Water and Electricity?
Stuart Cordingley, Daisy Group Plc’s Product and Marketing Director, said, “Broadband for business has grown to become a vital element in the fundamental workings of a company and the reach of this product extends to a mass world market.
Some are even saying that having broadband connectivity is equally important as having water and electricity. While this may be a little extreme, it is certainly true that businesses are wanting more and more from their chosen broadband supplier and this is not necessarily about cost.
Ofcom research has shown demand for bandwidth and speed is growing annually. Business customers are finding that if they want good service and reliability they have to look for something more than cheap, ‘no frills’ broadband.
At daisy, we want to keep our customers for the long haul, so it is in our best interest to ensure they remain happy with their broadband choices at all times. It is for this reason that our focus is on great performing, reliable businessready broadband models, which offer excellent value for money.
We are currently looking at future alternatives with Annex M that will offer speeds of up to 24Mbs download and 2.5Mbs upload. Annex M is part of the new 21CN services of broadband connectivity based on ADSL 2 + technology and works by using Rate Adaptive Technology. This means that each connection will synchronise with the DSLAM at the local exchange and sync up to the highest possible speed available.
We are also looking at options of a shared band product which will enable customers to benefit from combining up to four LLU connections and get the sum of the speed of four individual lines.
And as broadband continues to evolve, we will ensure our customers are given the option to upgrade their service in line with their everchanging business needs.
Voice ready broadband?
With the slowing down of PBX sales in the first part of 2009 many resellers are looking at hosted telephony solutions and their non- Capex model as an alternative revenue source so we asked NGN provider Opal for their views on the viability of voice ready broadband.
Andy Lockwood, Transformation Director, Opal, “Whilst positive steps are being made to enable business grade VOIP ready broadband, as an industry, we’re not quite there yet. The success of voice ready broadband depends on three key components– speed, quality and support and whilst progress has been made across all three of these areas, there remains room for improvement.
“Unlike using your broadband for web surfing, to hold a voice call you also require decent upstream speeds. Opal’s ADSL2+ broadband offers an upstream connection speed of up to 1Mbps, compared to the market standard of up to 400 Kbps offering two and a half times more voice carrying capacity.
In addition, Opal’s Annex M service boasts an uplink speed of up to 2.5 Mbps, with minimal impact on the download speed. This month Opal launched a brand new service, ‘Assured Rates’ which guarantees a minimum speed of at least 1.5 Mbps both up and down stream. Opal is also reviewing technologies such as circuit bonding and Ethernet First Mile which combine multiple broadband channels to give higher speeds in both directions.
“There is still a perception that using voice over broadband will be jittery and unstable. As well as having improved download speeds, the other way to overcome quality issues is by prioritising the voice traffic over other traffic (e.g. email and data). Opal has a major focus in this area and will launch a new service early next year which will enable the user to do exactly that – allowing businesses to isolate higher speeds to the services that require a faster bandwidth in order to operate successfully.
“Support is another key factor holding back the take up of voice ready broadband. Currently, the standard response time for BT Openreach broadband customers is 40 working hours – inconvenient if you’re a residential user but a catastrophe if you are a business. Whilst support response times remain slower than that of ISDN, it will be difficult to convince customers to make the switch. Opal is committed to reducing our response times and we’re trying to work with Openreach to make sure they do the same.
Darren Farnden, Head of Marketing at wholesale voice and data communications provider, Entanet, warns communications providers and resellers on the dangers of selling business broadband as a ‘commodity’.
“As broadband is increasingly touted as a ‘commodity product’, the important role it plays in terms of enabling businesses to run effectively risks being underestimated – by resellers and by end users.
Business customers now quite rightly expect their broadband service to be fit for purpose – and in their eyes that will mean that it must work and work well, 24/7. The reliability of networks has thus become vitally important for the communications providers and resellers who supply broadband connectivity.
“The majority of service providers deliver availability and performance of a decent standard but it’s important to remember that broadband can’t easily deliver guaranteed speed levels of bandwidth,” says Farnden. “Making sure there’s enough bandwidth to meet the needs of all users at all times is a complex equation. Network operators like ourselves have to constantly monitor their networks as the bandwidth needs of different customer groups vary. Some are tempted to push capacity to the limit because the more users they can squeeze into their capacity, the more profitable they become.”
