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improved internet connectivity to meet staff and pupils’ downloading requirements.
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Category: Blog

The ADSL2+ roll out has only taken 10 years

It’s 2007

Fixed rate ADSL has finally been supplanted by a new technology that is rate adaptive and gives up to 8mbps of bandwidth for those closest to their telephone exchange.

Looking back, the rollout of ADSL Max was child’s play. From my experience a majority of lines had a boost in bandwidth, both in download and upload (thanks to ADSL Max Premium), and it seemed to happen over night.

Of course it did have a roll out, and it did take longer than a single day, but what I remember is how it felt. I don’t remember any frustration over when a particular area would be upgraded. It just happened.

But 2007 was a special year. After Ofcom forced BT to unbundle their exchanges, ADSL2+ had been enabled in certain exchanges via LLU providers. Of course, they only did it where it made economic sense to do it – areas of high subscriber density, but it put pressure on BT to actually upgrade to this technology themselves.

And so this was the year that the BT rollout of ADSL2+ started.

We’re used to roll outs of broadband now

We’re used to the frustration of whether the new technology is coming soon to our location, of the delays in implementation, the over promising of bandwidth or reliability.

We’re used to the fact that most roll outs mean that those closest to the technology get a faster connection and those furthest away get nothing.

We’re now used to there being multiple roll outs at a time, where there weren’t really before.

ADSL2+, FTTC, FTTP, G.Fast. We currently have 4 broadband roll outs on the go, and none of them are finished.

And this is my point. After 10 years, the ADSL2+ roll out is finally looking like it might be coming to an end. Nationwide coverage of ADSL2+ by 2018.

I feel really sorry for those still on ADSL Max, and indeed those on less than 2mbps broadband where Max doesn’t even improve it for them.

One of the favourite things in my job is seeing customers get told that they have access to a new broadband technology and that we are upgrading them for free.

It’s people in those locations with the worst broadband that obviously experience the most relief.

And what’s really interesting to me is that most of them don’t scale back their number of lines. For customers where we have been bonding 7, 8 or even 9 ADSL Max lines together to give them a bandwidth of maybe 8-15mbps, and they suddenly can get FTTC, they have all kept that many lines.

The step change is obviously amazing if you go from 8mbps to 400mbps, or from 15mbps to 600mbps, but this is what business needs these days.

There’s a commercial reality to what locations get broadband first, or at all

We’ve blogged before about the commercial realities of rolling out new technology (particularly FTTC where you have to replace the local cabinets) and how there are economic pressures.

We’ve also passed comment on how living in a rural location offers many benefits that you shouldn’t expect elsewhere, and that asking for super fast broadband as a right is the same as saying you want a 4 lane motorway next to your door because you have a right to easy access to London. You have to take the rough with the smooth.

But despite it not being a universal right, I can’t help but feel that the rollouts of successor technologies to ADSL2+ could have been delayed a bit in order to finish the WBC 21CN upgrade programme.

Surely we could have helped those areas sooner than 10 years?

I wrote an email ten years ago saying “Good news, we are upgrading you to ADSL2+” that was sent to any customer about to benefit from the roll out, explaining what we need to do next and how we would make it seamless.

That email is still going out today as exchanges are upgraded and will do until next year at least. Surely it should have been obsolete a long time ago?

Another Bonding Supplier Goes – We’re Here To Stay!

Bye Bye Easynet

Easynet have had a bonded offering for many years.

It was always pretty restrictive. Based only on a basic implementation of MLPPP and only able to bond 2 or 4 lines (no odd, or greater numbers), it had slow failover reaction time, and was delivered over a highly contended network.

The Easynet Etherstream and Surestream bonded products also mandated fresh PSTN lines, so there was no easy migration or upgrade process for customers.

MDNX, Viatel, Solution1, Griffin

Easynet have been through many changes over the last few years. Bought by MDNX, which brought with it Viatel, Griffin and the Solution1 networks, this entity struggled to deliver a coherent offering.

But the bonded services stayed in the portfolio, until now.

The industry consolidating once again, Interoute bought Easynet.

As a result of that integration, they are withdrawing their Etherstream V and Etherstream A products – bonded FTTC and bonded ADSL to you and me.

Network upgrades always have casualties, and in this case it’s the loss of the Redback routers that accomplished the MLPPP bonding in their network.

They are also losing access to the Sky LLU broadband platform, which was only a carry over from the previous ownership of Easynet by Sky over a decade ago. Sky only bought Easynet in order to take its LLU platform and run with it.

MLPPP not Good Enough for SD-WAN

MLPPP is a very old fashioned way of bonding. In software overlay terms it is primitive and inflexible, albeit is based on an agreed standard.

