Thursday, 25 November 2010

Active Line Access (the new Wholesale)

NICC are busy standardising the way that service providers can use third parties' local loop or last mile access circuits, or to put it the other way around, the way that an access circuit provider opens their network to allow others to sell to their subscribers.

BT Wholesale's lavish HQ (nr. Gatwick)
BT have been doing this for years via the IPstream/Central products in the ADSL world, WBC in 21CN, WLR, LLU and all manner of other wholesale acronyms and it's no bad thing that these interfaces should be standardised; it levels the playing field and clarifies the demarcation between access and service providers.

I'm not sure it helps a community-built FTTH (or hybrid) network though.

Ostensibly it means that service providers will be queuing to connect to the digital village pump to gain access to the local tails, but given these providers weren't too keen to dig out to the village in the first place will they be any more keen to invest in accessing relatively small customer base?

BT wrap their wholesale services up with delivery options that brings the subscriber connections all the way to the service provider's premises (at a cost.)  Community networks who want to attract wholesale providers may need to do the same, and include backhaul in their offer.  This could be quite lucrative.

Unfortunately the BT wholesale model completely breaks the principle of community networks.  All traffic has to leave the customer, travel down the backhaul half way across the country to the third party service provider, and if need be travel back up the same backhaul to a neighbour's connection.

A neighbour of mine would like to use broadband for a simple CCTV application.  He has an office in the village and would like to view the camera there when he's at home, about a mile or so away.  He could do this using ADSL (which is available here, I'll write up that story another day) but both the office and home connections will get charged for usage, and from the service provider's point of view, there is significant network usage going on - the video stream would be carried from the local exchange up to London, turned around and sent back to the village to get to his home.

network geek humour
There's no way in the BT broadband model to optimise this, to cut out the backhaul, or implement local routing as it might be called, rather than the regional (or national) hubs that are currently implemented.

In fact it seems inevitable that all major carriers will implement their NGN services in this way as they see it as the standard method of "scaling" the network to the millions of subscribers that they hope for.   Whilst it might be easier on their infrastructure design and customer management systems, it is a lousy technical solution for local users.

It will probably also be enshrined in NICC's ALA standard.

The problem for community networks is that to object to this design is to object to the standard way of providing wholesale access, and that would be seen as being anti-competitive.

1 comment:

  1. Same applies to Sky and TalkTalk LLU presumably. Comes down to the cost of setting up and supporting it and the relatively tiny amounts of local traffic.