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Update on Tiscali Issues
Wednesday 26 May 2004 09:57:00 by Andrew Ferguson

The response from both current and ex-Tiscali customers has been surprising, with around 100 emails from different people all having problems. The problems covered billing, delivery of hardware, ceasing service, speed issues and poor quality of advice from the support line. To this end Tiscali has issued an official response with regards to the recent upgrades they have been doing. We have noted that the same response has been given to ISPReview.co.uk who have also noticed the surge in Tiscali complainants.

Tiscali comment on VP upgrade problem

At Tiscali we routinely upgrade our network and VPs (Virtual Paths) to accommodate customer capacity requirements. Over the last 12 months this has amounted to over 2000 new VPs and upgrades. At the beginning of April Tiscali responded to questions regarding slow broadband speeds. At the time we reported that we were undertaking significant upgrades to our network, which would be completed by 7 April. We received confirmation from BT Wholesale that these VP upgrades had been completed in the expected time. However we continued to receive a considerable number of customer calls reporting slow speeds which technically speaking we could not understand because our DataStream broadband service now routinely operates at a contention ratio of less than 20:1, which is considerably better than the recommended industry level (up to 50:1).

After raising the concerns with BT, it conducted a full investigation, which highlighted that of 274 upgrades, 71 had not been completed. This was resolved as quickly as possible and all upgrades were completed by 5 May. Tiscali is confident that the problem has been fully resolved. We have seen a big drop in customer calls about broadband speed, which have now reduced to negligible levels.

Jody Haskayne, Director of PR & Communications, Tiscali UK Ltd


So it seems the problem was that BT did not carry out the virtual path regrades according to order. This does raise the issue, of why did Tiscali let the quality of service (QoS) deteriorate to the point where many customers wanted to leave, and reports of ISDN or dial-up speeds from consumers were not uncommon? Was BTs VP upgrading too slow, or did Tiscali wait too long before ordering them.

Whether the up to 50:1 contention is a generally recommended industry level is unclear, BT Wholesale may state in the specifications for IPStream Home 500 that this is the maximum contention, but it is most unlikely to have occurred in practice. In fact the 20:1 mentioned by Tiscali is much more common, and we believe many service providers use lower contention that that. Remember if a provider is running at a real 20:1 contention, on a 256kbps service that is still just 12kbps, or 20% of a dial-up modems speed. We will be coming back to look at the speed issue with Tiscali once the May speed test results are processed, now the upgrades are done we should expect to see a marked improvement. We hope for the end-user that the performance shown in last months speed tests, (which exclude any speed test results below 256kbps) will improve. The historical data does suggest the low speeds that users complain of has been happening for some time, or perhaps more accurately the average during the peak time hours is a lot lower than other providers.

Other Tiscali items that we have raised are:

  • The backlog of cease problems has been cleared apparently. If you are still waiting for a cease then email me andrew@thinkbroadband.com, with Tiscali in the subject field.
  • The Tiscali Network Marketing scheme; there was a rumour that broadband had been dropped from the scheme, apparently this is not the case, and the 'associates' are still promoting broadband and are paying commission. This system is more than a simple referrals scheme, as people pay to become part of the scheme, and then get paid commision according to the number of referrals and other associates that sign up. Whilst we welcome effort that promotes broadband, the Tiscali scheme to many commentators does not appear to be doing the UK broadband market many favours. Just like the mortgage endowment market, pressure of obtaining commision can often sway peoples advise towards one product only.

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