Designed more for the ISDN era, it’s time has long been up, and its not surprising that Easynet is abandoning it.  MLPPP is not the kind of technology you can build new and innovative products like SD-WAN on, which is what businesses are asking for now.

Interoute are now pushing their Ethernet circuits to existing customers with Etherstream. For many people this just isn’t viable based on their location, or the depth of their pockets.

It also downgrades their resilience (we all know what happens to leased lines when popular UK datacentres go offline).

So to any customers of Easynet that want to continue benefiting from a resilient bonded internet connection, and also want to add advanced software-defined features such as VoIP prioritisation, zero-touch QoS and bandwidth amplification, Evolving Networks stand ready to help you out.

Evolving Networks Isn’t Going Anywhere

We never saw bonding as a stop gap technology and still don’t.

The industry has seen Upstream Internet close down, O2/BE Broadband withdraw its bonded product when purchased by Sky, Xrio go under, and now Easynet withdraw its bonded internet services.

There have been others of course too, those who try adding bonding to their portfolio, but never quite make it work.

Well we’re not going anywhere, and will continue to supply resilient, intelligent, flexible internet connections, based on bonding.

The UK’s First Software Defined Access Network

In November 2014, we started work on the next phase of our network expansion and evolution.

Entitled Project Awesome, it would be the biggest change to our network and the way we provision customer connections since the company’s inception in 2008.

We had already seen through substantial improvements to our network, such as moving to a dual datacentre virtualised platform, and seeing the addition of FTTC, EFM and LLU access technologies.

We also have always had a focus from Day 1 on monitoring and analytics, building data collection, analysis and presentation functions into the fabric of the network, and deeply integrated into sales and support provision.

Constant live analysis of throughput, circuit sync rates, latency and SNR margins, as well as core router CPU usage and other network metrics have been crucial to building a scalable, self-healing platform.

But this was something different, and so fundamental a change, that we took the view that we should build our new core infrastructure from scratch.

By Spring 2015, every new connection was being provisioned on this network. A complete replacement built in parallel and adopting new principles of network design and management.

In the same way that servers have redundant arrays of disks (RAID), so has our entire network been designed.

Over engineered. Redundant. Built at scale.

A pioneering use of Network Function Virtualisation (NFV), with the ability to provision quickly with commercial off the shelf hardware, and with the raw power of the protocol that binds the internet together (BGP), this platform is the first in the industry in the UK.

By November 2015, only a year since the planning phase, we had effected a full migration of our entire customer estate onto this new platform.

And that’s just the core network, now resilient across 4 geographical locations (with no limit), and fully cloud based.

Along with this migration came a wholesale change in the way we provision broadband.

A move from a single broadband network to 3 distinct DSL platforms. Each with isolated LNS clusters and RADIUS, and dedicated internet transit.

Each DSL platform is managed independently, is uncontended, and none of them share any points of presence, either in their wholesale connectivity with BT and LLU partners, or to each in the location of their LNSs.

By the end of 2015 every customer connection had the benefits of multi-platform DSL and next generation cloud core routing infrastructure.

No other network is like this in the world, and no one else is provisioning connectivity as we do.

And because of this huge leap in design, we were able to ride out the major UK network events of the last 18 months.

Sovereign House, Harbour Exchange, Telehouse North; all experienced big outages, but our customers didn’t experience any downtime at all.

And now we come to our latest improvement in network circuit diagnostics; an evolution in our AI.

Systems that automatically diagnose hardware and line faults without the need for human engineers.

With direct control of every network node, constant data feeds of telemetry and northbound integration by API to each DSL platform, we have not only eliminated the need for human intervention for a majority of broadband faults, we have delivered tangible performance benefits.

Less circuit downtime.

More bandwidth available.

More time for the connection to do what the customer needs it to do.

This is the UK’s first Software Defined Access Network.

Allowing us to take Software Defined Networking to the customers’ premises.

Future proof, over engineered, and always on.

A platform built for bonding, built for SD-WAN and built for whatever comes next.

Diversity in UK Broadband is here to stay

We live in an age where there is more diversity in how you can get an internet connection that ever.

It’s partly because the technology continues to evolve and providers innovate, but its also because, here in the UK, we never actually finish a roll out to all of the country.

We started with dial up, where anyone with a phone line could get on the internet, and then embarked upon a series of projects which never actually completed, and started revealing how the way the BT network has grown over time has not fit how we come to expect broadband to be delivered.

19th century technology

Making a phone call on a copper wire (technology that has been around since the 19th century) has, if we are to simplify, no bearing on the length of your phone line. Obviously it is more complex than that, but I’m sure no one ever said to you “I’m going to have to talk slower because I live miles away from my telephone exchange”.

The advent of what has come to be known as broadband, or more correctly the group of connection options under the banner DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), changed all that.

