You’ve probably seen in the news last week that data roaming charges will be abolished within the EU from June 2017 and, as part of the same announcement, net neutrality will become ‘enshrined in law’ from this date, albeit with a potentially concerning exception in our view.
The EU will introduce ‘strong net neutrality rules’ from June 2017 which will ensure network providers (including mobile operators) treat all Internet traffic equally and will be unable to block and restrict certain types of traffic or applications. This follows previous complaints from VoIP providers who argued mobile operators were unfairly blocking their competitive services. We covered this issue in a guest blog from ITSPA (Mobile operators must follow net neutrality principles, says ITSPA).
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BT reportedly has plans to move all domestic and business phone customers to an IP based network within the next 10 years and is requesting that Ofcom relax its obligations on the company to provide a traditional copper based phone network at the same time. This would allegedly enable BT to focus on supporting a single network infrastructure and invest elsewhere. So, is the UK ready to move to an IP based network or should BT be forced to retain its existing Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) infrastructure?
BT’s argument is that most customers rarely use their landline to make calls now, with most opting to utilise mobiles or VoIP based technology anyway. In order to move with technology and remain competitive, it wants to utilise an IP based network for all landlines rather than the existing PSTN infrastructure that it (and KCOM in the Hull area) are obligated to provide as part of its Universal Service Obligation.
Mark Shurmer, BT’s group director of regulatory affairs, said: “We believe obsolete regulation should be rolled back, rather than clinging on until the last user dies. What we are looking for is a kind of ‘sunset clause’ that will help customers to plan.”
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Last year we discussed the campaign being led by ‘Which?’ demanding guaranteed broadband speeds and slating a number of the larger ISPs for not delivering what their headline advertised speeds promised. Unfortunately, whilst we ISP types are well aware that it’s simply not that easy to ‘guarantee’ broadband speeds, Which? has reignited its campaign and whilst its intentions are good, the demands simply aren’t feasible.
Based on a recent report from Ofcom which sampled approx. 2000 connections Which? has used the findings to further promote its campaign to convince the ASA to change the current advertising guidelines governing broadband speeds. Currently, ISPs are required to advertise headline speed claims based on actual speeds achieved by at least 10% of their customer base. Which? argues that this recent survey shows ISPs are not conforming to these guidelines, which the ISPs dispute. It is also demanding a tougher ‘majority’ based calculation, wants providers to back up arguably generic statements such as ‘superfast’ with actual speed information and requests a crackdown by regulators on confusing adverts.
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Back in 2001 the then industry regulator, OFTEL, forced the major carriers such as BT to offer leased line connections at wholesale rates to competing ISPs. This significantly opened up the market and was the beginning of the booming Ethernet industry seen today.
The costs of leased lines are significantly lower now and continue to fall year on year, and that presents a challenge for resellers looking to maintain healthy margins. Market competition plays an important part of course, but it’s not the only reason prices have come down and there are still plenty of good reasons why it’s important to offer leased lines and to offer them at competitive prices.
Our new eBook “Four key reasons why leased line prices are still falling (and how you can counter the competition)” explains why this is happening and how you can respond and thus take full advantage of this rapidly-growing sector of the market.
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Steve Lalonde, Chief Technical Officer
In a recent u-turn following their latest Business Connectivity Market Review, Ofcom is proposing that ISPs offering leased lines be granted physical access to BTs ‘dark fibre’, something it disregarded during its previous review in 2012. So, should BT be forced to open up its dark fibre to competitors and how could it affect the industry?
What is dark fibre?
In simple terms, dark fibre is the ‘un-lit’ (unused) fibre optic lines that have already been implemented by a carrier to provide spare capacity for coping with future demand. By allowing access to this fibre, the competing Communications Provider can install its own equipment at either end, taking full charge of the solution on a wholesale basis.
The carriers that have invested in the implementation of this fibre to enhance their own networks and ensure future scalability are obviously upset by the recent proposals and argue that they should not be forced to provide competitor access to this ‘dark fibre’- after all, they are clearly trying to protect their investments.
A recent open letter sent by BT, Virgin Media and Kingston Communications warned Ofcom that such actions could lead to higher prices and “significant regulatory uncertainty, undermining the return on sunk investments and therefore dis-incentivising future infrastructure investments“. It also states that “allowing multiple operators to tamper with the physical network will cause service faults for customers“.
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