Category: Small-business Internet access

A code of conduct is now called for advertising bandwidth on UK small-business Internet services

Article

Ofcom extends speed code of practice to business broadband | ThinkBroadband

My Comments

Pantiles - Royal Tunbridge Wells picture courtesy of Chris Whippet [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Pantiles at Royal Tunbridge Wells – representative of a shopping strip with small businesses

Previously, I wrote an article about the main UK ISPs working on a code of practice for selling Internet service to small businesses. This is mainly about calling a minimum service quality for these Internet services.

But BT Business, Daisy Communications, KCOM, Talk Talk Business, Virgin Media, XLN and Zen Internet have agreed to a code of practice for selling business Internet service, which will come in to effect from 20 September 2016.

This code of service primarily affects the bandwidth and service quality concerning the business Internet service.

It calls for transparent accurate information on broadband speeds at the point of sale. This covers providing knowledge of estimated download and upload line-level speeds and, where available, the “real” throughput speeds as early as possible through the sale process. There will also be detailed information about the bandwidth of the service after the sale and on the ISP’s Website. The service speed that is disclosed has to be as accurate as possible and the ISP has to deliver this information to their resellers and solution providers who onsell the service.

If there are issues with the business Internet service not “hitting the mark” when it comes to throughput, the ISP has to manage these issues and help the business customer when that problem is raised by the customer.

The code of practice also include a “walk-out” right where the business custome can leave the Internet-service contract without penalty if the dowload speed falls below and is consistently below the agreed speed even after the ISP and business customer have had an opportunity to rectify the issue. Of course, the business would have to return any customer-premises equipment leased to them by the ISP.

A question that was called out in the article was whether a business customer on a multi-year contract could walk out due to substandard performance encountered during a time where the Internet service is overloaded at a time where residential users are placing intense demand on that service.

But there are a few gaps missing that may affect small businesses.

One of these is that the code of practice doesn’t apply to fixed-line-speed services like cable-modem services or fibre-to-the-premises services. Nor will it apply to “dedicated-line” business services like leased-line services, Ethernet-First-Mile services and Ethernet-over-FTTC services.

The Ethernet-over-FTTC service was called out in the article’s comment trail because it is offered as an entry-level dedicated-line service for small and medium businesses. Here, it is known to exhibit performance traits where the core-network bandwidth is predictable but the access-network bandwidth isn’t predictable.

But the commenters raised the possibility that a business could sign up to an Internet service that has a service-level-agreement which would cover situations and services beyond the code-of-practice’s scope. Similarly, could it be feasible for an ISP or telco to strike a service-level-agreement that is modelled on this code of practice and uses it as a fallback measure?

There is another issue that wasn’t addressed in this code of practice which can affect many small businesses and community organisations. It is where a business cannot see out a contract due to events in the business’s or organisation’s life-cycle such as when the business changes hands or the worst comes to the worst. Similarly, it doesn’t address a situation where a business changes location and the dynamics of the Internet service can be affected by that change.

At least a few steps are taking place to provide the same level of customer protection for small-business owners that consumers would enjoy when they sign up to Internet service.

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UK ISPs take steps to assure Internet service quality for small businesses

Article

Pantiles - Royal Tunbridge Wells picture courtesy of Chris Whippet [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Pantiles at Royal Tunbridge Wells – representative of a shopping strip with small businesses

BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk to Work on New Business Broadband Code | ISPReview

My Comments

All too often, when there are discussions about assuring Internet service quality, these discussions focus on consumers who are primarily downloading content from the Internet. But small businesses and telecommuters are easily left out of the equation.

These users have particular needs as far as Internet service goes. For example, they frequently upload data; whether to transfer data between colleagues using an online file exchange like Dropbox or BitTorrent Sync, to use a cloud-computing service, or to use IP-based telecommunications services like Skype to talk with colleagues in town or across the world. Similarly, they rely on these Internet services to “keep the pot boiling” and if these services underperform or fail, their earning potential is reduced very heavily and the “pot doesn’t boil”. But they don’t have the bargaining power that a big business has because they work on a very small cash flow and have fewer employees with some relying on one who is the “chief cook and bottle washer”.

Linksys EA8500 broadband router press picture courtesy of Linksys USA

Decent internet at a reasonable price is essential for small businesses

ISPs have often forgotten about this class of user by having them either use consumer-grade Internet services or prefer them to sign up to a leased-line or similar “big-ticket” Internet service for their business needs. This is typically shown up by product lists for small-business Internet service having the only action that a potential subscriber can do is to request a quote for their service rather than looking at a tariff chart to compare costs. It is even though some services like leased-line services have prices that are particular to the business’s location and needs. Similarly, small businesses, telecommuters and similar users may not have the need or be able to afford a “big-business” service like a leased-line.

The main ISPs in the UK have taken this head-on by working on a code-of-practice for provisioning Internet to a small business or similar user. This factors in upload speeds, the availability of next-generation broadband “at the door” and service-level agreements. As well, at the moment, ISPs that use BT Openreach’s infrastructure have the ability to sell a service-level-agreement option with faster repair times but it is not always that quick to have problems remediated.