Sweating the investment of copper lines already laid in the ground has been vitally important for BT.

The junction boxes in our area still bear the name P.O. from when it was Post Office Telecoms and not BT.Post Office TelecomsIf you can make copper continue to work without digging up every single cable, then it’s a change in economics that’s basically astronomical.

DSL is the cheap option, and it certainly wasn’t dreamed of when the Post Office installed the copper lines down this street.

But because it creates a digital signal over an analogue phone line, there are limitations.

Broadband doesn’t like distance

I think its still surprising, although is an indictment to the industry, that the idea that your location is the determining factor in how much bandwidth your line can deliver, is still not widely understood by the population.

In particular the distance from a network node (exchange for ADSL, cabinet for VDSL/FTTC and how it determines the throughput is a matter of pure physics, and one that isn’t going to change any time soon.

What BT (and, let’s be clear, lots of other incumbent providers the world over) have been doing is start to move the DSL hardware closer to the customer. This means that you start shortening that length of copper, while not having to dig as much fibre optic cable into the ground.

Shortening the copper line means increasing the bandwidth.

Copper isn’t going anywhere

But copper is here to stay, and the so-called digital divide is just going to get wider.

The latest incarnation of DSL is termed It’s designed so that even shorter runs of copper give even greater bandwidths.

It’s designed so that it can mounted in a small remote node and distributed widely, getting closer to subscriber properties and so reduce the amount of copper.

But that isn’t what BT are doing. They are merely upgrading their existing green cabinets with DSLAMs.

By only upgrading the current cabinet infrastructure, they will only be improving the broadband of those customers closest to them.

If you already get FTTC that’s 10mbps (not the blistering 80mbps that is advertised), then if your cabinet gets upgraded to support, you will see absolutely no improvement.

And if the roll outs of ADSL2+ and FTTC are anything to go by, then won’t be put everywhere.

In fact I’m betting that less cabinets will be upgraded than were in the FTTC roll out.

So copper broadband is here to stay, and for all those who won’t have access to FTTC or at meaningful bandwidths, combining multiple connections together is the only viable way of improving that.

Make the most of diverse broadband connections

We can use this diversity to our advantage though. EFM, FTTP, Ethernet, along with metro scale Wi-Fi can all contribute to a bespoke range of connectivity options.

EFM for upload, ADSL for superior download.

FTTP is great for high bandwidths on the download, but multiple FTTCs can beat it on the upload.

We’ll always bond any technology that comes along, and certainly copper is going to play a vital role in the delivery of broadband in the UK for some time to come. We might as well use as much of it as we can.

We’ll always bond, no matter the technology

Making internet connections better

Evolving Networks was founded because we thought we could make internet connections better.

Bonding had been done before, but not well, and while strapping together multiple internet connections is only part of the story, it is the foundation that we work on with every connection we deliver.

Many companies have tried selling bonded ADSL, but none have had the right mindset when it comes to quality.

If a constituent line stops passing traffic, do you really want to wait 10 seconds, maybe more, for your connection to stop sending packets to it?

You’d really feel that if you were accessing a website at the time. You’d probably lose your VoIP call if you were on one.

Is that really bonding?

If there is a 10% “overhead” for each line that you add, is that really aggregating your bandwidth?

A 4x bonded connection shouldn’t have 40% less bandwidth than the 4 underlying lines – that’s crazy.

And of course if you bond contended lines, then you are asking for trouble.
This is what we’ve been up against, certainly in the UK.

So for those people who have tried bonding and are fearful of trying it again, let me make it very clear that we aren’t your average bonding provider.

When we do it, we do it well

Bonding internet connections together, with no increase in latency, with no loss of aggregated bandwidth, with instantaneous failover, uncontended and unlimited is the basis for every connection we sell.

We cracked that years ago, and have since been adding packet prioritisation for QoS, compression and other optimising techniques.

And we will keep on bonding, no matter the technology that comes our way.

When we started we bonded ADSL (1 and 2mbps fixed), ADSL Max and SDSL.

Now, even though the broadband industry cycle continues to turn, giving us first ADSL 2+, then FTTC, now FTTP and eventually G.Fast, we will keep on bonding.

Whatever technology comes our way, we’ll bond It

We will bond any and all of these things, in whatever combination works for our customers.

We were the first to bond ADSL and SDSL together. The first to bond FTTC.
We were first to bond ADSL 2+ and EFM, and now we are bonding FTTP and even Ethernet at gigabit speeds.

Businesses and consumers alike will always want more bandwidth, and will increasingly see resilience as what they have been seriously missing out on.

Bonding – not a stop gap

Bonding isn’t the stop gap technology so many always assumed it was.

And if its done well, gives a seamless, resilient, powerfully agile connection that can dramatically improve a business’s internet connection, or become the building block for a Software Defined WAN spanning many hundreds of sites.

