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Broadband speeds never far from the headlines
Thursday 13 March 2008 13:55:31 by Andrew Ferguson

The UK currently has a distinct two tier broadband speed system, those with access to ADSL2+ via an unbundled connection or Virgin Media cable have options that may connect all the way up to 24Mbps. The others are limited to the BT Wholesale ADSL based products which top out at 8Mbps.

As of April 2008 this should change which is nothing new as the roll-out of ADSL2+ by BT Wholesale is hardly news. We expect to see 5% coverage initially ramping up to around 50% in a years time, and roll-out continuing to all ADSL enabled exchanges. This last bit is the key since it means those in areas where the population density is lower and thus less money to be made will stand a chance of seeing better speeds.

While many people get excited about the headline speed, which will triple from 8Mbps to 24Mbps, ADSL2+ is a lot more and the standards it is based on allow for better diagnostics of faults. This means those who have a slow 250Kbps (0.25Mbps) service currently may not see much (if any) connection speed change but may see better throughtput speeds due to less errors.

BT Wholesale has briefed a wide range of journalists on its new WBC (Wholesale Broadband Connect) products hence the flood of news items covering varying aspects (e.g. BBC News Online, PC Pro and ZDNet amongst others).

The issue of interference and noise is possibly more important with ADSL2+, and those on short lines may find to get the most from ADSL2+, a little thought is needed. Various relatively simple things that may help include, not dumping the modem amongst a pile of power supply bricks, removing unused telephone extensions, fitting an ADSL master socket faceplate, or the new simpler system which is an interstitial faceplate that fits over the existing master socket and isolates the ring wire. The latter is possible now but involves a small wiring change. The new BT faceplate fits on without people having to alter any wiring. Changes like this are not going to allow a long line that is 5km long to run at a full 24Mbps, but it may add an extra 10 to 15% of performance and importantly reduce the number of errors making things like gaming and VoIP much smoother.

We see many people worrying that the DLM (Dynamic Line Management) system will continue with WBC, but from the briefing it is a much revamped system with many concerns addressed. The number of profiles is set to increase dramatically meaning the granularity of the IP Profile steps will be a lot smaller than the existing 0.25 and 0.5Mbps. The time for an IP Profile to catch up to line connection speeds will improve, and a lot more historical information will be made available to broadband providers to let them see how a line is performing.

How broadband providers manage these upgrades and explain the possible changes customers may see will be crucial to the public perception of ADSL2+. BT Wholesale is updating its line checker to give an ADSL2+ estimate and broadband providers already know how a customers line is performing, so could send out varying upgrade emails to help manage expectation. Put simply the industry as a whole needs to ensure people are aware that ADSL2+ does not mean everyone will see downloads running at three times their current speed.

Some final news for those on very long telephone lines, interleaving which makes a line more tolerant to errors is set to improve, with a wide variety of settings which may help to improve throughput, additionally the interleaving depth can be set independently on the upstream and downstream directions.

Once BT Wholesale makes available the final details on things like the various profiles and the options available to broadband providers we will pass the information on.

Comments

Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
Research shows adsl2 (without the +) is what will help people on long lines and adsl2+ is better for short lines. So in an ideal world BT should look to be killing of adsl1 and rollout adsl2/adsl2+ services things like crosstalk will drop massively and adsl2 has all the diagnostic improvements mentioned in the article, I expect the reality will be long lines will simply be left on adsl1 and this is just a boost for those with short lines.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
in addition adsl2 has extended reach so those who currently cannot even get broadband due to line length/quality have hope on a adsl2 service again not adsl2+ but adsl2. But the way things are I dont see much hope of a adsl2 specific service been available.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
For the long lines and the extra interleave settings they will be on ADSL2+, i.e. WBC is ADSL2+ based.

The ADSL2 extra reach may not be as much as in theory as ADSL has exceeded its original reach estimates by a long way.

Nothing stopping people with an ADSL2+ modem locking it down to ADSL2 if they wish.
Posted by malfranks over 9 years ago
wonder if this will be fittable for those of us who had a pre-wires only install as my master socket was changed by the BT engineer to one with a built-in adsl filter and socket
Posted by zenops over 9 years ago
In theory there should be performance improvements however until such times we have wider ISP testing it's difficult to say what that will look like. The interstitial trial/concept although in it's infancy looks promising assuming EU's can still and would want to remove the two screws in the faceplate of exisiting NTE.

its early days still but I'm keen to see what's going to happen as much from a personal, customers perpsective myself as much as anything else.
Posted by AndrueC over 9 years ago
@Malfranks:If you had an engineer install with the dedicated socket then already have the best setup.
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
ADSL2+ is just extra frequency bands used where they work. If those bands aren't available ADSL2+ is the same thing as ADSL2. As Andrew says, the end user can just select ADSL2 on their kit if they think there is a benefit over ADSL2+. It is like 802.11g which is identical to 802.11b at long range.
Posted by c_j_ over 9 years ago
The BBC coverage is worth a read. BTw quote: "it is up to the ISPs how they market broadband, but if they are marketing it badly, the market will punish them.".