There is a call in the UK for certain small-business Internet services that can be provisioned on a self-install basis using existing infrastructure like ADSL2, fibre-copper (FTTC/VDSL2) and the like to have the tariffs and packages listed on the ISP’s Website. Similarly, Ofcom is requiring ISPs who use the Openreach infrastructure to support the simplified switch-over arrangements for their small-business services where these services use the same infrastructure. As well, they want Broadband Delivery UK to set targets for the level of reach for business-grade next-generation Internet.

Personally, I would like to see small-business broadband that uses existing infrastructure be offered at reasonable prices and these services to come with a decent bandwidth for uploading and downloading along with a service-level agreement that covers the contracted throughput and the time it takes to remedy service faults. If the service requires new infrastructure to be pulled from the street or the building’s infrastructure hub such as FTTP fibre-optic or cable Internet, there should be a published quote for this kind of requirement.

As well, small businesses, whether working from home or other premises such as a shopfront should be factored in when it comes to assessing the quality of Internet service and the level of competition available to these users. Similarly, multi-tenancy business developments like office blocks or shopping areas need to factor in access to business-quality broadband service for their tenants as a key drawcard feature.

At least there is somewhere where action is being taken to provide proper value-for-money Internet service to small businesses, start-ups, telecommuters and similar users.

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Google Fiber available for all small businesses in Provo and Kansas City

Article – from the horse’s mouth

Google Fiber

Google Fiber for Small Business arrives in Provo (plus more of Kansas City)  – Blog Post

Video – what this means for small business!

My Comments

Those of you who subscribe to Google Fiber in Provo or Kansas City were limited by the fact that the fibre-optic next-generation broadband service was positioned just for residential users. This meant that you couldn’t really link up your home office, small business or community organisation to this service to benefit from real next-generation broadband.

Initially Google ran limited-participation program of their Google Fiber For Small Business service in Kansas City to see whether it would “cut the mustard” for a next-generation broadband service that you could trust your business to. Now they have launched the Google Fiber For Small Business service across their current footprint in Provo, Kansas City and Austin.

This is to provide Gigabit throughput along with a supplied router for USD$100 per month with static IPs at extra cost. I have written an article on this Website about getting your small business ready for whenever Google Fiber passes your doors and you sign up for it. Here, I was highlighting concepts like remote storage and cloud computing; telecommuting; VoIP and video telephony; IP-based video surveillance; and public-access Internet as well as drawing attention to your network equipment being up to the task such as supporting high throughput.

As Google provides competitive next-generation Internet service for small businesses, it could provide a real benefit to the small business’s bottom line when it comes to Internet-access costs and value-for-money.

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Fibre broadband passing your business? What it means for you

Article

Guest blog: Fibre broadband: what does it mean for your business? | Go E-Sussex

My Comments

A situation may occur for your small business where fibre-optic next-generation broadband passes your office (including your home). This is due to efforts in place to head towards the concept of this technology being made available in most places through progressive rollouts by differing companies.

In some cases, the next-generation broadband rollouts are public-private efforts with national, state or local governments putting money towards the efforts as a way of investing in their constituencies. It is very similar to improving infrastructure like roads, rails or utilities in a neighbourhood to make it worth investing or doing business in that area.

How could this benefit my business?

Use of remote storage and cloud services

One obvious application us the increased use of off-premises computing services.  Typically these are in the form of remote storage and backup services like Dropbox or Box.com, often marketed as “cloud storage” services. Some of these services essentially function as an off-premises data-backup tool or they can simply work as an invitation-only file-exchange service, whether between you and business partners or simply as a way to shift files between your regular computer and your mobile devices while “on the road”.

For organisations with a Web presence, this will encompass uploading Web content as you maintain your Web page or even backing up that Web page.

Even if a business implements on-premises storage technology such as a NAS or server, there is also an increased desire for remote “on-the-road” access to these resources. Similarly, it could be feasible for a business with two or more locations to have the ability to shift data between these locations such as storing data that is worked on at home using a NAS or server at the shop or caching data between two shops.

Another key direction is to head towards cloud-computing where the software that performs business tasks is hosted remotely. This will typically have you work either with a Web page as the software’s user interface or you may be dealing with a lightweight “peripheral bridge” for industry-specific peripherals. In some cases, various programs such as some business-grade security programs implement cloud computing in order to offload some of the processing that would normally be required of the local computing system. This is being pitched as a way for small business to “think like big business” due to the low capital-equipment cost.

The next-generation broadband services can improve this kind of computing by reducing the time it takes to transfer the files and allows for silky-smooth cloud-computing operations.

IP Telecommunications

A very significant direction for business Internet use is IP-based telecommunications. This gives businesses some real capabilities through the saving on operational expenditure costs while also opening up some newer pathways that have been put out of small business’s reach.

One application is IP-based videocalls using Skype and Lync technology – totally real, not science-fiction anymore. These technologies have the ability to provide for video-based real-time teleconferencing even to high-quality visual displays and some of them even allow for multi-party videocalls. The next-generation broadband services can exploit this technology by permitting smooth reliable videocalls with the high-resolution video display.