Traditional SD-WANs use policy-based routing (PBR) and not bonding.

When you take the power you get from the true aggregated throughput of bonding and add on the other features of SD-WAN you get a seriously high quality connection, suitable for any corporate WAN.

Is Wireless Technology Ready To Serve The Final 5%?

Rural working

I recently came back from a working holiday in Dorset. We have friends who live in a beautiful little cottage in the middle of nowhere, and it’s a great retreat for the summer to house-sit there while our friends are away.

It’s on a farm right off the beaten track. It takes at least 15 minutes by car to get anywhere, often down single track roads. To say it’s rural is an understatement.

When we went last year, I had the joys of using a 2mbps ADSL connection. We got by though, and I was able to do basically everything I needed to do for work while on that connection. About the only normal practice we had to shelve was the automatic uploading of photos from our phones while on the Wi-Fi.

‘Fibre To The Mast’

This year we were treated to “Fibre To The Mast” technology. Yes, I kid you not, that’s how the marketing literature from the ISP explained it. I had a look outside and saw a small round receiver stuck to the side of the cottage.

So this was really what I would call a wireless broadband connection. The copper line running to the cottage was still connected, but only to be used as a good old-fashioned phone line.

My access to the internet had to go over the air waves, in a similar fashion to both Wi-Fi and cellular communications. In this case to a mast that must have been installed somewhere, or a transceiver mounted to the side of a building.

Marketing messages aside – and I think there is probably a whole other blog post to be written about “Fibre to the …” and how ridiculous that is – this was my first experience of a wireless ISP outside of using 2G/3G/4G for internet use.

Well the results were interesting.

On the pack from the ISP, they touted “superfast” speeds, ability to stream Netflix and iPlayer and, well, do anything you would normally do on an internet connection with a family these days. No buffering was a particular feature.

So what was my experience? Not particularly wonderful.

It’s not just about bandwidth

The bandwidth varied, and while it was most often much more than the 2mbps the old ADSL line used to give, it would fluctuate a lot from under 10mbps to about 22. Hardly superfast by any definition used widely.

But the bandwidth wasn’t what hampered my use on a daily basis. It was the latency, and sometimes the packet loss.

Generally, I was able to work fine and use all of our hosted and web applications (use the term cloud if you really want to). But page load times would vary considerably, and it was linked directly to the latency.

It would sit down at 20 or 30ms for ages, and then for no reason that I could perceive, or spot a pattern for, would climb right up to 1500-1800ms and basically stay there.

It would spike up and down, but only between range of maybe 800ms and up. It wasn’t even consistent.

I could detect no correlation with time of day, and there certainly wasn’t a link to what we were doing with the connection.

High latency slows you down

Latency that high will take a well-served website like the BBC and turn it into something that takes 8-10 seconds to load the page.

But the worst symptom was video streaming.

When you raise the latency like that, it can be a symptom of all sorts of things, but regardless of what it is, it makes it harder to create single flows of data at decent bandwidths.

The higher the latency, the more difficult it is to get to the bandwidth (if it’s there at all, as high latency can be a result of the congestion in a network – a lack of bandwidth because of sharing).

Netflix and iPlayer became basically unusable.

Here is why I know that time of day wasn’t a factor. Bringing my one-year-old daughter downstairs at 5am so she could watch Cbeebies on iPlayer while I staggered around, bleary eyed, making a cup of tea showed that it couldn’t have been congestion on the ISP network.

5am is hardly peak time for anyone but us parents.

Stuttering and laggy, we had to find an alternative to the “third parent” that is the TV on a number of occasions over the holiday. (No TV in the cottage by the way, in case you’re wondering why we are using the internet at all to stream).

Measure all the characteristics of a connection

As we at Evolving Networks have said since we started: we love bandwidth, but there’s much more to an internet service than bandwidth alone.

If you don’t keep latency, loss and jitter in check, then your internet connection will just get unusable.

So my question is this: is wireless technology ready to plug the gap for the final 5%?

I don’t think it is. But with talk of a 10mbps Universal Service Obligation, I can see wireless providers coming to the fore to sell supposedly superfast services where otherwise you would have to dig, in those rural areas like our friend’s cottage in Dorset.

My fear will be that on paper they are high bandwidth, but if we only narrow our focus to the bandwidth of the connection and not the other crucial measures of connection quality, then the problem of the final 5% will remain a problem.

Where Are All The FTTC Subscribers?


BT’s latest results

BT released their latest results last week, and as the BT Group encompasses not only the parts of the communication industry that serve all the others (think BT Openreach, BT Wholesale and parts of BT Global Services), but also the country’s largest actual ISP, the figures can be revealing.

