Telecom to make 2Mbit/s UBS available in March

Earlier rollout date carries some risk

Despite recently citing “real technical reasons” for not doing so, Telecom now intends to release a 2Mbit/s Unbundled Bitstream Service wholesale DSL plan in March next year. The announcement was made to ISP partners last week.

At the same time, Telecom will also release the earlier promised 1Mbit/s UBS plan. In both cases, the upload speed will stay at the Telecommunications Act-mandated 128kbit/s maximum.

Telecom's communications and strategy manager for the wholesale services group, Justin Caswell, confirms that both of the faster UBS plans will be released at the same time in March.

However, Caswell says there is a “risk around the March delivery date”. He adds that Telecom is working hard to firm up the date and to mitigate the risks. Commercial terms for providers are not yet available, but Caswell says they should be ready in January next year.

Asked about the technical issues earlier mentioned by Telecom, Caswell says the 1 and 2Mbit/s services represent a completely new rollout and not just a higher speed variant of the 256kbit/s UBS.

The slower 256kbit/s UBS is rate-shaped (speed limited) by dropping packets at the DSLAM when the true speed exceeds the nominal. This can cause problems for customers, as TCP acknowledgement packets going upstream can get lost, thus stalling the connection completely.

Caswell says that the faster plans will instead be rate-limited using packet queuing, which doesn’t exhibit the same issues as dropping packets does. However, queuing is a “completely new piece of software and architecture implemented from scratch,” Caswell says. Telecom is implementing it half the normal time of five months, Caswell adds.

Telecom is committed to enhancing its broadband propositions, Caswell says, and is pulling out all stops to make this possible in the new year. He says moving forward the 2Mbit/s plan is just one of several enhancements to the “broadband portfolio” that Telecom is working on.

The Commerce Commission is currently investigating applications from Ihug and TelstraClear for quicker access to faster UBS plans. In September this year, Telecom released its retail 1 and 2Mbit/s service with a 192kbit/s upstream. Providers can resell this at a 16% margin, but before now Telecom said it could not supply 2Mbit/s UBS until mid-2005 at the earliest.

The retail 1 and 2Mbit/s Jetstream plans plus the wholesale UBS pricing recently led the Commerce Commission to investigate Telecom under the Commerce Act for anti-competitive behaviour.

Commerce Commission spokeswoman Jackie Maitland says Telecom’s proposed earlier release of the 2Mbit/s plan has no effect on the applications for faster UBS from Ihug and TelstraClear. As part of the Commission’s determination process, parties may make submissions on this point, Maitland adds.

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