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Respones on Uplink bonding problem
Wednesday 09 June 2004 08:37:00 by Andrew Ferguson

The problems with uplink bonding and the fact that recent changes by BT Wholesale to the BT IPStream wholesale platform look set to break them are continuing. We have published the full statements from both sides of the issue below:

"Several smaller ISPs are bonding multiple ADSL lines to provide additional uplink capacity. We (AAISP) have customers with 2 and even 4 lines bonded to provide 500Kb/s uplink or 1Mb/s uplink, including a health authority with several sites. Typically customers have a 2Mb/s line and 1 or more 500K lines for extra uplink. We even have a special low cost tariff for these extra uplink only lines.

The principle is simple - packets are sent on multiple lines (shared out between them), but still use the IP addresses routed down the main 2Mb/s line. The new feature BT have introduced, without any consultation, means packets will no longer go up any of the additional lines.

At AAISP, we have more than one BT Central (our end of the ADSL link) and so we are able to put different lines on different BT Centrals so we can still do bonded uplink - but it has meant a lot of reconfiguration for us and customers to make this all work and placed some limitations on what we can do.

We know of other smaller ISPs with only one link that also do uplink bonding and who will be seriously affected. We also know of end users doing this between different ISPs and now finding they cannot.

What BT have done is a really good idea for most broadband lines, and something we asked about years ago when ADSL first launched. We were told then that BT would/could not do it and security was our problem not theirs.

The problem is that we were not consulted in any way on this, and the planned engineering works stated there would be no customer impact and so was ignored. It came as a bit of a shock and has caused us embarresment and our customer some hassle. If BT had consulted us we could have explained the issues and at least have been ready. What is needed is some way to disable or restrict this feature on individual lines where there are additional blocks routed via other means. BT have not provided any such means, any consultation or any help.

The latest from BT appears to be a briefing stating that what we are doing is an unsupported feature - yet BT have provided no evidence of what is and is not a "supported" feature to back this up and avoid any future problems.

What makes it particularly strange is that BT have been supporting us as an ISP and FireBrick manufacturer in promoting "uplink bonding", and even hosted a seminar on this topic in a BT building recently. To do all this and then pull the rug from under our feet is just crazy.

At AAISP we can cope with this change, just about, but is this really the way BT should be doing business?"

Adrian Kennard, Andrews & Arnold Ltd

"The notification process for planned engineering works is well established and used to notify all our service provider customers.

All details relating to BT wholesale services and their functionality are notified to customers via a range of channels which again are well established.

As technology develops, service providers will develop new features and applications that can feasibly be used with the BT IPStream Service.

Often this can be done without involvement of or knowledge by BT Wholesale if it does not conflict with the current service or does not require BT Wholesale to make any changes to our service. If any such features or applications are created or introduced by the service provider, BT Wholesale will not be able to guarantee that such applications and features can be used without interference from any future changes that BT Wholesale feels are necessary to improve the Service.

The changes that BT made were (as A&A point out) to improve the security and integrity of the BT Network to the benefit of all our customers and this was communicated to them.

BT Wholesale always welcomes requests and suggestions from customers as to how services can be improved and we have a process for dealing with customer requests whereby a full appraisal is carried out before any decision is made. "

Statement from BT Wholesale

It would appear that the key thing now, is for providers and BT Wholesale to talk and determine a way that the innovative providers can continue to offer the unusual products they do, while still allowing BT Wholesale to maintain the platforms security. If the ADSL2+ standard was to suddenly appear, or SDSL pricing to come down considerably and be more widely available then bonding using ADSL would be a lot less of an issue. Alas both of these things seem a long way away at present.

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