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Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

Community Veteran
Posts: 13,877
Thanks: 506
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Registered: 01-08-2007

Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

PN,

I would be grateful if some PN reps would actually answer this topic instead of ignoring it.

There is a page on your site which raises some really interesting points. The page address is:
http://www.plus.net/features/network/technical_info.shtml

Quote
Extra Bandwidth
PlusNet continually invest to improve transit links in order to provide both extra bandwidth and resilience for their customers.


You recently clearly stated in several topics that a new pipe is somewhre in the region of £300,000 and that it is not viable for you to purchase it.

1) Why then, have you lied to me and told myself and many other visitors to your sales site, that you continually invest to improve your transit links?

2) Why are you NOT NOW continually investing to improve these links?

Quote
The BT high speed IP Network

BT invested heavily in a high-speed IP network - Colossus. Built using the very latest technologies, it is the future of Internet access in the UK and used solely for this purpose.

PlusNet uses this for the end-to-end connection between their customers and themselves.

BT plans to be 50% and 6 months ahead of customer demand, meaning Colossus will remain efficient. This investment also ensures that customer data won't suffer from packet loss or additional latency, due to high volume of Internet users.

PlusNet were one of the first UK ISPs to connect to Colossus, bringing their customers the benefits of Internet access via the UK's 21st Century Internet backbone.


3) If BT are planning ahead so well, why does your website seem to tell us all that our exchanges are contended?
a) BT are world leaders in communications. Why would they neglect exchanges that are struggling to cope with BB?
b) Why do you feel the need to blame BT for this?
c) Why don't you simply buy another pipe?
d) Referring to a), BT being world leaders are very unlikely to have defective communcations platforms. Why do you continue to insist that it is their fault?
e) When recently telling one of your CS reps that my MSN file transfers were very slow, he told me "MSN file transfers aren't very good anyway". Seeing as MSN are currently the world leaders in software development (and thus are the richest), how can this really be the case? - Isn't this just a case of PN attempting to cover the truth about their 'continual investment'?

4) Considering this is a 21st century method of connecting why is it so appallingly bad on your service?

I (and many others) eagerly await your reply.
I need a new signature... i'm bored of the old one!
32 REPLIES
N/A

Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

You're putting two and two together and making about five million there.

Transit has nothing, I repeat, absolutely nothing, to do with the connection between your ADSL modem and PlusNet. Transit is the connection between PlusNet and the rest of the internet.

The issues we've been having recently are not (for the most part) transit issues. They are issues with the BT Centrals - i.e. the hardware that provides the interface between the ADSL network (i.e. your ADSL modem) and PlusNet.

PN have openly said that the Centrals run full most of the time. That's fine, providing you manage the connections in such a way that everyone gets a reasonable slice of the available traffic.

There are, however, two problems with this:

1) The more customers you get, the smaller those individual slices get. This is the capacity problem that people have been mentioning, and PN have, somewhat reluctantly, at least hinted at this - there has been at least one reference to "over full" centrals.

2) If you don't manage a full connection properly, everyone suffers. Certain traffic - e.g. VoIP and gaming, and in many cases SSH absolutely must have low latency. They just don't function without. Others like HTTP need good speed, but not necessarily the best. This is what the Ellacoya hardware is supposed to achieve, and PN have also admitted they haven't been doing anything close to a good enough job of managing this over recent months.

The result of these two? The last week's train wreck. The whole lot came off the rails and customers rightly went ballistic (myself included). We got a promise that it would be fixed within 7 days. For many there has been a vast improvement, but for some it seems there hasn't. Time will tell.

This has all been covered in great depths in other threads, and it probably wasn't necessary to start another.

As for Colossus, I know nothing. That will take someone from PN to answer.
Plusnet Staff
Plusnet Staff
Posts: 12,169
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Registered: 04-04-2007

Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

Hi,

Quote
1) Why then, have you lied to me and told myself and many other visitors to your sales site, that you continually invest to improve your transit links?


The first thing to note is exactly what the transit links are, the transit links take the traffic from our network out to the Internet, for example via Level3, this is seperate to the central pipes that take traffic from BT's side of the network to us.

Quote
2) Why are you NOT NOW continually investing to improve these links?


We do, we constantly monitor the performance of our transit partners and also the wider marketplace, where another provider can offer better links we will look into it and invest in the core network infrastucture.

Quote
3) If BT are planning ahead so well, why does your website seem to tell us all that our exchanges are contended?


The Collosus network is something seperate to your local exchange. Collosus carries the IP data around the country however to get the traffic to Collosus from your local exchange the traffic has to travel along the backhaul links from exchange, it is this part of the network that the congestion kicks in.

Quote
b) Why do you feel the need to blame BT for this?


It isn't a case of blaming BT but BT providing us and other ISPs the data about the status of each exchange, you can check this data (it comes direct from BT in a spreadsheet each week) on the following page:

http://usertools.plus.net/exchanges/

as you can see of the 10 most searched for exchanges, 9 are currently reported as red by BT. In the past month BT have reported that about half the exchanges have been red.

Quote
c) Why don't you simply buy another pipe?