Out of over 9.1 million broadband subscriptions, only 4.3 million are FTTC for BT Retail.

Just less than half of all of the biggest ISP’s lines are Fibre to the Cabinet (so called Fibre Broadband). The rest are good old-fashioned, obsolete ADSL.

Yet we are bombarded all the time with news of how many million premises have been passed with the BT and BDUK roll-outs and the supposedly high percentage of the country that can now get FTTC.

In fact, the latest figures released by BT show that 86% of the country can get FTTC.

What do the numbers really mean?

But here is where it starts getting woolly.

There are constant arguments about what “premises passed” means. Let alone how you get an accurate figure for the number of premises that are in the country anyway – a figure that is constantly changing.

Does this 86% figure of what BT say are 25 million premises passed count just residential dwellings?

Or does it include businesses?

If you look at the raw figures that come out of the BT Wholesale website to providers like us, then the latest figure (28 July 2016) is 25.5 million. But the column is labelled THP – or Total Homes Passed.

So that’s not businesses right? Who knows.

Residential preference

What our experience tells us, is that residential areas have always been given preference for FTTC upgrades than commercial areas.

It’s a simple matter of economics.

If you can get potentially 500 broadband subscriptions from cabinet 1 because its residential, and 30 from cabinet 2 because it’s a business park, which one do you think will pay itself back quicker?

Also, aren’t BT in the business of selling expensive Ethernet leased lines to businesses?

Wouldn’t want to damage that revenue stream would you?

Why are FTTC connections so low?

But coming back to the numbers, I find it interesting that not even half of the broadband connections at BT Retail are FTTC when they quote 86% coverage and rising.

There could be a number of factors at work here, and I say this from within the communications industry, so I could be being affected by being inside the bubble.

I am a believer that broadband in this country is too cheap, yet these figures would suggest that FTTC is too expensive for a large chunk of consumers, as they haven’t upgraded to it.

Maybe it’s not the cost, but the fact that they don’t consider they have any bandwidth issues with their current service.

Does that mean half of broadband users don’t need the upgraded speeds?

I’ve made another assumption there though, which is unfair.

Upgrading to FTTC doesn’t guarantee a jump in bandwidth, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’ll get “superfast” speeds, whatever they are. The jury is still out on whether that means 24mbps or 30mbps.

So if you have an 8mbps line and you can add £10 per month on your bill to get to 12mbps and upgrade to FTTC, is that worth doing?

There is of course the “hassle factor”. Until recently, all FTTC installations have required an Openreach engineer visit, which means potentially time off work, and disruption to your home.

You might need a new router or Wi-Fi device too and if you aren’t that tech savvy, then that’s just another reason not to do it. Inertia is a powerful force, especially with technology.

ADSL is here to stay

Whatever the numbers, and the cynic in me has always questioned the grandiose figures of how much of the country can now get fibre, ADSL is here to stay for a long, long time.

Fibre broadband, while an important addition to the telecoms mix in the UK, has not been the solution to every connectivity problem, and certainly not for small and medium sized businesses, that cannot afford a leased line, but are not in a residential street and therefore served by a fibre cabinet.

Our figures are clear. ADSL is still the dominant technology in UK broadband.

We bond FTTC, will bond, and any other broadband technology that comes along in the future.

But in 2016, even after the commercial roll out of FTTC is over, and the government have spent pretty much all they are going to on BDUK, it’s interesting that we’re still selling more ADSL than FTTC – just like BT.

We’ve Made Broadband More Reliable Than A Leased Line


A low for the UK communications industry

Last week was a low point for the communications industry in the UK, specifically for providers hosting routers and servers in two of the biggest datacentres in London.

On Wednesday there was an issue at Telecity’s Harbour Exchange (HEX), and on Thursday a problem at Telehouse North (THN). Both of these made the national news and were picked up by the BBC and other outlets as well as national newspapers, although their focus was almost entirely on the impact they had on broadband.

Their spin was even more directly targeted at BT broadband, either because as the largest residential ISP, they were affected the most, or because they think that all internet connectivity in the UK is from BT. That second point is a more complicated issue, which I’ll come back to soon, because it comes at the heart of what Evolving Networks does to protect against these issues, but it should also be noted that there was what was arguably a more pressing issue on those two days last week – leased lines went down.

Leased lines down

Ethernet circuits terminating through Harbour Exchange went down when it did (a power failure that could have been mitigated), and likewise on Thursday, those leased lines which ran from customer sites to Telehouse North were down for 5 and a half hours.

The problem at THN was also power related, and also should have been mitigated by battery backups and generators that are tested regularly. It wasn’t that many months ago that Sovereign House, another big datacentre in London had a power issue and didn’t just keep on functioning.

It is possible to keep servers and routers running and have power systems fail over, but in these instances, they did not, and clearly had problems getting the power working again even though each of those datacentres is billed as having redundant power systems.

