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PlusNet's plans for 2008/09

PlusNet's plans for 2008/09

PlusNet's plans for 2008/09

Each year, we publish what we plan to do over the course of the year. You can see what we set out to do last year in our Plans for 2007 post and what we actually did in our update. We might have bitten off more than we could chew… Here is a quick review of last year and a view of our plans for the next 12 months. So read on to find out what’s coming up :-)

A brief review of 2007/08 In the year since we were bought by BT we’ve invested in additional capacity on our network resulting in a better experience for our customers. We’ve also focused on improving our customer service and technical support by increasing the number of staff we have, providing more training and new tools. We launched our new Broadband Your Way products and improved these with Broadband Your Way Pro last summer. In last year’s post we said we were committed to regaining our crown as the ISP of choice for discerning Internet access customers. Well, so far in 2008 we’ve been named Best Consumer ISP, picked up 9 out of 11 uSwitch broadband awards and as an employer, have been awarded a coveted one star award in the 100 Best Companies survey. So we think we’re heading in the right direction and we hope you think so too. We’ve spent much of the last six months merging Brightview Group Ltd into PlusNet. This has involved lots of complicated network and systems integration so that we can support Brightview customers, including Madasafish, from the PlusNet platform. We’re also now responsible for the award winning Customer Support Centre in South Africa for Brightview customers. Sheffield remains the hub of our operations. Alongside our Sheffield based team we now have remote software development teams in India and Poland who help us develop our products, services and systems. During the past 12 months the internet has changed almost beyond recognition. Social networking sites like Facebook and Bebo reached the mass market. The BBC launched the iPlayer sparking a shift in how the internet is used to deliver TV content, which in turn is contributing to a big increase in the amount our customers download. In the coming year Project Kangaroo may well prove even more successful than the iPlayer. Plans for 2008/09 - Summary So what are we going to be doing in the coming 12 months? Here’s a summary:

 

  • Better, faster customer support
  • Making Broadband Your Way even better value
  • Higher speeds with ADSL2+
  • New website tools for Partners
  • More reasons to use our Home Phone service
  • Launching our new Broadband Phone service
  • New safety and security tools
  • Building a stronger Community
  • Improving our website
  • Changing our hardware and adding TR-069
  • Updating our Hosting platform
  • Network expansion and upgrades

