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ADSL2+/21CN - PlusNet's Plans

ADSL2+/21CN - PlusNet's Plans

ADSL2+/21CN - PlusNet's Plans

We're now making plans for the next generation of broadband services and the purpose of this blog 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 benefit PlusNet's customers. It's as big as the 'up to 8Mbps' upgrades two years ago and the 'up to 2Mbps' upgrades from two years before that. The up to 8Mbps world has brought online content into the living room; whether it's iPlayer or 4OD or one of the other streaming services. ADSL2+ will mean higher speeds for our customers and we are going to see further integration between PC and TV (whether that's via a set-top box, TV with an Ethernet cable, games console or media centre PC) and more rich content (and HD content) being delivered over the Internet. Unlike previous "time shift" technology, things like iPlayer don't rely on you setting the show to record before it's been on. (Note: Before I go any further I should note that as yet not everything has been finalised, so there may be a few changes to the finer details and the exact dates haven't yet been decided.) So in this blog I'll cover off the following:

  • What is 21CN?
  • What is ADSL2+?
  • PlusNet's testing plans
  • WBC and IPStream Connect
  • Rollout and coverage
  • Products

So first of all, what is 21CN? 21CN (or 21st Century Network) is the new core network that BT are developing. Costing in the region of £10 billion and taking about five years to complete, this will bring a number of changes to both voice and broadband services in the UK. A lot of the changes will be "behind the scenes" and not noticed by customers. Part of the upgrade work will move the voice (PSTN) service on to an IP network; existing telephones will remain the same the only thing people may notice is a short outage as the switch happens. Another part of the rollout is will be the availability of faster broadband speeds through ADSL2+. There's plenty of information on the Internet about 21CN such as Wikipedia, BT themselves and Samknows. What is ADSL2+? The broadband services we offer at the moment use a technology called ADSL. The ADSL part of the connect is actually only the bit between the customer's router and the local exchange. ADSL works by using part of the unused frequencies on the telephone line to transmit and receive data. As distance from the exchange increases some of the frequencies become unusable because of interference and with less frequencies available the maximum speed decreases. The next generation of broadband services are being based on a technology called ADSL2+. This works in a similar way to ADSL but the frequency range is different and this, depending on line conditions, can offer faster speeds. ADSL as used at the moment can offer speeds up to 8Mbps whereas ADSL2+ could theoretically offer up to 24Mbps (we'll go into more detail on the availability in the Rollout and Coverage section). There's more information on Samknows for those interested. PlusNet's testing plans A small number of exchanges have already been upgraded to offer ADSL2+ services. We will start testing ADSL2+ services internally later in the summer and then with customers this autumn. We've placed the order for the initial capacity to connect the first set of exchanges to our network and have begun work on developing the necessary automation to deliver the project as well as planning the other backend system changes that will be required. We plan on being cautious during the trial after our experiences with the DSL Max rollout two years ago and will carefully review the progress before migrating large numbers of customers across to ADSL2+. The actual migration process involves an engineer visit and a rejumpering at the local exchange, not too unlike a switch to/from LLU, so we will start out with limited numbers of opted-in customers so we can see exactly how the new provisioning and fault processes work. As soon as we can we will post more information on how the migration process will work and how customers on trial exchanges will be able to take part. WBC and IPStream Connect Available at launch from BT Wholesale will be two products WBC (Wholesale Broadband Connect) and IPStream Connect. Wholesale Broadband Connect will actually come in a couple of different flavours but for the purposes of this blog will just talk about WBC. WBC is the new broadband product that will offer ADSL2+, of course you can only move a customer on to a WBC product once their exchange has been upgraded to offer ADSL2+. This presents a little challenge that is overcome by IPStream Connect. Rather than having a mix of some customers connecting via 21CN and some via the old IPStream central pipes, IPStream Connect allows an ISP to switch all of the customers not on WBC on to part of the 21CN backhaul. That way all customers regardless of whether they are on an ADSL or ADSL2+ connection have their traffic routed in the same way to the ISP. Rollout and Coverage So long as the trials are successful we intend to switch across to WBC and IPStream Connect at the end of 2008. The exact date has yet to be determined but we will keep these posts regularly updated with any news. It is currently our intention to allow customers to "opt in" to ADSL2+. The exact mechanism on how this will work, especially given the rollout schedule, has yet to be decided. So far approximately 5% of the UK population has been switched on to 21CN, this is expected to increase to 55% by May 2009 and the remainder over the next 2-3 years. You can check the estimated date for your exchange to be switched over here (note: these dates are subject to change and don't necessarily indicate the date that ADSL2+ will be available). It's important to note that ADSL2+ won't give a speed increase to everyone, the current estimate from BT is that around 10% of the country will be able to get more than 12Mbps. In reality the specifications for ADSL2+ suggest that there should be some speed increase for most people that currently get 4Mbps or more or 1Mbps or less. Those customers whose speeds are currently between about 1Mbps and 4Mbps the main benefit of ADSL2+ may be an improvement in stability rather than speed. We've posted previously about how to market ADSL2+ because we feel it's important to set the right message and expectations about what is being sold, but at the same time not disadvantaging ourselves in the marketplace. Products We already sell all of our broadband products with a clear usage allowance which is measured between 8am and midnight, seven days a week. Overnight usage is free on our Broadband Your Way products. Our intention is to standardise to ADSL2+ products across our product range from early 2009. Once the trials have completed we'll provide new lines on ADSL2+ and will offer migrations to existing customers when their exchange has been upgraded. We'll keep you updated as things progress, so look out for more news later this summer. (Disclaimer: I'm using "up to 24Mbps" as a placeholder whilst we decide exactly how to describe the ADSL2+ services, as per the linked blog above you can help us with this decision). Dave Tomlinson PlusNet Product Team

 

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