Category: Blog

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?

cables

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 G.fast, 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

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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 evolving.net.uk. 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 marketing@evolving-networks.co.uk. 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. Untitled 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 increasebroadbandspeed.co.uk 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

Reports suggest low uptake of connection vouchers

Recent reports by ISP Review indicate that there has been a significant lack of uptake for the Governments Connection Voucher Scheme. It seems that most businesses already have good broadband connections or simply cannot afford the monthly costs which the scheme does not cover. The scheme has been rather underwhelming with the amount of applicants opting in, this is an outcome that was not expected. Although there are said to be ‘thousands’ of applicants in the pipeline, only a small 4% (1,500) have actually been approved. This adds up to an average cost of about £2,300 which means that so far the total cost is likely to be £3.5 million out of the £100 million budget set. It must be said that the Government has tweaked the original scheme, such as lowering the minimum grant from £250 to £200 and also simplifying the application process so a business only needs to obtain one quote from one supplier as opposed to two. However, it appears uptake hasn’t improved much. Possibly due to the fact ADSL is not eligible for the scheme due to the fact that it isn’t a NGA technology and the vouchers are for newer and faster technologies, however for many smaller businesses the only real connection available is an ADSL line/connection. As it stands SME’s looking for broadband upgrades are unlikely to get them because fibre is not available in some areas of the UK. So far the scheme is drastically under budget, maybe suggesting that there was simply not enough initial research into the project. Perhaps it was the rush to keep up other countries and their broadband roll out schemes? Potentially because the scheme was brought out so quickly, the Government didn’t consider the businesses in urban areas who already have good broadband connections in place? It seems to be out of twenty two cities, both big and small, only 1,500 applicants have been approved. Could it be due to a lack of knowledge about the scheme itself or could it be because the vouchers are used for NGA technologies which may either be unavailable or too expensive for businesses? It seems that around 73% of premises in the UK do have access to FTTC, however there is still a relatively high percentage that cannot access it which is frustrating a lot of people. Although 73% is a high percentage, and a figure said to be climbing, it still doesn’t seem enough. We as a country have so many different broadband providers with a lot of money being put into fibre technologies. The concern is how long it will take to bring FTTC to all premises in the UK realistically, especially with the Connection Voucher Scheme only running till around March 2015. Well that only leaves about half a year to accept the remaining 96% of cases who want to use the vouchers for FTTC. As many will know, here at Evolving Networks we have been working with Connecting Cambridgeshire to push the DCMS to allow bonded ADSL to become part of the scheme. This would allow many SME’s to get support to implement bonded ADSL if they are unable to get FTTC. Also allow them to get better connectivity without incurring a very expensive cost of implementing a leased line. We promote the use of bonded ADSL because it is a reliable service that also provides the bandwidth many businesses need. Although Bonded ADSL is not the only connectivity solution we provide, it is our most popular product because not only is it available in every UK location but we are also the bonded ADSL specialists. The Evolving Networks Team

Fibre not available? What about Bonded ADSL?

Last week a customer with an 8x bonded ADSL connection from Evolving Networks saw download speeds of over 100Mbps. Proving that bonded ADSL is still very much a viable option for businesses struggling to find a better source of connectivity. Some people believe that ADSL is now an outdated technology and not up to technological advances in comparison to fibre. And with delays and problems with the current fibre roll out scheme, many people are believing they will have to settle for a poor performing single line or invest heavily in an expensive leased line. As we already know fibre isn’t available everywhere and for certain areas there isn’t even an indication of when it will become available. Also, like any other fixed line technology, fibre lines can go down and there is no in-built back up system to keep you connected. So before fibre seems like the be all and end all, we’d urge people to consider what else is out there. What about something that may save you money and boost your throughput whilst improving resilience and reducing downtime? What about bonded ADSL? Firstly every premises in the UK can access ADSL where there is a phone line. With Evolving Networks’ ability to bond any number of lines, you’re not limited to a set speed. A great example of the benefits of bonded ADSL for us is a customer of ours who are a school. Last week they breached speeds of 100Mbps with their 8x bonded ADSL connection. The school previously had a 4x connection but decided to upgrade the connection earlier this year based on the growing needs of their students and teachers. The school have been with us for around four years now and wanted to upgrade the connection in order to increase the available bandwidth on site. This is a fantastic development for bonded ADSL as it shows these speeds can be reached without the need for fibre. That’s not to say that we should dismiss fibre or the advantages that it can provide because here at Evolving Networks we bond FTTC as well as ADSL, Ethernet, EFM and any other fixed line technology. We also offer our customers a future proof promise so when fibre does become available, we’ll upgrade one of the existing lines free of charge. The simple fact is that it doesn’t matter where you are based in the UK, if your company is big or small and whether you have access to fibre or not, we will always have a connectivity solution to suit your needs. The Evolving Networks Team

Breaching 100Mbps with Bonded ADSL from Evolving Networks

Another important milestone has been reached with bonded ADSL connectivity from Evolving Networks. Kimbolton School, based in Cambridgeshire, has this week achieved download speeds of over 100Mbps.