Sorry BT but you started it, your "up to 8Mb" service cannot ever deliver 4x the "2Mb" throughput.

And then why encourage line speed upgrades without the necessary matching upgrades in bandwidth from exchange to ISP? Oh yeah, to get ISPs onto BTw's ridiculous "Capacity Based" pricing.

Sorry BTw, the problem lies as much with YOU as it does with ISPs.
Posted by c_j_ over 9 years ago
And here is the detail as to why BTw's CBC pricing is the problem: http://community.plus.net/blog/2008/02/28/how-uk-isps-are-charged-for-broadband-the-cost-of-ipstream/

And some detail on why BTw's much-overhyped 21CN is financially irrelevant (or, worse, disastrous) outside cabled/LLU'd areas: http://community.plus.net/blog/2007/10/01/21cn-and-regional-pricing/

Incidentally, some ISPs make it entirely clear that "up to 8Mb" is a lie: eg Zen footnote at http://www.zen.co.uk/broadband/ZenBroadband.aspx
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
"Sorry BT but you started it"

<panto>Oh no they didn't</panto>

You'll have to eat your words there c_j_ the 8000 trend was started by "UKOnline 8000" followed by Bulldog with a similarly named product, neither of which would deliver 4 times the speed of 2M.

BT simply fell in with established market practice when they came along later.
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
Let us not forget that CBC pricing also gave us the faster speeds at a sensible price. Otherwise 2M would be £37.50 per month ex VAT *wholesale* for the end user connection alone. Maybe standard charging is ridiculous ?

The level of wholesale pricing is not in itself justification for dodgy advertising practices.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
The Zen footnote is a quote from BT Wholesale which we mentioned in our news at one point.

This is a bit like the description of IPStream as a 'bursty' service with best efforts on it.

Assured rate and real-time QoS come with WBC.

Distinguishing between who said what in the BT Group is very important, do not confuse BT Retail marketing with BT Wholesale.
Posted by Pigmaster over 9 years ago
To me it's all a waste of time.

Currently sitting on approx 3.5Mmeg constant connection and using Andrews ADSL2+ calculator I should get 4Meg. So to me that is a waste of time rolling out ADSL2+. Should spend the money on FTTH or ethernet to the home.
Posted by AndrueC over 9 years ago
@c_j_:Very interesting reads there, thanks. It's pretty much what I was thinking but I hadn't figured out the potential for Sky to help out the rural areas.

A friend of mine is on an Exchange Activation scheme and his exchange is about to be Max enabled. Given his close proximity he might get a better speed than me when ADSL2+ hits.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
herdwick - no, it gave us massive overselling and a crippled network, because that is the only way to make money on non-LLU ADSL connections.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"We see many people worrying that the DLM (Dynamic Line Management) system will continue with WBC, but from the briefing it is a much revamped system with many concerns addressed."
LOL I will believe it when i see it, BT ADSL2+ for people of short lines..... pointless you are gonna have caps, throttles etc etc from ISPs and a waffy profiling system just like MAX LOL thanks but ill stick with my cheaper and less contended LLU ADSL2+ for those on long lines its no better you aint gonna get much of an improvement in speed..... I said all this from the moment it was announced LOL
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Another white elephant BT service which nobody really wants or in alot of cases needs. (que BT fans whine here......)
Posted by Somerset over 9 years ago
CB - isn't this a step forward given the limitations of copper pairs?

Pity the government didn't let PO/BT put fibre in years ago.
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
"it gave us massive overselling and a crippled network, because that is the only way to make money on non-LLU ADSL connections. "

overselling and pricing is a retail decision, driven by competition. You wanna pay over £50/month for 2M then go ahead but do you think an ISP would have many customers at that ?