But this is the point. Leased lines can go down. Leased lines do go down. And where is your 4 hour SLA when you are in hour 6 of not being able to run your business? We hear it all the time.

“A leased line is better isn’t it?”
“It’s more reliable – fact.”
“But I get a 4 hour SLA.”

Our answer to all of these things is to say that all circuits can go down, and for a variety of reasons. That we have seen many unreliable leased lines based on fibre ethernet right up to the server room of a customer. Not a copper pair in sight.

Our entire philosophy is different. We are unlike any other ISP in the industry. We assume every circuit is going to go down at some point, and work tirelessly to make sure each and every time they do, they only impact a customer minimally.

So how did broadband fare?

So let’s talk about how broadband connections fared last week. During those major datacentre power outages last week, there were many thousands of broadband lines that went down. Some came back within an hour because they ran through well run platforms, and some didn’t and waited until the power issues were fixed before they resumed.

I’ll let you into a secret. I love watching big network events now, because I get to see how the network we’ve built responds to them, and how it protects customer’s connectivity and in turn keeps their business running.

Thursday was a particularly good example, as the overall power outage lasted around 5 and a half hours. Running from just before 8am to about half past 1 in the afternoon. That’s a full morning offline if you had a leased line terminating in Telehouse North, floor 3.

We saw a number of lines drop at 7:53am, and then come back, but hardly any customers went offline, and those that did came back quickly. The vast majority of Evolving Networks customers didn’t notice when they came into work that morning, even though we still had hundreds of individual lines offline after 9am.

How we ensure resiliency

Now bonding the lines is obviously one of the first levels of resiliency. If you don’t have more than one circuit, then you can’t possibly hope to eliminate the downtime of these kinds of events.

But here is where we go several steps further.

We make sure that not all of the lines that run to a customer’s site go through the same broadband platform. Even the best designed and maintained LNS clusters can go offline, and even those which will allow reconnection of an ADSL or FTTC circuit through a different datacentre need time to allow that failover to take place, which takes several minutes (sometimes up to half an hour or more) to fully recover. Most don’t even do that, even though they may peer with BT in more than one place.

So not only do our customers benefit from a distribution of risk by having multiple DSL platforms for each bonded internet connection, they also benefit from our proactive management of those platforms, and what lines run where.

We go further than any other provider, by making sure that the different DSL platforms we use are also diverse where they host their routers. It’s no good having two different broadband LNS clusters, managed by different teams of engineers, only to find they are both on the third floor of Telehouse North…

We make sure that as far as is possible, the underlying circuits in any bonded ADSL or bonded FTTC connection are routed diversely, by DSL platform and by datacentre. This keeps them online. And it kept them online on Wednesday and Thursday last week, when people with more expensive leased lines were offline.

Is broadband more reliable than a leased line?

We’ve spent the last 8 years developing the network architecture, the tools, and the mind set to deliver just that.

Connectivity that is resilient, intelligent and agile.

Based on broadband.

Evolving Networks Launch New Website with New Domain

Evolving Networks are pleased to announce the launch of our brand new website registered to the new domain name This is a much needed development for the company and the new site showcases the extensive growth of Evolving Networks since the previous redesign in 2011.

The complete redesign is dramatically different from the previous site and features a fresh modern look suitable to the innovative nature of Evolving Networks as a whole. Careful considerations have been made into the sites navigation, content and imagery in order to make the visitor’s journey simplistic yet enjoyable.

With the new website comes new features including our brand new information video, a range of employee profiles, a current job vacancies listing, various navigational options and new ways to get in touch. We have also collated our blog posts, news stories and testimonials into one easy to view section.

Along with the fresh look was the need for a new domain. Nic Elliott, Technical Director at Evolving Networks said “The decision to host the website under a new domain name was a necessary step in the right direction for Evolving Networks and signifies the company as a registered, reputable business ISP in the UK.”

Evolving Networks are extremely pleased with the finished product and after months of hard work, feel the new website is reflective of the level of service we deliver to our customers.

We would urge all of our customers and visitors to take a look around at the new pages, watch our video and enjoy the site as much as we do.

Our Marketing team would love to hear your feedback on the new website. If you have any comments please email Thank you.

Openreach’s FTTC Availability Checker Not as Accurate as it Needs to be

BT Openreach has just updated (4 August 2014) it’s FTTC Availability Checker in order to supposedly give more accurate details for people searching for information on when they might get the Fibre to the Cabinet service (see above).

Unfortunately, because it only relies on a post code, it’s not even as accurate as the already existing full address checker that BT provide for general broadband availability (for ADSL and FTTC circuits), and looks like it will only serve to confuse consumers and businesses in a market already plagued with vagueness over the FTTC rollout.

