there are going to be a lot more customers out there looking for higher upload speeds. At 10Mbps FTTC does bring faster upload but the FTTC footprint is still under construction. In the meantime there are over 2,000 EFM POPs out there (BT and TalkTalk) which probably cover a fairly high proportion of UK businesses.

Coming back to the photos the average size of jpg from my Canon Powershot is roughly 3MBytes – some more some less. This is for a 12Megapixel camera. Looking back 5 years I had a 4 Megapixel camera that produced 1MB jpgs. This suggests to me that in 2016 I will be taking 36Megapixel photos using 9 or 10MB of storage. My 4.4GB August family photo album would be more like 14GB which would still take 3 1/2 hours to upload even if I had a 10Mbps uplink speed.

It is easy to imagine that in 5 years time 10Mbps upload won’t be good enough for home use let alone business and that everyone will be looking for the next level up. It is also easy to imagine that people will find it hard to remember what the world was like before they lived in the cloud.

Business internet

BT Ethernet enabled exchanges

I’ve just posted a list of BT Ethernet enabled exchanges.  This is likely to be of interest to businesses looking to see whether they can get hold of either Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) or Metropolitan fibre Ethernet connecivity. 

The initial list contains exchanges enabled as of the end of 2009 with a list of those that go live this year below.

If anyone wants more info on this just mail me at [email protected]

Business internet Regs

Review of 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

broadband Business ofcom

The Demise of Fixed Broadband

A lively time is being had today at the BT Wholesale ISP Forum. The ISP world is fast moving and with so many changes going on – the move from ADSL Max to 21CN, the introduction of Fibre To The Cabinet, Ethernet in the First Mile – there are always lots of things to talk about.

We had a market presentation given by John Kiernan of the BT Market Research department.  This was largely a regurgitation of this year’s Ofcom Market Report but he also spoke about the move away from fixed broadband to mobile broadband. During the debate from the floor someone mentioned that at the Broadband World Forum in Paris yesterday the talk (presumably by the wireless network operators) was that  wireless broadband was expected to kill off fixed broadband by 2012.

I can’t see this happening in the UK anytime soon although I’m sure that wireless broadband is going to have a big part to play – I use it myself on the move.  Consumers especially are getting more and more tied in to bundles that include their fixed line, TV and broadband. Also fibre brings the potential to provide much faster speeds than are being discussed with wireless broadband (and I know that someone will now tell me you can get Gigabit wireless).

What does concern me is the increase in the pollution of the airwaves which will come with more and more wireless.  I realise we are told it is safe but…

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 🙂