Telecom rejigs wholesale and loosens broadband brake

New dimensioning options make little difference to customers, ISP lobby group says

Telecom has rejigged its wholesale broadband service with three different dimensioning options on the ATM backhaul. Wholesale customers can now choose either 16, 24 or 32kbit/s per user on CUBS (commercial unbundled bitstream service), according to Telecom wholesale spokeswoman Melanie Marshall.

Presently, the default is 24kbit/s per user on CUBS.

Marshall says CUBS is an ATM-shared virtual path service which has all end-users sharing the same bandwidth as well as the hand-over links.

Asked why Telecom didn’t go higher than 32kbit/s, Marshall says this is broadly the same as the dimensioning of the shared virtual path. It also allows Telecom to manage traffic into the core network, says Marshall, who adds that without a limit, traffic could just be discarded under load.

It will be up to ISPs to tell end-users which dimensioning option has been chosen, as Marshall says Telecom does not communicate with wholesalers’ customers directly.

Telecom has also updated its Fair Use Policy (FUP) for the Wholesale Broadband Service (WBS) Cabriolet plan. Apart from the existing limit of 700MB in a day between the hours of 4pm and midnight, users who exceed 200MB in a single hour will be placed on a watch list for a week.

If end-users on the watch-list exceed the hourly or daily limits during the seven days after being placed on it, they will be transferred into a Fair Use Pool for a week. Customers in the Fair Use Pool will share a fixed amount of bandwidth with each other. However, Telecom doesn’t specify how much bandwidth is available to share but after seven days, customers will be removed from the pool with a clean slate.

Whether or not the changes to wholesale will be reflected in Telecom’s retail service through Xtra is uncertain. Telecom says it operates a “retail equivalence” as per its Wholesale Charter, but would not comment when asked if Xtra’s broadband would be changed in a similar fashion.

Commenting on the dimensioning changes, ISPANZ President David Diprose says they do nothing to change the Committed Information Rate (CIR) or the amount of bandwidth guaranteed to users.

In his opinion, UBS has no CIR because while the current Telecommunications Act specifies that the regulated UBS should provide an absolute minimum of 32kbit/s, Telecom uses a different measure. Diprose says Telecom provides no less than 32kbit/s on average over any 15-minute interval. This, he says, is not the same as specified in the act, and is not a valid CIR.

Diprose explains that the UBS backhaul comprises three parts, starting from the DSLAM to the first Telecom ATM switch. This is paid for by the UBS ATM port charge. Next follows the Unspecified Bit Rate (UBR) backhaul service from the first ATM switch to the handover ATM switch. Providers pay for this at different rate-steps depending on location and distance.

The final part is from the handover ATM switch to the ISP, which is paid for separately as an ATM STM-1 (155Mbit/s) or STM-4 (622Mbit/s) circuit. It’s this part, Diprose says, that is currently rate-limited to 24kbit/s per provisioned customer.

Diprose doesn’t know why any provider would pick the 16kbit/s option. However, even if providers go for the 32kbit/s rate, it will not improve the situation much, because Telecom hasn’t changed the dimensioning on the first two parts of the UBS backhaul, he says.

He says “we’re still stuck with a sub-standard product that the rest of the world would struggle to call broadband.”

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