It would be nice if it was just as simple as that. The way we work is that the amount of capacity that we require is linked to the customer numbers and the revenue that they bring in. That's something that is at the heart of our business model. Purchasing additional capacity (bearing in mind that a 622Mbps pipe costs £1.75m per year and has an install fee of about £175k plus the hardware costs our side) has to be matched to revenue.

Now the commercial model is something that is being looked into, prompted in light of the BT Wholesale pricing changes as well as other factors.

Quote
d) Referring to a), BT being world leaders are very unlikely to have defective communcations platforms. Why do you continue to insist that it is their fault?


Depends what you are referring to, as I said above, half the exchanges have been reported as being red by BT themselves. Is that the only factor involved in the speed problems? No, there are problems our side too, the latest service status being:

http://usertools.plus.net/status/archive/1165508228.htm

Quote
e) When recently telling one of your CS reps that my MSN file transfers were very slow, he told me "MSN file transfers aren't very good anyway". Seeing as MSN are currently the world leaders in software development (and thus are the richest), how can this really be the case? - Isn't this just a case of PN attempting to cover the truth about their 'continual investment'?


If it's just a problem with MSN then it's likely to be MSN that's the problem, file transfer support within MSN isn't the greatest in the world and you generally won't get as fast a transfer as other methods and because it relies on the upload speed of the sender is also reliant on what they are using their connection for at the time as well as their upload speed.

Quote
4) Considering this is a 21st century method of connecting why is it so appallingly bad on your service?


What aspect are you saying is bad? When you consider the age of some of the copper wiring in the country it's amazing that some aspects work at all. With BT reporting lots of contention on the back of the Max upgrades and problems we've reported on service status, yeah it's far from perfect right now but we are working as hard as we can get it right on our side and BT are doing their level best to get the exchanges back to green
N/A

Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

Dave, think we've got all the bases covered between us. Smiley

As for MSN file transfers, I can only back up what has been said above - they're always slow, and even more so if either party is behind a router. MSN file transfers have been slow on every ISP I've ever used, and that's quite a few (including some non-UK ones too).
Community Veteran
Posts: 13,877
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Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

Actually I must confess I'm actually impressed that this topic got a PN reply on a sunday evening!

Won't comment on the rest tho..
I need a new signature... i'm bored of the old one!
Community Veteran
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Registered: 01-08-2007

Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

Quote

It would be nice if it was just as simple as that. The way we work is that the amount of capacity that we require is linked to the customer numbers and the revenue that they bring in. That's something that is at the heart of our business model. Purchasing additional capacity (bearing in mind that a 622Mbps pipe costs £1.75m per year and has an install fee of about £175k plus the hardware costs our side) has to be matched to revenue.

Now the commercial model is something that is being looked into, prompted in light of the BT Wholesale pricing changes as well as other factors.


This is the problem, pure and simple. PN Directors have sought to maintain excessivley high returns in an industry where profit per customer levels are down, and wholesale costs are up. This is their fault pure and simple. They have chosen to leave a static business model in place, in an ever changing environment, preferring to ride/promote the gravy train for as long as possible before some eagle eyed opposition spies the level of return and wants it.

The business model is not something that needs "looking into". It is the heart of the issue, and it needs amending with immediate effect if PN want to exist within the next 6 months.
shellsong
Grafter
Posts: 2,191
Registered: 03-08-2007

Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

There is something really wierd about the argument that effectively says "we can't really afford to increase bandwidth capacity". If the number of customers has more than doubled compared with over a year ago when PlusNet was allegedly profitable, the income from customers has also more than doubled so theoretically the capacity could still have been doubled whilst maintaining decent profits (swingeing BTw costs or not) yet the capacity hasn't changed!
Community Veteran
Posts: 2,322
Registered: 01-08-2007

Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

The average usage per customer has also risen due to increased speeds(as predicted).

The problem is, the capacity is linked to revenue, and as such the increase in users along with the increase in costs has resulted in a static revenue stream.

So, in order to maintain thesame profit levels, bandwidth cannot be increased.

This is a total lack of foresight and flexibility from PN managemnt in a very flexible industry. This means it has resultd inthe network being squeezed in order to maintain high profit levels in a market with reducing margins.

Of course the spin is that there are people abusing the network, and we now getto the stage where people using the products within PN's own design are still "unprofitable".

Unless w hear an announcement that the pipes recently closed have ben re-opened, then any discussion on here is without a doubt absolutley pointless and futile.
N/A

Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

Quote
The business model is not something that needs "looking into". It is the heart of the issue, and it needs amending with immediate effect if PN want to exist within the next 6 months.

PN will exist in 6 months no matter what. Some, maybe even most of the 'noise makers' around these parts may leave, but the vast majority of people don't post on these forums and probably don't know any better. They're also more likely to be the light users that bring in the profit for PN. Not exclusively true as other threads have shown, but certainly mostly true.

Of course, in six months, BT will have probably swallowed PN whole, at which point the whole argument about PN's existance becomes moot.
Plusnet Staff
Plusnet Staff
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Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

It's not just about the number of customers but what accounts they are on and thus the revenue. By far and away the biggest growth in customer numbers has been Broadband Plus, both with new signups and existing customers downgrading.

