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talking point The generation game

Michael Davies of Viatel argues that even though next generation services are here many businesses are not yet prepared.


ver the last couple of years there has been a lot of talk about the arrival of superfast broadband, the logistics of deployment and the knock on effect we can expect to see in a variety of different areas.

Last year’s Carter Report saw the technology receive

significant attention in the mainstream media and some coverage seems to suggest that wide scale rollout is imminent. However, there is concern that such coverage is simplistic in both its explanation of next generation access (NGA) technology and the timeframe predictions for deployment – at present it has only been deployed in a limited number of locations and there is not a consensus on the best way to extend this across the country. In addition, while much of the focus has been on Fibre to the Home (FTTH) and Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), these technologies are actually the least developed, and for businesses, other solutions like ADSL2+ and EFM could be a better option. However, recent research suggests that many UK businesses are not even using these widely available solutions as the infrastructure they have in place is too old to be compatible. The current situation is one of confusion as to exactly what technologies are available, what advantages they offer and who is able to implement them. NGA refers to the replacement of existing access networks with superfast access technologies. The access network is often referred to as the last mile and is the connection from the subscriber (a home or business premises) to a local serving exchange. The last mile is typically built using copper, but for some premises such as larger business locations, that have been able to justify higher levels of bandwidth in the past, fibre is used. Previously network operators have invested heavily

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Michael’s views? If you have a comment to make on this or any other aspect of the network infrastructure industry contact Michael Crane on 01353 616117 or email michael@

in very high capacity core networks, but the access network has had limited investment and has been left as a bottleneck. NGA looks at fixing this by focusing investment in the last mile, and providing sufficient network capacity on a subscriber’s local access circuit to enable them to benefit from any service that may be available to them from service providers, for example cloud computing for businesses. To emphasise this focus the last mile is often now referred to as the first mile. NGA often refers to shared services based on next generation broadband. This relates to the move from existing ADSL services (with up to 8Mb/s line speeds and the newer ADSL2+ services with up to 24Mb/s line speeds) to next generation technologies that can deliver shared services up to 40Mb/s over copper and 100Mb/s over fibre.

Higher speed dedicated services beyond broadband

have until now been delivered using Ethernet rather than DSL. This has mainly been via fibre but with EFM technology, dedicated high speed symmetrical services can


*Survey of IT decision makers at 200 UK organisations with between 250 and 999 employees conducted by Vanson Bourne in February 2010.

be delivered over multiple copper pairs bonded together. Superfast solutions that will be rolled out in the future include FTTC, which runs over copper between the street cabinet and the subscriber, with fibre from the cabinet back to the exchange, and FTTP, which offers speeds of up to 100Mb/s by running fibre directly into the premises. One of the biggest incentives for increasing the number of businesses using superfast broadband is the boost it would give the UK economy. Competitive businesses need dedicated, reliable and guaranteed high speed bandwidth to support the multitude of real time and business critical applications now running over their networks. A key benefit for individual businesses is the enhanced flexibility that NGA can provide. For example, delivering the speeds necessary to support the increasing number of IP based applications provides companies with the flexibility to grow and change or allow employees to work from home. Providing UK businesses with this flexibility is key to ensuring they can weather any obstacles that the global economy may throw up in the future. While the advantages of NGA are clear, recent

research from Vanson Bourne* has shown that a significant number of mid-sized UK organisations are still using out of date technology. Of the 93 per cent of those surveyed that stated they

are currently using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) two thirds are reliant on solutions that are more than two years old, and are therefore based on legacy technology such as first generation DSL and leased lines. This reliance on old technology can also lead to poor connectivity, slow download speeds and insufficient flexibility to grow and adapt to change. In addition, businesses using old technology are prevented from taking advantage of NGA services unless they upgrade their VPN. When asked about upgrading their network six in

10 were concerned about the associated cost and management overheads. This last point is a common misconception as reliance on legacy technologies can actually be more expensive in the long run as NGA technologies actually cost less to run, offer increased performance and significant efficiency gains. Unfortunately, UK businesses are not as informed

about new technology as they should be – to remain competitive and profitable these organisations must learn more about NGA and find out how it can benefit them. Many companies looking to upgrade will be tempted to go with big brand names or the cheapest option, but the real consideration should be: will this system meet my individual company’s needs? The best way to ensure this is to get a bespoke solution that has been specifically designed to meet individual requirements – whether based on FTTC, EFM or ADSL2+ − and that will also scale and adapt to meet future needs. In the next two to three years, businesses can expect to see the coverage of ADSL2+ and EFM to continue increasing. In addition, we will also see the accelerated rollout of FTTC and FTTP services. Ultimately, the legacy services of dial, leased lines and first generation ADSL/ SDSL will be replaced by shared and dedicated next generation access services.

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