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BT Moves to Resolve 20CN Broadband Congestion at the CLEY Exchange

Posted: 07th Dec, 2011 By: MarkJ
norfolk suffolk east anglia uk mapbtBT has finally moved to fix capacity problems at the CLEY telephone exchange (East Norfolk) after residents and an ISP ( AAISP ) complained that the operator had only provided a dismally small amount of broadband bandwidth to the area (a single 10Mbps link), which has to be shared between roughly 400 customers (many of those use 'up to' 8Mbps ADSL (20CN) connections).

Broadband is of course a shared "Best Efforts" service where a little often goes a long way. Indeed ADSL lines, due to various technical issues, rarely deliver even close to the top speed and that allows the bandwidth to be stretched a bit further.

However, according to Andrews & Arnold ( AAISP ), most of their customers in CLEY "can get 7.15Mbps each on their links" and it doesn't take a genius to work out that this level of contention could easily result in a capacity crunch. That's exactly what residents have been complaining about.

The Director of AAISP UK, Adrian Kennard, said:

"Now, there are contention levels - you don't just add up all the links, but this level of contention and such a small aggregate link makes no sense to us. If two of the 7.15M customers try to access the internet at the same time they get badly congestion. If one of the 400 customers torrents they would hog all of their 7.15M leaving under 3M for the remaining 399 customers.

We are, of course, trying to get them to fix this. They can simply increase the capacity on the VP [ISPr ED: Virtual Paths]. They are pretty much refusing to, saying their planning rules allow 400 customers on it. In practice we are seeing congestion with only 100 customers on the link, and are not at all surprised."

At the time BT claimed that CLEY was only at 25% of its capacity, which didn't appear to reflect what locals were experiencing. The issue isn't isolated to one exchange and other areas are known to have similar problems, although ISPs rarely discuss it because of related Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) and or a lack of customers on 20CN.

The good news is that, despite BT initially claiming that the exchange did not need an upgrade as it was only at 25% of its capacity, work has now been undertaken to resolve the problem.

A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

"In terms of the VPs and customer traffic, we operate a policy of threshold triggers. If and when the VP exceeds the threshold, it is automatically programmed for a re-grade. This has certainly been the case with the exchange at CLEY, which in recent weeks has been running below threshold, but was submitted for a regrade at the end of November because it exceeded the threshold. So our records show that there are no issues at this exchange at this time. The exchange also had a new DSLAM in November last year."

Initial reports suggest that the situation around CLEY is now "a lot better", although AAISP would still like to know more about BT's threshold for upgrades and over what period the operator measures a capacity problem before action is taken.

Meanwhile BT informs us that they are "well aware" of rising bandwidth demands and have pledged to invest "tens of millions of pounds this financial year" into the legacy 20CN broadband network, which mostly serves remote and rural areas.

It's worth pointing out that BT's latest 21CN (up to 24Mbps ADSL2+ compatible) network will be able to reach 90% of UK premises during Spring 2013, although that still leaves 10% stuck on 20CN. BT told us that they are also "exploring opportunities to deliver faster speeds" to the final 10%.
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