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Carphone Warehouse to install Gigabit backhaul at exchanges
Tuesday 15 April 2008 10:51:27 by Andrew Ferguson

Carphone Warehouse has perhaps under performed in the fourth quarter only adding 109,000 customers rather than the expected 128,000 but the support material for the webcast presenting the fourth quarters trading statement includes a raft of useful information on what is happening in Talk Talk and AOL land.

The reason Talk Talk is able to offer such low pricing is revealed in the average usage figure for its customers, in June 2007 it was just 2.34GB rising to 2.95GB in December 2007. The rise in traffic has somewhat been controlled by the introduction of peak time traffic shaping which has lowered the March usage to 2.42GB (2.96GB average estimated if no shaping was used). Some 50% of the providers customers use under 1GB a month.

The traffic mix across the Carphone Warehouse has streaming occupying 27% of capacity with HTTP traffic forming the largest chunk at around 40%. The use of shaping has reduced the peak load due to P2P traffic from 25% down to 4%. To save some getting their calculator out, this all equates to a rise from 18Kbps in June 2006 to 21.9Kbps in March 2008 in the average peak usage per customer, a rise of 22% over the year.

Increasing usage is no surprise and estimates suggest we may see usage quadruple within four years as video over broadband becomes even more commonplace.

A program called the Network Unification Project is underway to vastly increase the amount of capacity Carphone Warehouse has. The main aim is to consolidate the various fibre connections around the country, and for those exchanges that have two or more 100Mbps backhaul circuits, the plan in 2008 is to upgrade 200 of these to use 1Gbps (1000Mbps) connections. The cost is estimated at £10k to install at each exchange with the same running costs as the existing network, so the growth in usage by customers is offset by cheaper backhaul.

Carphone Warehouse already has some 1619 exchanges offering fully unbundled services via Talk Talk and another 1011 offering shared LLU services via AOL Broadband. They have not finished adding exchanges, AOL Broadband will get another 200 exchanges added to its network, and Talk Talk will add 400 exchanges to its fully unbundled network. This expansion is thought to bring the LLU coverage to almost 90% of the UK population. The cost of this roll-out is estimated at £35 million.

Talk Talk has been unusual in its use of ADSL2+ as the modulation on its up to 8Mbps service, but it looks like ADSL2+ running at up to 24Mbps is on the way, they estimate 25% of the userbase will benefit from vastly increase speeds. It also seems that the shared infrastructure between AOL Broadband and Talk Talk will continue, particularly as there are plans to use fully unbundled services on AOL Broadband.

Of course no provider can talk much without mentioning the BBC iPlayer, and in the period December 2007 to March 2008 the company has seen streaming rise from 17% of peak usage to 27%, and Flash based streaming has increased from zero to 27% as a proportion of the streaming traffic. BBC iPlayer uses Flash for its streaming video; YouTube is measured independently and its share of streaming traffic has dropped from around 65% to 40%.


Posted by bobby_valentino over 9 years ago
Are you saying the LLU equipment at all the excahnges will now connect at 1gbps to its nearest PoP?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
For those exchanges with 2 or more 100Mbps links now - yes it seems their plan is to replace this with Gigabit connections rather than add more 100Mbps connections piecemeal.

On their figures this will allow for increased usage, or increased numbers of customers without increasing cost of running service.
Posted by bobby_valentino over 9 years ago
Whats the usual backhaul speeds being provided by providers such as Easynet and Tiscali?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
I don't have specifics, but 100Mbps and multiples is generally the most common.

On BT IPStream providers can fit 32,000 customers into a 155Mbps BT Central. So exchanges with 2x100Mbps must be pretty big ones.
Posted by bobby_valentino over 9 years ago
Also the highest providers can get from BTWholesale is 622mbps. So 1Gbps is pretty big. Talktalk might aswell start selling wholesale broadband, like Easynet.
Posted by ian9outof10 over 9 years ago
This is a great piece of news, thanks for a really detailed look at the CPW plans Andrew.