Sky and Be are losing shedfuls of money on LLU.
Posted by c_j_ over 9 years ago
"over £50/month for 2M"

It might have been nice for customers to still have that choice in a meaningful way. Ofcom's non-regulation of BTw has allowed CBC to displace "classic" pricing. Consequently because CBC pricing is so OTT (as was pointed out when it arrived), being an ISP is now a business-critical gambling game, about balancing revenue with customer satisfaction, because CBC bandwidth is the ISP's dominant cost. CBC gave us faster speeds at a sensible price, as long as customers don't actually want to use it much at all. One size (one tariff) does not suit all.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
Herkwick...yes, "driven by competition" which means that you litterally cannot offer a deacent service because of the package from BT on offer. There is no way on a non-LLU connection to offer a sensible package.

As for your comments on Sky and Be, prove it.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
andrew what happens if the isps go the LLU route and refuse to do adsl2+ on long lines, that then stops people locking it down to adsl2, I also think your aittude is a bit poor on the subject because if adsl2 was made to replace adsl1 people on average would gain 30% signal strength due to less crosstalk.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
herdwick its already been proven adsl2 beats adsl2+ on longer lines based on customers experiences on LLU isps, if you have no higher frequencies adsl2+ is not identical to adsl2 the former is less stable.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
herdwick its either pay more for speed (how most isps work worldwide) or pay insane prices for bandwidth to allow people to get cheap burst speed. By doing the latter progress is been hindered and is also a very biased pricing favouring those with short lines.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
herdwick how much do you think a 8meg connection would cost on current ipstream with 30:1 contention? do you think it would be below the £50 mark? It is as he said the current pricing promotes oversubscribing by sell them cheap and pile them high.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
herdwick who cares if be and sky lose money on broadband? I expect the vast majority of customers dont.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"Sky and Be are losing shedfuls of money on LLU."

You keep saying this, maybe you would like to explain why from a customer point of view it matters? Easynet (people behind the sky and ukonline services) have been going years, losing money or not i dont see what difference it makes, and O2 that good as own bethere i dont see suddenly going bankrupt over night so who cares what money they are making or losing, the customer gets a good and cheap service thats all what should matter for us lot.
Posted by c_j_ over 9 years ago
One reason it matters...

LLU ISPs still need to link exchanges back to someone's core fibre network (the core network doesn't go direct to all their exchanges).

Typically that's done using short distance *rented* bandwidth (from BT).

If that link is underutilised, smiles all round (apart from beancounters).

When that link gets near to 100% use, either punters see congestion, or extra money is needed to pay for more bandwidth. You won't have spare money (for long) if you're making a loss.

Nothing new here, this happened with Bulldog iirc, and definitely with F2S (early LLUstream).
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"When that link gets near to 100% use, either punters see congestion, or extra money is needed to pay for more bandwidth."
Err so thats no different to any ADSL service then huh?
quote"You won't have spare money (for long) if you're making a loss."
Could apply that to any ISP not only LLU but BT based MAX products from small ISPs that struggle to pay BTs charges
Again i fail to see how losing money makes a difference to a consumer as it can and does happen with so many ISPs not just LLU ones. (CONT)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
If my connection slowed id just say MAC and move elsewhere. ISPs and profit or not doesnt really make a jot of difference to the consumer.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
c_j yeah but in skys case they actually expecting losses on their broadband operation the purpose of it isnt to generate profits but to prevent tv subscribers leaving so there will be no heart attacks caused by it. In BEs case O2 may also be not worried about losses on it. LLU backhaul is also typically massively cheaper than bt central backhaul so the figures are different.
Posted by Dixinormous over 9 years ago
'Posted by chrysalis 4 days ago
in addition adsl2 has extended reach so those who currently cannot even get broadband due to line length/quality have hope on a adsl2 service again not adsl2+ but adsl2. But the way things are I dont see much hope of a adsl2 specific service been available.'

Nope ADSL2+ is ADSL2 with another 256 bins enabled on downstream.

I think you're thinking of ADSL2 G992.3/4 Annex L which is a specific version of ADSL2. There is ADSL2+ G992.5 Annex L as well, a reach extended version of ADSL2+.

Extended reach and ADSL2+ are not mutually exclusive by any means.
Posted by Dixinormous over 9 years ago
Forgot to say, if you look at exactly how this stuff works, Annex L, it's crosstalk hell as it concentrates power down at lower less attenuated frequencies to extend range. Not nice for people not on Annex L as they see their poor Annex A DSL have its' most bit-rich bins get wiped out by the more concentrated power on someone else's Annex L line.

Annex L is to get ADSL to people who couldn't normally get it at up to 7km more than to increase speeds on mid-long loops.
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