Steve Powell, Product Manager at MDNX says looking back over the last ten years or more, the speed of change in connectivity access for businesses and consumers has not only been breathtaking but inextricably linked.
Steve Powell, Product Manager for MDNX believes that the lines between consumer and business markets have blurred. “The attraction of DSL broadband for business, not least in cost, became overwhelmingly persuasive, and was further accelerated as economic pressures increased, and whilst this shared infrastructure, with its millions of tails connected over a national ATM network, has not been without its significant problems (mainly arising from bandwidth contention) – its price advantage over competing technologies, driven by consumer market forces, was just too much for the business market to resist, hence the huge take up of shared DSL connectivity services by them.
Providers of dedicated Ethernet services are fighting back against the onslaught of shared broadband access by launching NGA technologies such as EFM (Ethernet in the First Mile). These bond together multiple copper pairs to provide cheaper and hugely popular dedicated Ethernet access for businesses.
Of course Next Generation Access (NGA) within consumer broadband, in the form of Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) and later this year Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) is yet another step change. Those tails are so much bigger – from ADSL2+ with its substantial download capacity to FTTC and FTTP, often 4 to 8 or 10 times bigger than the 10Mbps Ethernet businesses so recently saw as the pinnacle of corporate WAN connectivity, However when all is said and done, other than EFM, most NGAs are still connected to a massively shared national infrastructure with all the flaws that this entails.
During the recent World Cup in South Africa for example, when millions of UK office workers streamed live games in the background whilst they went about their daily business, all pinch points within these national backhaul networks reached saturation and some business critical activities such as converged voice and data, using these shared networks, were close to melt down. This wasn’t a one off, events such as Wimbledon, elections and the upcoming London Olympics present a challenge as great as or even greater than the World Cup last year as streaming media truly gets into its stride.
The Olympics with events scheduled every day for two weeks represents a major challenge for those businesses inevitably tempted to use DSL or NGA on a shared infrastructure. Business continuity is likely to be more of an issue than ever before, as the huge bandwidth constraints within the UKs shared core & backhaul networks. Fortunately for the reseller of business services there is a solution for these issues waiting in the wings, which is where the end-to-end RT QoS or ‘Real Time QoS’ services comes in (currently in development).
We’ve lived with the concept of Quality of Service (QoS), where network activities may be prioritised according to business requirements, for some time. So for example via QoS, VoIP can be given priority over non-critical activities such web browsing and email in the event of a bandwidth shortage, to ensure there is no impact on the performance of these business critical applications. Sounds good, but the problem is that end-to-end QoS has not been possible over the UK’s shared broadband infrastructure, as any data packets marked as ‘priority’ are simply lumped in with all other traffic and delivery is treated as ‘best effort’, or worse, such marked data is discarded completely.
Real Time QoS, which we’re now actively trialing with some of our resellers, customers and BT, will be ready for launch later this year and offers guaranteed end to end prioritisation for voice and any other ‘real time’ data traffic on ADSL2+, FTTP and FTTC circuits. This will mean companies using VoIP or converged voice and data over shared infrastructure on NGA broadband will be able to beat the effects of contention even at times of massive network overload such as the Olympics next year. Implementation of RT QoS will lead to a situation in which some bandwidth can be effectively dedicated to an individual line and will therefore never be subject to the effects of contention. The eventual deployment of this technology will be a major breakthrough in the viability of shared broadband for business and represents a major cost reduction for companies willing to learn how to implement this. We are obviously very excited to be one of the few companies involved with this trial.
At present, businesses that cannot risk using contended services are limited to using more expensive offerings like leased lines, Ethernet, EFM or even dedicated broadband lines. RT QoS removes the effects of contention for critical traffic by adding the ability to dedicate a quantity of bandwidth to specific subscribers or applications.
RT QoS will, for the first time, allow inexpensive share broadband NGA to work effectively for all businesses that are ready to early – adopt and implement RT QoS, it will be a source of real competitive advantage and business opportunity because it will change the game – Olympics or no Olympics.”