Kimbolton School have been a customer of Evolving Networks since 2010, and earlier this year upgraded their 4x bonded ADSL connection to an 8x bonded ADSL solution with the intention of increasing the available bandwidth on site.

Their 4x bonded ADSL service saw download capabilities of around 40Mbps, but due to the demanding needs of their users and the changing way that schools use the internet, they required a connection even more robust.

With the upgrade to an 8x bonded ADSL connection, Kimbolton School also became the first customer of Evolving Networks with a virtual bonder running on their own VMware infrastructure.

Technical Support engineers at Evolving Networks have optimised the 8 lines and calibrated the virtual bonded internet gateway so the school can achieve speeds of over 100Mbps. Operating at full capacity the connection has the ability of reaching 115Mbps.

This is a significant development for Evolving Networks and a great success for bonded ADSL. Speeds of this nature are usually only achievable with NGA technologies, such as using combined fibre circuits.

Single ADSL lines operating at optimum performance can normally only reach download speeds of around 24Mbps. With Evolving Networks’ ability to bond any number of lines, with any variation of individual capability, Kimbolton School are able to reap the benefits of an already available traditional internet technology without the need for fibre.

If you would like to learn more about how bonded ADSL can help your business, call us today on 0330 55 55 333 or email sales@evolving-networks.co.uk.

UK Broadband ‘not fit for purpose’ – why not choose bonding?

The BBC published an interesting article this week (take a look here) about The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) comments that broadband in the UK is lacking ambition compared to other nations. FSB are urging the Government to deliver every UK home and business a minimum of 10Mbps by 2018/19, opposed to current plans for 95% of the UK to get a minimum of 24Mpbs by 2017. A key point they highlighted was that many small businesses in the UK are still suffering from dial-up speeds and only 15% are very happy with their current broadband set up. They are urging the Government to reconsider their plans and think the fibre rollout should be focusing predominately on business parks across the UK. They recommend ‘a new ambitious national broadband strategy’. The key point is that businesses in rural and city settings alike are still suffering from poor connectivity which is restricting their growth. Considering 94% of small businesses think their internet connection is critical for their success you’d have to agree. Of course BT, who we must not forget have been awarded every contract for the rollout, have defended their progress so far. They say that over 70% of premises have access to fibre connectivity currently which should rise to 90% over the next two years. But it appears this progress has mainly benefited residential users – there are many business parks still left in the dark. Perhaps this has something to do with the financial gain of enabling a cabinet for 200-300 homes rather than 40 to 50 businesses? The underlying message is that the UK is currently expecting 95% of premises to have access to a minimum of 24Mbps by 2017 which is a bit behind when it comes to other nations…for example South Korea who are anticipating everyone to have 1Gbps connections in the same timeframe. But the most significant part of this story for us is that there is an alternative option for businesses that isn’t to just go to your local council or get an expensive leased line (which the article rightly points out is not ideal for small businesses who can’t afford it). The answer? Bonding! We’re able to supply to businesses anywhere in the UK and can bond any number and any combination of fixed line technologies so there’s plenty of options available. We can improve throughputs, add resilience and protect you from downtime. We’ve also been on the case with the DCMS to try and get bonded ADSL eligible for Connection Vouchers as well and are so far making good progress. Nothing is confirmed 100% yet, but it means there could be more support available for smaller businesses. Bonding is often ignored and that is because there are providers out there who don’t do it effectively. But we’re different. We have a private network and actually buy more bandwidth than necessary to ensure our customers get the best connectivity all the time. We use our own hardware which is configured in house by our experts, the same experts who man our Technical Support desk. We’ve got features like QoS and Bandwidth Amplification and are constantly working on new ways to make connectivity even better. So maybe the FSB is right and the Government need to rethink the broadband strategy to match the progress of other nations. Or maybe the current scheme is going well and could finish ahead of schedule. But for right now and for the foreseeable future, Evolving Networks are going to be here. Able to bond in the most effective way possible to give any business the connectivity it needs. Find out more by calling 0330 55 55 333 or email sales@evolving-networks.co.uk. The Evolving Networks Team

The Chairman’s Broadband-Part 6: The dreaded Training Period

Once the first line has gone live (see Part 5), it is time for the first line of the connection to head into the training period. This is the time where we set a benchmark of how the line should perform, which then helps our engineers to spot any problems that may arise. In the case of our Chairman, he had a brand new FTTC line installed along with his old ADSL line that we migrated and upgraded to FTTC before bonding the two. As we deployed this with a phased approach, the first line was made live and then entered its training period. The training period lasts for 10 days and during this time the sync and throughput of the line fluctuate so the optimum stable rate can be determined. This may cause the line drop as it will sync higher than it is stable at. Once an optimum stable rate has been established and the training period has completed, the line will then sync at its fastest stable rate. If the line drops below this it will be flagged up to our engineers via eView Live and then they can identify and fix any potential problems. In the case of our Chairman, his first line has an optimum stable rate of 10Mbps down and 1.5Mbps up. In Part 7 of our story we will talk about these speeds in more detail and how they perform for our Chairman’s needs overall. Ben Wright – Operations Manager

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