Plans for 2008/09 - Details Better, faster customer support Last year we started using text messages as a way to receive short updates from us. This is particularly useful if your broadband line has a fault so we encourage customers to always provide us with a mobile phone number – you can do this in My Account. Recently we improved our text service so that in the event of a problem you can now use your mobile phone to reply, for example to tell us when you are available for an engineer to visit. We recently published the results of our March customer satisfaction survey and a review of the improvements over the last 12 months. In the coming year we will be dealing with the causes of dissatisfaction – the little things that really annoy customers! Some feedback we’ve had from customers is that our Help Assistant is too complicated and makes it hard to raise a question to our support teams. We’ve been testing a new simplified Help Assistant tool and later in the spring we’re planning to make this available to PlusNet customers so that you can get the help you need even faster. We’re also going to test using instant messaging (IM) for business customers to get real-time help online and complete development of our new Service Status tool. Making Broadband Your Way even better value When we launched Broadband Your Way we knew that usage levels would increase as the streaming music and video online became more popular. That trend is set to continue and on May 1st we increased usage allowances on our Broadband Your Way products, to make sure our customers can enjoy the best the web has to offer. Higher speeds with ADSL2+ By the autumn we’ll be offering ADSL2+ technology. This is a new broadband service from BT Wholesale, based on their 21st Century Network strategy, and should increase the speeds you can get on your line. The latest figures from BT Wholesale suggest that around 50% of customers will get speeds up to 9.3Mbps and 25% of customers will typically get 14.7Mbps. While headline speeds are important for some, the actual throughput achieved (particularly at busy times) is what matters to most customers. We encourage customers to have a look at our network graphs to see how our network is performing. With the higher speeds that ADSL2+ will deliver, traffic prioritisation will become more important, which is why we’re confident in our ability to deliver gaming, videos and VoIP to our customers. When BT IPStream Max first launched we rushed headlong into upgrading as many customers as we could to ‘up to 8Mbps’ speeds. The resulting service problems caused some big backlogs in our CSC and we ended up with some unhappy customers. So this time we’re going to take things a little slower! In the coming weeks we will announce our plans to trial higher speeds in selected areas of the country. The trials will be opt-in only and we will announce them on our Community site and email customers in the areas where the trial will be available. We’ll need to do a considerable amount of work to build and test our new products. New website tools for Partners Around 15% of our customers are small and medium sized business customers either working from home or from dedicated business premises. Many of our business customers buy through IT resellers and expert systems integrators who recommend PlusNet broadband as part of an overall communications and IT solution. At present it’s quite hard for these businesses and IT experts to order and manage more than one line or account at once using our website. So this summer we will launch a new Partner area on the PlusNet website where our partners will have complete management of all of their accounts in one easily manageable place. The Partner tools will mean many accounts can be added to one bill and customer support queries for several accounts can be seen at once. Our Business Support Team will be dedicated to making sure that Partners and business customers get the best service and technical support possible. More reasons to use our Home Phone service In the last six months our Home Phone service has proved very popular with our existing and new customers. You can save money on line rental and call charges but also simplify your bills by using My Account. We’re going to keep improving our Home Phone service, increasing the amount of features and options, making it better value for you. Don’t forget about our £4.99 special offer. Launching our new Broadband Phone service We recently ran a trial with Gradwell, a leading supplier of VoIP services. The trial has been successful so we will be moving all customers over to the new Broadband Phone platform in the spring. This will mean we can offer better call rates and add more features to the products, as well as supporting 999 calls ahead of the time when this will become an Ofcom requirement. We are also considering another partner to work with to replace our Fax2Email service which is a bit old and tired. More details about this will be announced soon. New safety and security tools Viruses, identity theft and unwanted or