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UPD AAISP UK Run First Live Trial of New FTTC Etherway Business Broadband

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 (7:58 am) - Score 1,220

Bracknell-based ISP Andrews & Arnold (AAISP) has this week claimed to be the first UK provider to trial BT’s new FTTC based Etherway service, which combines the low cost of Fibre-to-the-Cabinet technology with the “simplicity, high reliability and performance” of Ethernet for a more affordable and faster business broadband product.

The new product, which will eventually become available via “ultra-fastFibre-to-the-Premises lines once the two services meet (FTTP only has a tiny coverage), is expected to be rolled-out over the course of this year and should provide a nice mid-range alternative to expensive copper based EFM and Fibre (EAD) services to the exchange.

Adrian Kennard, Director of Andrews & Arnold, said:

With the Ethernet services we can offer what was traditionally called a leased line connecting a customer to us with low latency and low, or zero, contention (sharing). The service has low target fix times for faults and is very reliable and flexible. We can connect people to two separate data centres at the same time for extra reliability, and provide dual router functioning (VRRP) for zero packet loss router maintenance on our network. This is normally provided as a fibre direct to the premises with accompanying cost and lead time (and digging up of the road in many cases).

FTTC on the other hand is quick and cheap to install and has lower running costs. FTTC is widely used for broadband, but normally makes use of the shared broadband back-haul infrastructure. This is more costly for high data usage, and suffers from outages for maintenance on BRASs and LNSs and so on.

By combining the two we can offer high quality Internet access using Ethernet back-haul but at a sensible price for a truely all you can eat service. This is still too much for most home users, but ideal for any business needing a proper Internet connection. BT even offer a 7 hour target fix time, 24/7, on these services.”

Unfortunately AAISP admits that its first FTTC Etherway customer “does not yet work” and BT’s promised 7 hour fix time target has already turned into 4 days. But that’s perhaps to be expected from such a new service and might have been avoided had the operator allowed AAISP to conduct a proper trial prior to launch; in any case AAISP expect this to be “fixed soon“.

As for the price, Kennard hints that costs will vary depending on location and what speed you want. A rough estimate based on a typical quote for 2M-10Mb/s burstable (5:1) is around £190 +vat per month (remember this is a low-contention business grade solution and shouldn’t be compared with shared home services). By contrast an 8M-40M service on the same line is around £404 per month. Other ISPs may well launch cheaper solutions.

In terms of speed the service should technically be able to achieve whatever a normal FTTC line can, which means up to a maximum of almost 80Mbps download.

UPDATE 11th July 2012

After suffering over 4 days of problems the service now appears to be working.

Leave a Comment
12 Responses
  1. Tim Robinson says:

    Indeed so. I am that customer.
    I have to say that all the staff at AAISP have absolutely bent over backwards, from early morning to very late evening, to help get the circuit working as it should. With any new product one expects possible teething problems. The frustration is that it has taken 4 days from AAISP reporting the issue to BT (wholesale division) to actually getting a real networking engineer within BT plc to fire up a laptop and take Wireshark traces to identify the issue.
    There are clearly people within BT who have real clue and a genuine desire to help solve problems. The problem is the long drawn-out process by which the ISP gets to talk to them. With a new product like this, surely it is in everyone’s interest to streamline this process?
    Anyhow, as a result of Wireshark traces (taken by me and BT (Wholesale division) at 2130 last night – good on them!) it is clear that it is BT (Openreach division) who are blocking packets. I just hope the change process can be done in hours and not weeks. More to come on this as it happens!

  2. DTMark says:

    “this is a low-contention business grade solution”

    How is the contention managed over the fibre from the exchange to the cabinet?

    e.g. so that the low contention can be guaranteed – is a chunk of bandwidth between the two “set aside” or does the one user/users taking this service get prioritised over everyone else achieving this?

    This appears to have been Virgin Media’s “Achilles Heel” with faster services.

    1. FibreFred says:

      Per Vlan QoS maybe? Easy enough to accomplish

    2. Deduction says:

      If their claims are true i hope its not QoS in use, not only can that lead to dropped packets (router drops packets if buffer is full due to loads of QoS stuff being dealt with) but also increased latency. Jitter can also have an increased affect as a packets position in the queue affects the delay of the routers along the path between source and user. This would obviously affect streaming audio, video etc.

      Dont see how claims such as “zero packet loss” can be true.

      The other main claim is “connecting a customer to us with low latency and low, or zero, contention (sharing)” is utterly meaningless and nothing more than a how long is a piece of string argument (what they deem is “LOW” others may not, especially if loads of traffic does have QoS applied to it).

      AAISP are getting a bit like BT, making wild claims about a product when they do not even have the product in service to prove the claims. Maybe theri few years of dealing with the horrid BE is rubbing off on them and the statements they release.

  3. Tim Robinson says:

    OK. Pleased to confirm that the circuit is now up and running, and passing traffic for my users. Great job AAISP and also thanks to BT for tracking down the issue.

    As a comment on the post by ‘Deduction’ AAISP is not guaranteeing zero packet loss. that would be a ridiculous claim. What AAISP said is “[we] provide dual router functioning (VRRP) for zero packet loss router maintenance on our network.”

    i.e. they can take their routers in and out of service without dropping a packet.

    It’s quite different.

  4. Deduction says:

    quote”they can take their routers in and out of service without dropping a packet.”

