My name is Garfield Connolly and I work for Smart Telecom. I am the Programme Manager for Smart’s DSL rollout. I’m starting this thread to address any queries this board may have about Smart’s DSL service/ rollout.
I’ll answer any queries that I can. If I don’t respond straightaway, it’s because I’m busy, not avoiding the question. So please bear with me. If I am avoiding the question, I’ll let you know.
I’ll be as frank as I can.
About Smart Telecom’s DSL rollout.
1. Smart Telecom’s DSL service is based on Local Loop Unbundling (LLU). This involves the physical co-location of Smart equipment in eircom exchanges and physically moving your phone line to our network.
Having our own equipment in the exchange and operating LLU means Smart has full control over the services delivered. It also results in the phased rollout described elsewhere; we have to gain access to the exchanges, complete civils, install equipment, etc.
2. Why 2MB?
I’ve had DSL for two years. It’s a great advance on dial-up, but it’s not true broadband. We reckon 2MB is, so that’s what we are offering.
3. Why €35?
Whilst there are members of this board, and members of the broadband community in general, that would pay more for faster access, not everybody would. We believe that broadband should be 2MB and it should be more readily available. Charging more that at present doesn’t make sense in that context. So we charge less.
4. Why free line rental?
Broadband pentration is lower in Ireland that it should be/ could be/ needs to be. If you have broadband, you won’t go back to dialup. But not enough people have had that broadband epiphany. So offering free line rental is a good way of encouraging people to try broadband. Well we think so anyway.
5. So why 2MB AND free line rental?
There are two (maybe three) distinct groups of people that the Smart service will appeal to:
1. I want faster broadband.
2. I’m thinking of broadband, why should I choose you?
3. I’ve never thought of broadband, but with your offer, I think I will now.
Rather than offer 2 or 3 different services, we’re offering the one service. In the long run, it’s simpler.
6. 2MB, €35, free line rental? Can’t be true.
Well it is. We’ve run the numbers and it works. The reason it works is three fold.
A) We’re using Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) so we aren’t rebadging eircom services.
B) We’ve been running a Next Generation Network in the Enterprise/ Corporate space for the last year. We use the same base network to address the eircom exchanges. That network has a much lower cost base that legacy networks.
C) It’s a full service offering. If you take broadband from us, we’ll also provide you with your voice service. It’s a successful voice service, you save money, we make some money.
7. Contention ratios?
Smart don’t provide details on contention ratios? Must be a huge cover up? No conspiracy theory here, sorry. Contention ratios exist in legacy networks to manage scant resources. Engineering contention back into our network would actually take more time and effort and just isn’t worth it.
If you are interested, I have a brief explanation of the difference between the two types of network below.
A) Contended network.
Let’s say an ISP offers 1MB at 20:1 contention and has 100 customers in an exchange. In the contended network that looks like:
20 customers: 1MB
20 customers: 1MB
20 customers: 1MB
20 customers: 1MB
20 customers: 1MB
100 customers: 5MB
Now let’s say that the first 80 customers are on holidays, not using their Internet connection.
The last 20 customers still only have access to their 1MB, even though there is another 4MB there. Because of the highly (restrictively) granular nature of the network, customers can’t benefit from the aggragate capacity available at the exchange.
B) So what about a not contended network?
If the above ISP didn’t run a contended network it would like this:
100 customers: 5MB
Is that the same? No, because each user can use any available, under utilised capacity. As you’re reading this, you may not be downloading any other information. The nature of usage on the Internet is stop-start. So when you’re reading this, the capacity can be re-used.
Of course, in this context, if 100 users are using 5MB, that will have the same effect on the individual user as 20 users using 1MB.
So how is Smart different? We commit to running an actively managed, uncongested network. On occasion, if everyone is online at the same time (unlikely), for sure you may experience congestion. That congestion point may be the DSLAM, it may be the Internet in general, or it could be the website you are trying to get to.
So we don’t contend the network. Nor do we say that the network is uncontended (i.e. a Committed Information Rate CIR). The network is NOT contended. This type of network is easier to manage and our customers benefit from the aggragate capacity available in each exchange.
NB. The DSLAMs are connected to a 2.5G backbone, with GigE interfaces. Upgrading the capacity is about as simple as it gets, it’s down to the network management system, just a 3 minute job.
There are no upload or download limits.
9. Upload speed?
It’s up to 2MB down and 128K up? Why the big move forwards on download and not upload. Two reasons.
A. For most users it is the download speed that is important. Not the upload. Okay, a generalisation, but a valid one.
B. ADSL2+ is still asymetric. We could amend the upload speed, but not to the same extent as the download. If there is enough interest for higher upload speeds, we would be happy to look at it. There would be a charge involved.
10. I checked my line on the website and I pass, but I fail on eircom’s?
The website checks only that your telephone line is connected to an exchange that we are installing DSLAMs in. That’s the first qualification. The next qualification is an engineering line test. These cost money. We have to pay eircom to test the line. If you’re definitely interested in the service, we’ll run the test.
We are rolling out ADSL2+. That’s greater bandwidth over greater distance. So if you failed eircom’s line test, you may pass Smart’s. That will all be part of the engineering line test.
If you register for the service and we aren’t able to offer you the service, then walk away. We won’t hold you to a contract we can’t commit to. Now the offer is up to 2MB. If depending on your line conditions you can only get 1MB, or 512K, then you can decide of free line rental is still a compelling enough offer.
NB. We have had some issues with the exchange availability website. Initially, if you entered a telephone number that wasn’t on the current rollout list, it said that we were coming to your exchange, but we didn’t have a date for that. It should have said that your exchange is not on our current rollout. That doesn’t mean we won’t, but we haven’t confirmed intentions to go to that exchange yet. ‘Yet’ is important, the rollout will be ‘rolling’, always adding more exchanges.
11. You have to sign up to Smart’s CPS/ WLR product to get the service?
No. When you go live on the broadband service, we’ll be carrying your voice calls, both in and out. So while you’re waiting for the broadband offer to come to your local exchange, what can you do?
We would like you to register and commit to the service, based on a timely rollout to your exchange and our ability to offer you the service over your telephone line. Ideally, in the hopefully short period of time between now and then, we would like you to join for CPS and WLR. It means you’re a customer straightaway and it’s easier to manage the transition of existing customers to broadband that brand new customers.
Don’t believe that? It’s true.
12. eircom won’t let us into exchanges?
There is an established process for physical colocation. It’s not as fast a process as we would like, but what process is? The process, as it stands, works.
13. So what’s all this in the press about LLU?
We want a tighter integrated process between LLU (moving your line to our network) and GNP (moving your telephone number to our network). Both processes exist independently; we want them to exist as one product. There are other issues being discussed, but for us, this is the substantive one.
14. What if I register for the service but the Smart service doesn’t come to my exchange before 100,000 customers go live?
Well, hopefully this won’t be an issue. But it if it does happen, we’ll honour our commitment to you. So, if you’re customer 100,001 but are in the first 100,000 registered customers, you’ll get free line rental for life.
This has been a very long post, so if you’ve got this far, thanks for reading.
If you do have additional questions, like I said at outset, I’ll try and be as frank as I can.