obscene internet content have become concerns for many people and our customers are increasingly asking us about online safety and security tools. We’ve recognised this is an area where we could offer safety and security services to meet this need. So we’re working with some specialist partners to develop a range of services, and will be announcing the first of a number of trials during the summer with new services launching in autumn and winter. Building a stronger Community Our Community site is now one year old and getting bigger and better every day. We have loads of plans for improvements and new features this year. Two of the major items we will be working on are Community driven support pages and improving the way we present the ‘blog’ content on the community site via good categorisation. We will also be looking at ways of getting more, good quality ‘blog’ articles for the Community site. We’re working closer than ever with the PlusNet Usergroup (PUG) who have recently bolstered their ranks and developed their excellent Issues Tracker with the aim of improving PlusNet services for everyone. Why not get involved or visit one of our customer open days? One area that PUG is very involved in is testing new services, both on the PUG website and the Community site. This allows us to have a clear channel for feedback and suggested improvements. Improving our website The Best Consumer ISP should look the part, so we’re currently working on a new design for our website including updating the PlusNet brand and logo. The current look and feel is eight years old and we’re going to freshen things up later this spring. We’re also reworking the Member Centre areas of the website to make it easier to use. One of the primary drivers of this work is that a lot of the content of these pages is looking very dated and much of the Member Centre does not comply with the Website Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines. We are also currently looking into ways of making the pages personalised using Widgets (a bit like iGoogle or the new BBC homepages). Also this year we’ll be updating our Webmail software to improve the way it looks and make it easier to use. Changing our hardware and adding TR-069 Last year we intended to make BT Vision and BT Fusion services available to our customers by opening up the BT Home Hub to work on the PlusNet network. This has proved harder than we thought and has taken a back seat while we focused our efforts on Broadband Your Way. We’re still looking at ways to provide BT Home Hubs later this year. Once we have, we can look at BT Vision and BT Fusion but we’re unlikely now to launch those services in 2008. In the meantime we have been evaluating alternatives to the BT Home Hub and have been testing lots of different routers. We’re working on other ways to improve the service we offer, making it easier to setup our services and helping customers and our support staff identify and fix problems quicker. Specifically we are looking at including TR-069 technology to help make our broadband and VoIP services easier to setup and fix in the event of problems. Updating our Hosting platform We’ve recently been working with a number of potential partners to overhaul and update our Hosting platform to bring them up to date. This will involve upgrading or retiring some of our old web-servers and services. We’re planning to do this later in the summer. Network expansion and upgrades Last but by no means least, none of the exciting stuff above can happen if the underlying network doesn’t grow and evolve. Adding capacity in line with customer growth is a regular task and you can see how we do this in our Broadband Blueprint and can see the current Capacity Status at any time. We’ll keep reacting to new games, new video applications and changes in usage trends to make sure our service is as good as possible. To offer higher speeds using ADSL2+ we’ll need to move from BT IPStream which we use at the moment, to a new service from BT Wholesale called ‘Wholesale Broadband Managed Connect’. This is all part of BT’s 21st Century Network strategy. Over the couple of years we’ll need to upgrade each and every customer line in turn, as well as making some major changes to our systems and core network which will be a mammoth project! We’ve made big progress in solving last year’s spam problems by working with Postini and improving Manage My Mail. We’ll stay on top of the evil that is spam and keep making improvements to the anti-spam tools for customers. Finally we’re going to move one of our two data centres out of Sheffield, probably down to London. While our primary and secondary sites are a good few miles apart, the floods during 2007 showed us that resilience across two cities makes good sense. So this major work will take place in the autumn and will involve closing our old premises in Sheffield’s Victoria Quays. If there’s more you want to know, why not ask a question here or visit our forums? We’ll post a progress report in November. Thanks for reading :-) Neil Armstrong Products Director