So while actual customers are up on a year or so ago (I can't remember off hand the exact amounts but they should be listed in the investor relations pages) the actual amount of bandwidth required hasn't increased by the same factor.

The way to look at is to create a formula based on the customer make-up. We can allocate a certain amount of bandwidth per account type and them put them into the formula to arrive at the total amount required along the lines of

(number of BB+ customers * bandwidth per BB+ customer) + (number of Premier customers * bandwidth per Premier customer) + etc.

So for an example, if you set the bandwidth per BB+ customer as 50kbps and for a Premier customer as 200kbps and had 1000 customers on each account you'd need (important note, these figures are just made up to illustrate how this works)

(1000 * 50) + (1000 * 200) = 250Mbps

If 500 of your Premier customers downgrade to Plus and you signup 1500 new BB+ customers then the bandwidth requires don't change even though the customer numbers are nearly double.

(3000 * 50) + (500 * 200) = 250Mbps

As I say, the figures are completely made up, but they illustrate what I mean that just because the customer numbers increased doesn't mean that the bandwidth requirements also increase.
Community Veteran
Posts: 2,322
Registered: 01-08-2007

Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

If BT swallow PN, then PN will not exist. Well, the name might, but not PN.

BT dont want PN for the profit, their £3m or so net profit is absolute peanuts to BT. They want the technology and knowledge that is allowing them to return such profits on a relatively small number of users.

They want to know how they could raise their level of return while still providing a quality service.

The problem is, that a quality service cannot be maintained using PN's model. Its just that this hasn't come to light until after the BT offer was made. Something that no doubt BT employees are now very concerned about, I wouldn't be surprised if BT werent asking some very serious questions right now.
shellsong
Grafter
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Registered: 03-08-2007

Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

Quote
The problem is, the capacity is linked to revenue, and as such the increase in users along with the increase in costs has resulted in a static revenue stream.

So, in order to maintain thesame profit levels, bandwidth cannot be increased.


But my point is that with a more than doubling of income because of the numerical increase of customers the proportion set aside for management and admin will have risen in accordance with those numbers along with everything else except capacity and the only place the money that should have been spent on capacity is likely to have gone is Ellacoya technology and/or excessively enhanced profits
Community Veteran
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Registered: 01-08-2007

Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

Indeed.

And with all due respect to Dave above, yes PN can spin it any which way up they want, but at the end of the day, the calculations are out of line at PN's end.

If they were right, then PN would not have these issues. The fact is customer numbers are up, and bandwidth isnt. Which means that unless all these new customers are consuming ZERO, or the older customers usage is dropping dramatically (at a time when speeds are increasing) - then PN's model has provisioned for an ever decreasing ammount of bandwidth per customer.

Any news on why my peak time speedtests and http downloads are 1/10th of the speed a BT speedtest shows at peak time? Or why my friend conected to the same exchange is not suffering the same speed slowdowns at peak time?

Either this is PN's capacity planning that is completely wrong, or the type of speed that is expected at peak time through PN's network. Which is it?
Plusnet Staff
Plusnet Staff
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Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

The customer numbers recently have been relatively static and the problems that people are seeing have only been happening recently so it isn't as though there's been a huge jump in the customer numbers that suddenly mean we don't have the right amount of bandwidth. In the last couple of months we've got behind on the general housekeeping of things which has got us to where we are now.

The management of the Ellacoyas and their signatures and databases and rules and so on is something that needs constant attention but as I say we've been focussing on other areas like the CSC and ticket backlogs and so on.

The temporary changes made to VoIP and gaming a week or so ago were all a part of that and part of the investigation and the housekeeping and getting everything right.

I presume you've seen Bob's status update on Thursday:

http://usertools.plus.net/status/archive/1165508228.htm

which contains a lot of information about what we are doing.

Also remember that we moved/provisioned nearly 20,000 customers onto LLU earlier in the year which has its own "central pipe" from Tiscali so the total number customers on the BT Centrals, bearing in mind the recent customer numbers, has decreased rather than increased.

I'll also add here what I posted on the PUG forum:

Does your line have interleaving switched on? That could easily be the reason for the increased latency. Be interested to see a comparison tracert.

Apart from the speedtests what's general usage like? What sort of response times and loading times do websites have? What speeds does other traffic (e.g. FTP) do?

and just add to it that you say yourself you are seeing exchange contention, I'm not sure if you are saying that your friend doesn't, but it's certainly possible because your friend may well be on a different VP which may not be affected by contention.
Community Veteran
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Dear PlusNet: Some questions - Please answer!

Did you actually look at the 'for instance' figures Dave gave? Just because the total number of users are up doesn't mean that the amount of money available to spend on bandwidth is up. He's said that many users have downgraded to BB+. I also get the impression that many of those leaving will have been on products other than BB+, further reducing the revenue.

One of the major failings of Plusnet is to manage expectations correctly. If you are on BB+ you will get poor P2P speeds and practically non-existent speeds at peak time.

BB+ is a budget price product, expect budget performance
jelv (a.k.a Spoon Whittler)
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