ISPreview - Entanet 2008 ISP Interview
Entanet 2008 ISP Interview
By: Mark Jackson - November 13th, 2008 : Page 3 -of- 5
"the ‘Digital Divide’ will never be eradicated since carriers will always roll out faster services first where it makes the most economic sense to do so"

8. The rollout of future fibre optic broadband services from BT does have one very obvious downside, it risks widening the ‘Digital Divide’ between more economically feasible urban areas and rural/remote communities where the costs of installing fibre can be prohibitive. Likewise, some locations that are only able to get the most basic of broadband speed and connectivity could be left out in the cold for many years to come. How do you think this problem should be tackled?

Entanet: At a very simplistic level you have to consider what BT21CN will deliver to the UK population before even faster services such as FTTx become available. On the one hand the ‘Digital Divide’ will never be eradicated since carriers will always roll out faster services first where it makes the most economic sense to do so (i.e. serves the densest populations). The key to 21CN though is that BT’s rollout plan aims to include all exchanges which is good news for customers in more rural/remote areas.

That said, the usual rules of service quality based on distance from exchange etc will apply. Whilst it’s not my place to comment on BT’s investment strategy, BT21CN at least should mean that these services will become available to everyone within the next 3 years. If it had been left to the LLU providers to deliver faster broadband then it’s true the divide would become less a divide, more a chasm!

Having said that, we recently posted a comment on http://opinion.enta.net/ about this very topic (Broadband – the continuing digital divide) and suggest that there needs to be change to the “Universal Service Obligation” (USO) that the European Union requires each country’s regulator to set, to provide a minimum 2Mbps to each residential or business property at no worse than 5:1 contention. The article’s too long to repeat here.

9. BT has said that it will open its new next-generation fibre broadband network up to the wholesale (ISP) market, do you think that Virgin Media should now do the same with their more establish cable infrastructure and if so, why?

Entanet: BT already has opened its doors to the wholesale ISP market with the availability of Wholesale Broadband Connect, it’s just that Entanet has so far been the only non-BT communications provider so far to accept the challenge! Those not wanting to take the bigger steps to use WBC are relying on BT for its Wholesale Broadband Managed Connect (WBMC) product. However the complete WBMC service which will include the IPStream Connect product (enabling them to deliver existing IPStream connections over BT21CN) will not be available until August/September 2009.

Arguably for Virgin to adopt the same strategy with its own network could be good for the market in terms of offering the channel an alternative means of competing; and giving consumers (whether residential or business) greater choice. That said, it would clearly have to be a case of ‘right product, right time, right price’.

10. The UK broadband market appears to have consolidated itself into a block of six dominant providers and four medium sized operations. Some of these, such as Sky and O2 (Be), are also increasingly able to offer impressive levels of service quality for lower price points, though they are more the exception than the rule. How does this impact smaller ISPs, which often find it difficult to compete on price without causing detriment to their service quality; have smaller providers now lost their quality niche?

Entanet: For smaller ISPs opportunity still exists to differentiate themselves on elements other than price. Nonetheless, this will be more or less difficult depending on what market they’re trying to sell into. These larger players you refer to have been exercising their muscles particularly to grab a share of the residential consumer market and then attempt to improve service. Contract tie-ins may enable them to do that for a period of time but you only have to look at some of the user forums to see what customers think. Many business customers on the other hand take a lot more into consideration when it comes to the entire package and our reseller partners tell us this is certainly where they gain an edge.

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