But this might mean some users will get poor performance at times that are critical to their business. It’s perhaps no surprise then that some providers occasionally imply that they can deliver a bit more than they really can in order to entice users to buy their service. This is the danger of treating broadband like a commodity – every ISP can deliver the basic connectivity, but when you need higher levels of assured performance, some services are going to be much better than others.
So far, this hasn’t been too great a problem for business focused providers. However, that could change soon because of other technology developments gathering pace.
Farnden gives some examples: “The SaaS (Software as a Service) revolution is gaining momentum and the eponymous ‘Mountain View Chocolate Factory’ (aka Google) is churning out new business applications like there’s no tomorrow. Microsoft meanwhile is making noises about adopting an online model for Microsoft Office – and essentially making it free – as early as 2010.”
“Imagine a scenario in which all businesses suddenly switched over to using online, hosted apps instead of locally-installed programs. Demand for bandwidth would go through the roof, sending the performance levels of some communications providers crashing to the floor. The result would be uproar amongst end users and resellers that are virtually powerless to react because of their reliance on the communications providers.”
This is of course all about managing expectations and the danger for those providers and resellers who’ve inflated them is that they’ll struggle to meet those expectations as demand rises. “Whether they will have the ability to adapt and provide the additional bandwidth that will be needed remains to be seen,” says Farnden. “Even then, it will take time and the delivery of a consistent performance will depend on the communications provider’s ability to allocate and manage bandwidth efficiently.” Resellers who have chosen to work with a communications provider that’s been careful not to push its network capacity to breaking point, has full control of its own network and the experience and technical nous to manage it effectively, will be in a much better position to ensure that their broadband services continue to deliver the levels of service that their customers expect; and hang on to those customers as they move into the new era in which software (and just about every other IT service) is delivered across the web.
Broadband is Changing
broadband customer base in the challenging economic times. BT’s 21CN will deliver access to ADSL2+ technology to 75% of the UK by Spring 2011 and with their price reductions set for January 2010 leading technology to underpin value added services will become more affordable for businesses.
As a leading wholesale aggregator it’s important to be more than just an intelligent middle man; it’s about supporting our partners to change what is raw broadband product from the likes of BT, CW, Tiscali and Opal into a business quality service. We’ve invested heavily in our technology to allow our customers to use the services for business convergence applications and launched products such as “VoiceStream” delivering a guaranteed amount of voice channels over a broadband circuit. As well as this we’ve invested heavily in our network infrastructure to ensure our customers receive unparalleled reliability and I’m pleased to say as a result in 2009 we’ve had 100% core network uptime. The evolution of broadband services will just further affirm it as a commodity product. There are some business changing opportunities presented by new broadband technologies in the channel and it’s important to focus your attention on the changes to make your proposition more sticky.
More bandwidth and better quality of service is what’s needed to drive growth in VoIP, video conferencing and SaaS and it’s almost there. I’m excited for 2010 which will most certainly be the year that the cultural change of broadband took hold.”
Carl Thomas , Wholesale Manager at Fluidata says that broadband has come a long way since its inception.
“For businesses back in the day, it was seen as a key marketing and communication tool as companies paid through the roof to have a static website with five pages. Email was revolutionary, and was quickly seen as the main way to communicate with clients, with their permission or without.
Now with the advent of converged or unified systems, it’s not surprising to have a company use their broadband for phone calls, data, video and even an alarm system. The advance of broadband has been the key driver in so many industries, each with their own confusing terms and acronyms. FMC, UC, SIP, Telepresence, VOIP, IPCCTV. The list goes on, but the common factor is IP – Internet Protocol. All the aforementioned use the internet.
On it’s own, broadband is a cost effective method to transfer data, and because of it’s universal acceptance, is widespread across a number of mechanisms. Packaged with an IP application, broadband becomes fundamental for the efficient use of the respective device. For the channel, it provides a number of opportunities for vendors, distributors and system integrators alike to provide a necessary value add to their portfolio, and this is further pushed by the rise of alternative networks to use. This in itself has promoted competition and innovation in product development, and the channel has inevitably benefited from the options available. Now technologies such as Annex-M can help a reseller by going to market with an ISDN alternative, whilst also aggregating two or more to attack the leased line market.”
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