I'm interested to know how customers are finding the service now, I know lots of people who hated it at the start, but is it possible things are getting better?
Posted by adslmax over 9 years ago

Talk Talk has been unusual in its use of ADSL2+ as the modulation on its up to 8Mbps service, but it looks like ADSL2+ running at up to 24Mbps is on the way (when will talktalk bring ASDSL2+ up to 24Mbps available ? any plan dates yet ?)
Posted by adriandaz over 9 years ago
I guess this is why LLU providers tend to run less contention on their networks compared to BT? Also these 100Mbit or 1Gbit links would be an Ethernet based supply instead of ATM?
Posted by AndrueC over 9 years ago
@adriandaz:You can get an Ethernet based haul off BT if you want. That's what a BES is and it's how smaller LLU ISPs like Be are set up.

I assume that IPStream uses ATM because BB is piggy-backing on their telephone network and it makes sharing backhaul capacity amongst different ISPs possible which brings the cost down.
Posted by c_j_ over 9 years ago
@various: It's all fibre underneath, between exchanges and datacentres. Whether it's presented to the user via an Ethernet connector and protocol or via an ATM connector and protocol is dependent on the kit connecting to the fibre.

ATM has certain valuable features like guaranteed bandwidth, guaranteed delivery, and low latency. IP bandwith was cheaper than ATM when IP networks weren't full to the point of overloading; now they are, and if you want guaranteed delivery and low latency in your IP service, guess what, it costs a lot. (IP's also more flexible, for most purposes).
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
"I guess this is why LLU providers tend to run less contention on their networks" - look at the numbers again - Talk Talk users are consuming the same as a 622M BT Central with its maximum 30,000 users, so the contention is the same.

We've had double accounting from Talk Talk before- how many of the 1619 T-T exchanges are the same as the 1011 AOL exchanges ie do they in reality serve about 1700 exchanges rather than the 2600+ the PR fluff implies ?
Posted by ETEE over 9 years ago
According to the CPW presentation, more backhaul is to be integrated between AOL and TT from this summer with AOL starting fully unbundled connections. Yes they share exchanges but the equipment is not the same at present; AOL being SMPF.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
easynet use gigabit backhauls on large urban exchanges, and I expect they then piggy back smaller close exchanges of those.
Posted by Middlefield over 9 years ago
Interesting to hear talk of these high speeds. Out here in the countryside we are licky to 350K on a nominal "up to 8M" line. The problem does not appear to be the copper to the exchange but rather the link from the exchange to the Internet core network.
Posted by alcrawford over 9 years ago
"I'm interested to know how customers are finding the service now"

I would say "improved but a way to go yet..."

I found them frustrating on the few occasions when I had to ring them in the early stages of being a customer. When I had a serious issue with speed and dropped connection a few months back I rang them and basically told them they were going to sort it and they did without any fuss. Changed some settings on my line apparently. Anyway still working and a lot more stable than it was.
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
If you are having problems with the phone support, you will find the TalkTalk forums will get things done a lot quicker!
Posted by MickY_G over 9 years ago
Unfortunately, being a bit of a divvy when it comes to talk like this, I don't undertand a word of it! All I want to know is will it give me better speeds than the 1.2-1.4Mbps than I am getting now, when I can practically see the exchange from my house! 10 minutes walk and I can knock on the exchange door! And the service now stinks and as soon as my 'contract' expires, I am off! Unless they do something about the speeds as they keep telling me on the phone they are! What a load of c**p!
Posted by perksw over 9 years ago
I was reading this article whilst on the 'phone to TT's Highest Technical Support(in South Africa), having spent the last 3 weeks with my connection dropping out continually. Talking to people in India who can only read from their computer screens telling me I was loosing signal strength. Reading this meant I could talk to them about future upgrades and sound like I knew what I was talking about. They are ringing me back with information on when the upgrades you mention might be coming to Cornwall and if I can get my old BT line replaced. So thanks, I will keep posted
Posted by leshewitt over 9 years ago
" customers are finding the service now"

My service went reliable almost overnight during Jan 2008. It is connected at 4.9Mbps and has been, rock-solid for at least a month. I think there was an exchange software upgrade around then. I understand that my cable length is around 3km (1.5km as the crow flies).

It's relatively fast, it's reliable, it's very cheap!
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