How We’ve Checked FTTC Availability Until Now

Until this point, we have used a variety of checking tools and systems to build a clear picture of what broadband types are available at a given location, and what might be available in the future.

We’ve known for some years now that the BT Openreach Commercial Rollout of FTTC was favouring high density residential areas over business parks.  This was pure economics in the sense that in order to make a cabinet viable, it needs to have a certain amount of subscribers, and a likely percentage uptake of those subscribers.

In order to check availability, we look at the telephone exchange itself to see if it has been enabled for Fibre (FTTC and/or FTTP), or if it has a planned date (this date is normally quite vague).

We then run checks on a PSTN line (normal BT telephone number) from the location in question, and the full address.  If the PSTN and full address checker shows FTTC available, then great, we can place an order, but if not, then we need to dig further.

From the above checkers we can see whether the location is only served by Exchange Only lines (no FTTC I’m afraid), or if it does run to a cabinet (what BT Openreach call in the jargon a PCP – Primary Cross-connection Point).  We then get the Cabinet number, which has then allowed us to look up more detailed information about whether that cabinet is going to get FTTC.

We, like I’m sure a number of other organisations and consumers, have been using a website that until last week was a great source of information on cabinet level data. Unfortunately it was generated from information BT feel shouldn’t be in the public domain, and because they were launching their own supposedly “cabinet-level” checker, they forced the site to shut down.

What it gave us was a list of cabinets served by the given post code, and the current state of those cabinets.  It even included BDUK information, and some dates where possible for installation.  All in all it was very useful.  That unfortunately is not the case anymore, so we have had to start going through the raw data from BT ourselves, as the new Openreach checker is very much giving misleading or inaccurate data.

It may still be in “beta”, but the fact that better information exists in a raw format to Openreach partners, and that somebody already wrote a site that exploited it better, it seems odd that this new official site is so bad.

Have a question? Contact us on 0330 55 55 333

Consumers and Business have been misled for some time

The old Openreach checker was also a nightmare.  All it did was tell you if the telephone exchange you were connected to was upgraded for Fibre.  It had no location specific information at all, and so with the vast number of exchange catchment zones NOT getting fibre, it was very misleading.

It is a regular occurrence for our sales team to have to counter “I can get Fibre can’t I?” with “I’m really sorry, but it’s just not available”, because of this checker, and other ISPs making promises they couldn’t fulfil.

We also have instances where customers have not bought a bonded ADSL connection from us because they think FTTC is just round the corner, only to find that it has taken years, or in some cases hasn’t and will not arrive.

The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) projects have muddied this process even more, as although the extra government money is there to add more access to services such as FTTC, the information available from those projects is often sketchy.

As has been highlighted in select committee hearings in Parliament, in general the BDUK projects are left in the dark by BT over many aspects of delivery and availability, and often have only vague timelines without the ability to check a full address of PSTN number.

They also mix terms like Fibre and Superfast, which misleads consumers into thinking that as long as they get upgraded to FTTC, they will get Superfast (over 24mbps or 30mbps, depending on the definition – more vagueness) speeds at their house.

This is often not the case, with a minimum 2mbps still the target even for FTTC.

Checking FTTC Broadband with a PSTN (Normal Telephone Number)

Using a telephone number (BT of course), to check for broadband availability has long been the most accurate way of checking for broadband availability.

It’s been the way to check for ADSL, ADSL Max and ADSL2+ availability since broadband first came to the UK, and it has certainly always been the most accurate check of when the next technology will be available.

The trouble is, that even though work can be physically carried out (upgrading an exchange, installing a fibre node, replacing cabinets) for the BDUK projects, the BT Broadband Availability Checker is almost always kept in the dark.

The cabinet level information has existed for some time, and there are even hints as to pending availability by looking for Street Side DSLAMs (the FTTC Cabinets themselves) in the address checker, but the normal (historically most accurate) check of a PSTN will give no data for FTTC/P availability.

What we’ve seen happen is that FTTC has to be completely installed and available to order before it appears on the Broadband Availability Checker.

Importantly though, if it is available, a PSTN check will definitely give you an accurate result – or at least the MOST accurate result for whether you can get FTTC or not right now.  The speed estimates are another thing entirely… but that’s for another post.

Checking FTTC and ADSL Availability with a Full Address and Post Code

Checking with a full address and postcode for FTTC availability is a good way of seeing if a post code area is large, and served by more than one cabinet.

The full address checker can list all the address in a post code area if you just enter the post code, and you can then choose the most accurate address from the list, and also look at adjacent and neighbouring properties to check their FTTC status as well.

It is perfectly possible, and quite commonplace for a street or area to be served at different ends by different cabinets, and for one of those to be FTTC enabled, and another to not be.