    Oh so they will be hoping and praying one router which may go out of service has nothing in its buffer before it goes out or you take it out. Oh i see now that makes a much more sense. Even if the other is duplicating the load you have still lost packets if one goes out… They may still all be there they may all still get delivered but you still lost a copy so to speak of the packets. Oh and a system like that in addition by itself would increase latency… Which in turn again makes the “LOW” latency claim meaningless, as its not as “LOW” as it could be.

    Considering all these claims were made before they even had the service working its quite obvious to me they are/were unfounded.

    YOU CAN NOT… On any service provide ZERO PACKET LOSS IN ANY REGARD. Unless you have Harry Potter locked in your comms cupboard it aint gonna happen.

    Im sure the product is very good and in reliability terms meets AAISPs normal high quality levels…… Just a shame like others they have started issuing meaningless claims nowadays.

  5. RevK says:

    Actually, it is quite simple.

    There are two routers. They have BGP announcements and VRRP. When one is upgraded, the router demotes VRRP so it is not master for packets to it, and withdraws route announcements from BGP, so it is not the router getting traffic the other way. In this state it still accepts and forwards packets though. The next packet arriving either way goes to the secondary router which forwards it as normal.

    There is no gap – the sender of the packet either way sends to one or other router. Even though there will be no queue of packets as they are sent as fast as they arrive, the upgrading router then waits a few seconds to confirm all is well, and reboots new code (in under a second). It then brings up BGP first, and when it has gateways to the internet it brings up VRRP. All very controlled, and no reason a single packet through it should be lost.

    This is all automated on FireBricks when you do an upgrade, but the principle is pretty standard in the industry – take down BGP first so packets go to other routers, then reboot.

    Obviosuly, in the event of some sort of crash or power failure, a few seconds would be lost – though we can get VRRPv3 down to just over 30ms if we wanted.

    The claim is quite valid, and reasonable, otherwise we would not have made it.

    The reason we said it at all is that it is quite difficult to do on L2TP LNSs. Not quite impossible, but not something we even try. And the BRASs in BT certainly do not have a way to be upgraded with no packet loss, as we see quite often.

    The point is that routine maintenance on this FTTC/Etherway service is formally no disruption at all (no packet loss caused by it), but on broadband it is always some disruption even if only a couple of seconds to re-establish PPP.

  6. RevK says:

    Also, on the contention side. There are options using EAD and EFM links to have a zero contention link from end user to us and this is our standard offering for Etherway/Etherflow services.

    Obviously from then on to the Internet is another matter, but these services can also be site to site with zero contention.

    For the FTTC the standard option is normally 5:1, which at these speeds (up to 80Mb/s) is pretty low contention. There are zero contention options on FTTC but understandably much more expensive.

    I agree that “low” contention or even specific contention such as 5:1 depends a lot on the size of the pipes involved and other users. At the end of the day the contention does not matter – what matters is whether the link gets congested or not. An uncongested link is the same as a zero contention link. A congested link is “poor” regardless of what contention got it there. Contention is a horrid measure, except when it is in fact zero.

    Again, we are aiming to be very clear on what we state and what we provide.

  7. Deduction says:

    what is the actual maximum contention ratio of the service?

    It does matter if you want to claim things like “LOW” contention and “LOW” latency on the product. OR is that just there to sound good with no real meaning?

    Im also in the 7 hour fix time considering a recent area that had a big chunk of Fibre nicked (covered in another story on this site) was without service for days.

    Im sorry but while you products have a good reputation if its one thing that ticks me off its claims that are either utterly meaningless, non specific or vague. As i said i suspect that dealing with BE for a while and the nonsense they spill may be rubbing off on AAISP.

  8. Deduction says:

    i also stand by my bit in caps YOU CAN NOT… On any service provide ZERO PACKET LOSS IN ANY REGARD. Even a direct lease line can suffer packet loss.

  9. RevK says:

    Sorry if you think we are being at all misleading.

    1. We do offer zero contention (i.e. leased line) services using etherways and etherflows. This normally makes most sense for point to point links and not general Internet access as the Internet is contended. However, we can offer uncontended links between us and the customer in such cases.

    2. The FTTC is normally done as 5:1 contention, but as with all contentions the figure 5:1 is meaningless in most contexts. It is however “low” for these speed of links and in practice does not suffer congestion, but it could.

    3. It is possible to offer a zero packet loss service! Why do you think it is not? A simple 10M point to point link can be so. All packets you managed to get in one end come out of the other end with no lost packets. Such a leased line service suffers zero packet loss. Obviously whatever is trying to sqeeze more than 10M down a 10M pipe will lose packets on its side, but that is not the “service” losing them. Note, a cat5 cable does this too. Why do you think this cannot be done?

    4. We did not say the service was zero packet loss anyway. We said that we should be able to do zero packet loss network maintenance. I.e. using a pair of routers and suitable sequences for managing VRRP and BGP we can ensure no packet loss “because of the network maintenance”. This is very different to circuits which have a BRAS and LNS, maintenance on either causes loss of PPP and hence at least seconds of loss of service.

    If you don’t understand the claims, you just have to ask, but we are not making unfounded claims.

  10. Deduction says:

    I look forward to NEVER seeing your status page or news anywhere mentioning an outage, latency, congestion or packet loss issues with the product then.
    In the mean time ill go back to counting flying pigs.

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