Telecom bitstream hit by technical problems – delayed for up to six months

Interim UBS running over Jetstart network proposed in lieu of original service

Telecom's trials of the commercial Unbundled Bitstream Service have struck a serious edge router software bug just two weeks before the launch, forcing the telco to delay its plans for the UBS rollout. The fault appears at random and reportedly resets full-speed Jetstream and the Starter 128kbit/s version to 256kbit/s.

Martin Butler, Telecom’s manager of strategy and planning, says this instability means the company can't provide a L2TP (Layer 2 Tunnelling Protocol) service for its commercial UBS. A layer 2 service would have ISPs handling user authentication and IP address allocation on their own.

Instead of delaying the launch of the original UBS, Telecom is now proposing an interim service, termed i-UBS, which will be a straight clone of its Jetstream Surf DSL according to Butler. Telecom's i-UBS will be delivered to providers as a Layer 3 service and run over the Fast-IP network, similar to the current Jetstart DSL. Providers will be prohibited from using the Fast-IP Direct network for i-UBS which routes traffic over Telecom's Global Gateway backbone, and instead will need to organise their own international data transit.

Butler says Telecom expects the Layer 2 service problems to be sorted out in between five weeks to three months. However, a letter to Telecom's wholesale customers says it estimates the time to diagnose, design, build, test and validate a fix for the fault could be as long as six months.

Meanwhile, Butler says that the problems won’t greatly affect ISPs who have signed up for UBS with costs for the L3 service being the same as for the contractual service.

Butler says that backhaul for the L3 UBS will be priced at $1 per port each month, instead of the five-tier cost structure for the L2TP service. A new contract with Telecom will have to be signed for the i-UBS before it can be supplied.

“The only area where we foresee problems is with ISPs that were considering deploying speed throttling solution after a certain monthly data cap,” Butler adds.

Once the L2TP UBS service is available, Telecom will migrate all i-UBS customers to it. Butler says the migration will be painless, with only a short, five-minute outage.

One ISP who wishes to remain unnamed says the inability to provide L2TP service is “embarrassing for Telecom” and wonders whether the telco risks breaching the Telecommunications Act 2001 because of the failure to deliver the planned UBS service.

It is unclear how the latest developments affect the availability of the regulated UBS that is legally in force now. The Commerce Commission was contacted for comment on the matter but didn’t respond by Computerworld's deadline.

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