This is where the problems of a post code only checker begin.

For locations that don’t show current FTTC availability, unless you can identify exactly which cabinet a property is served by, and then have a way of checking that cabinet directly, you can’t give a good indication of when FTTC may hit, or if it will hit at all.

Have a question? Contact us on 0330 55 55 333

Checking Broadband Availability with Just a Post Code

The new Openreach checker only uses a post code, so gets confused very easily when there are multiple cabinets serving a post code.

Take this post code as example: WV7 3BJ

These lucky people connected to the Albrighton exchange, have 3 cabinets serving their area and all have FTTC.

From information Evolving Networks has access to by being an Openreach partner, we can see these 3 cabinets (4, 8 and 9) are not part of the commercial rollout (which ended in Spring 2014 anyway), but they were all upgraded as part of the Shropshire BDUK project – Phase 11b.

These 3 cabinets are live right now with FTTC.

Yet the new Openreach checker gives a question mark, and says while it’s available in the area, they can’t tell if you can get it right now.


This is crazy, as if you look up every single full address in that post code area, every single one of them can get FTTC, through one of the 3 cabinets listed above, with speed estimates and all.

Cabinet Level Information for FTTC Checking

Cabinet level information is very useful, but you need to be sure what FTTC cabinet is serving your lines in order to use the information effectively.

As long as you can perform a full address search of a location or search using a PSTN number, you can get an accurate read of your cabinet number, and then the cabinet information becomes useful.

We’re still looking for comprehensive date information for BDUK phases, as they don’t appear to be collated in one place, although our friends at have produced a good list of BDUK projects and what their targets are.

New Openreach FTTC Availability Checker Doesn’t Identify Your Cabinet

The new BT Openreach FTTC Availability Checker doesn’t make any attempts to identify your cabinet, and so can’t give you a full run down of what FTTC you can or will get in the future.

Even the different statuses are odd.  After the simple “Accepting Orders” status, there are a full 5 distinct statuses which indicate you can get FTTC at some point, but they aren’t sure on the date.

Map Key

Our read of these is that they belong in the following order:

AO – Accepting orders

It should be available (but don’t count on it until you’ve done a full address and PSTN check!)


As above, you really need to do a full address and PSTN check, as you just won’t know otherwise

HD – High demand

Your cabinet has run out of FTTC capacity, so while you’re neighbours may have it, you just have to wait – and may have to wait months for an upgrade of the cabinet.

EA – Enabled area

Sometime in the next few months?? Quite vague.

CS – Coming Soon

6 months out – very vague

PA – Planned Area

18 months – the vaguest prediction, and in our experience the longer the lead time, the less likely it will happen in that predicted timeframe.

UR – Under review

There appears to be no way of getting more information about a cabinet under review, or when that review may conclude.  Don’t get your hopes up.

ES – Exploring Solutions

This is surely the most misleading definition, and attempts to give the most positive spin on all those areas that just won’t get FTTC any time soon (in the next 5 years).

NC – Not currently in plan?


Some of our searches have come up with NC which isn’t even on the new key, but was an old status, which may just indicate that not all the data has been updated yet.

Our Conclusion

The original BT Broadband Availability Checker (BBAC) has historically been the place to get an accurate check of the different broadband technologies, and when they become available.

Checking for when the 21CN rollout comes to an exchange, and when ADSL2+ will become available was achieved through this checker, and then when the FTTC commercial rollout started, it became the place to check for predicted dates for FTTC availability as well as predicted speeds for the service.

Now, not only does the BT Openreach website give misleading post code only information on FTTC availability, but the BBAC generally doesn’t get updated with BDUK information until the product is actually available to order.

In the absence of a definitive checker to find out not only what speeds you might get, but whether you will get FTTC at all in the next 5 years, we are making sure that all our customers and potential customers get a thorough check by a trained specialist, using data from all of the systems we have mentioned above, including cabinet level information we have obtained from Openreach directly.

In fact, we are rolling out this training to every staff member at Evolving Networks, so that everyone here understands how vague a promise FTTC availability is at the moment, and can help anyone phoning or emailing in with answering that important question.

Our development team are looking at creating a single master checking system that will have access to the cabinet level and full address data, along with BDUK project timescales as well, so that we can speed up the checking and quoting process.

We’d love to make this public, but considering Openreach have already forced a useful FTTC checker to shut down, it might be that we can’t go down that route.

As soon as we have something working, we’ll post an update here, but for now, if you want as accurate a check of your location as you can get for FTTC availability, don’t use the new Openreach checker.

We have the latest cabinet level information from BT, so phone or email one of us to get someone to do the digging for you, and build the story of how and when you might get FTTC.

Nic Elliott – Technical Director

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Have a question? Contact us on 0330 55 55 333