 

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16 Comments
Community Veteran
A worthy challenge ahead of you guys! Good to see a lot of popular requests are now planned. B.
Not applicable
good work nutter staff. cant wait for adsl+2 about time for a wee increase in upload speeds. will be crossing the days off on the calender lol
Not applicable
Scootie, Are you aware that we're already doing a special offer on Max Premium (giving faster uploads)? http://www.plus.net/residential/broadband/max_premium_offer.shtml Hurry though, it ends soon!
Not applicable
>> opening up the BT Home Hub to work on the PlusNet network Start using ETHoA or IPoA and it's simple Shocked) that or persuade bt to unlock it for plusnet pppoe... surely that's not the problem?
Grafter
I reckon you'll find that PlusNet usernames already work in the hub... It's lots of other things really, none of which are insurmountable, but some of which might prevent us from getting the best value from the home hub for our customers.
Not applicable
>> I reckon you’ll find that PlusNet usernames >> already work in the hub… really? nice. any specific firmware revision needed? i'm sure someone at PN knows all of this already (and with your bt connections i doubt anyone at PN would need to get around things like this) but... for anyone else with a spare home hub, here's some neat tricks you can do with it, most of them will work on the BT firmware too, but only on 6.2.2.6 or below, so that kinda depends on the first question as to whether you can use it with a PN connection too, but if so you should be able to get PN's VoIP service working fine too. http://homehubhacks.co.uk/index.php?n=HowTo.Index
Newbie
How come option 1 customers are discriminated against! So option 2/3 users get free usage increases but not us?!!
Not applicable
It is a shame that you didn't see it necessary to increase BBYW Option 1. 1gb is a very small amount, even though I keep watch to make sure I don't go above this. It would be a lot fairer if you could have increased Option 1 with the others.
Grafter
We would have loved to improve Option 1 in the most recent refresh, but the reality is that we can't change much there at the moment. When you consider that after VAT we pay nearly all of your subscription straight to BT in fixed costs, you can hopefully understand why that is the case. See http://community.plus.net/blog/2008/02/28/how-uk-isps-are-charged-for-broadband-the-cost-of-ipstream/ for some details. I'm hopeful we will be able to improve Option 1 in some ways later this year, but it just wasn't something the bean counters would let us do at this point in time! Ian
Not applicable
I am very disappointed that BT Vision has been pushed back and still has no fixed deadline for implementation - that's thje only reason I checked this announcement. Once again, I will have to seriously consider moving to BT, because there just doesn't seem to be any real commitment to getting this service working.
Not applicable
>>I am very disappointed that BT Vision has been pushed back and still has no >> fixed deadline for implementation - that’s thje only reason I checked this >> announcement. Once again, I will have to seriously consider moving to BT, >> because there just doesn’t seem to be any real commitment to getting this >> service working. SNAP! Surely it doesn't need the home hub to launch BT Vision? I have a few friends on BT Internet that are using their own wireless routers rather than the Home Hub and they are using BT Vision without any problems, surely the BT Vision box just connects to any Internet connection?
Newbie
As an unbundled LLU customer, will I benefit from ADSL2+ when it is rolled out later this year?
Grafter
Hi Guys, I'll answer the questions about Vision point by point: Home Hub needed for Vision? When Vision content is being streamed via a BT Home Hub, a QoS (Quality of Service) session is set up that controls and prioritises the flow of data across the network. Customers on lower speed lines or who utilise their connection heavily while watching Vision content will find the service unusable without this. For the BT Vision service to function as it was designed this QoS feature of the Home Hub is required. It is true that you don't *need* it, but fundamentally the product is incomplete without it. We could not offer the current BT Vision product without the QoS element being part of the product for this reason. Network BT Vision is powered by the Microsoft Mediaroom IPTV platform, which will open up a lot of functionality, especially once the V2 Vision box is launched. The current BT Vision platform design places a huge capacity requirement on the Headend side of the connection (The Headend are the servers that sit on BTs network and control the content and data stream), which will only increase as new features are launched. To enable the service to work on our network, both our architecture and wholesale product mix would need to be changed pretty significantly so we can gain efficient access to the Vision Headend platform. With the work to move us to 21CN now underway, there would simply be no point in us reconfiguring this now - We would need to do it again almost immediately for the move to the 21CN network. Once we have moved over to 21CN this will be a somewhat different story. Subscription / Authentication In order to use Vision, the Vision box has to authenticate and be identified by the IPTV platform as a subscriber of the service. Billing and other customer data would have to be securely transferred between our systems and BTs in real-time. This is certainly technically possible, but it requires quite a bit of development work. Until this is done the BT Vision product won't be able to recognise and provide service to our customers. Alternatives As you can gather from the above, providing the current Vision product to our customers isn't just a case of posting out some V-boxes for people to plug in. The BT Vision product as-is was designed to be used only with the BT infrastructure, and the question has to be asked whether it is in fact easier to redesign the product from the ground up so that it can be used on our (and of course other BT partner) networks. We are helping BT with that, and this outcome is probably more likely as a short term solution. At this moment in time however, no solution is that close, and I would imagine we are talking at least 9 - 12 months before we would be in a position to deliver Vision in any form whatsoever. That is why it's not been included in the plans for this year, although we would dearly love to be in a position to offer it sooner. I hope that's useful information - I'm just sorry it can't be more positive for the moment. I will try to provide regular updates on progress via the community site forum. Cheers, Ian
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[...] we’ve a full awards cabinet to evidence our credentials. We’ve already published our plans for 2008/09 and we’re on track to make some improvements to our broadband and home phone services later [...]
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[...] is go into some of the details of how we will deliver them to our customers. As we mentioned in our plans for 2008/9 this year we will begin testing ADSL2+ to our customers. This is a big project and will really [...]
Dabbler
I am a very happy user of your broadband. I have been asked if you might ever add mobile broadband as a small! extra charge to your standard connections