Another IP-telecommunications application appealing to small business is the concept of the IP-based business telephone system. This can be facilitated with an on-premises IP-based PBX server that is linked to the outside world via an IP-based “trunk” or a hosted IP-telephony system which is ran simply as a service. The phones that sit on the desks are primarily IP-based extensions or legacy phones connected via analogue-telephone adaptor devices with DECT cordless phones linked up to an IP DECT base.  In some cases, a regular computer or a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) could run a “softphone” application which uses the device’s control surface and audio infrastructure to make it become an extension.

These appeal to businesses due to access to low telephony costs especially for long-distance calls or, for that matter, free calls between multiple business locations through the use of a tie-line that the business doesn’t need to rent.

The next-generation broadband can allow IP-based telecommunications to take place while data is being transferred or the Internet is being used without impeding data-transfer speed or voice / video call quality.

IP-based video surveillance

Shopkeepers and other small-business owners would find greater justification to install an IP-based video-surveillance system or upgrade an existing video-surveillance system to IP-based technology. This could allow, for example, one to watch over another location from one location or permit backup video recording of the footage at another location whether it be a storage provider that you rent space on or a NAS installed at home or another business location.

This also allows for use of newer cameras that implement higher-resolution sensors and support on-camera video analytics. The increased bandwidth means that more of the video footage from these cameras can be streamed at once to a remote location.

Working from home

If you work from home, whether to telecommute or to operate your business operation from home, you will find that the next-generation broadband service is important for you. This is more so if you are dealing with graphics, CAD or multimedia content or even using a VoIP or videocall service as your communications technology.

As well, you benefit from reduced Internet-service contention with other household members when you have the next-generation broadband service. This is because the increased bandwidth could allow you to do intense cloud-based work computing or a large file transfer while they do something like engage in a VoIP voice call or stream video content.

Offering your customers or guests public Wi-Fi Internet service

If you run a bar, café, hotel or similar venue, you could offer your customers or guests a public Internet service and not worry that this service will cramp your business Internet style. In some cases, you could handle more customers’ data-transfer needs at once  which would happen at “peak occupancy” or allow for them to engage in high-bandwidth applications like business data transfer, videocalls or enjoying online video content and have the best experience with these activities.

To the same extent, the public Wi-Fi Internet service is being seen by mobile telephony carriers as an “offload” service to increase their mobile network capacity. As well, some mobile carriers are even implementing femtocells which are mobile base stations that cover a small area like a home or business premises as a method of improving indoor mobile coverage in a particular premises or increasing mobile capacity in a popular location.

Is your small business’s network ready?

There are some things you would have to do to get your small business’s network ready for the next-generation-broadband service.

Your router

One would be to make sure you have a small-business router that is optimised for next-generation very-high-speed broadband. One critical feature it would need is to have an Internet (WAN) connection with Gigabit Ethernet. This would allow for use with an optical-network modem that provides for the high-speed throughput these networks provide. As well, having Gigabit Ethernet for each LAN Ethernet connector and 802.11n/ac dual-band Wi-Fi wireless where applicable would be considered important for the local network side of the equation.

Most of the current-issue high-end or “small-business-grade” routers would cut the mustard when it comes to having this kind of connectivity and this goal could be achieved with the current network-equipment replacement cycle.

Your network

As well, you would need to bring your Ethernet infrastructure to Gigabit standard while also evolving your Wi-Fi wireless infrastructure to 802.11n or 802.11ac standard with simultaneous dual-band operation i.e. N600 or better. A HomePlug segment that you operate in this network could be brought to HomePlug AV2 standard preferably due to higher throughput and improved robustness than HomePlug AV500 or HomePlug AV.

Wireless hotspots

Those of you who run a wireless hotspot or similar public-internet service which is managed by a special router dedicated to this task may have to evolve it to a component-based system so you can implement high-throughput networking technology.

Component-based hotspot systems use a wired hotspot router with Ethernet connections as the only network connections. Then you connect a VDSL2 modem, optical-network terminal or similar appropriate device to your hotspot router’s WAN / Internet port and a dedicated 802.11n access point with a standard of at least N300 for a 2.4GHz single-band unit or N600 for a simultaneous dual-band unit.  This is also a good time to make sure you have optimum public Wi-Fi coverage across your business premises.

You may also have to make sure that the system has improved quality-of-service support for multimedia-based tasks especially if you business happens to be a hotel or similar type. This is because a lot of people are increasingly using smartphones, tablets and ultraportable laptops to engage in Skype videocalls or stream video content from catch-up TV or video-on-demand services and poor quality-of-service severely ruins the user experience with these services.

Considering the full-fibre option

Another issue that can be worth considering for small-business fibre broadband is the “full-fibre” option in a fibre-copper setup. This is being offered by some UK next-generation broadband services and is also being offered In Australia as an option under the Coalition’s preferred fibre-copper National Broadband Network setups.

Here, the same service provider who would normally provide a fibre-copper service like fibre-to-the-cabinet / fibre-to-the-node would also provide a fibre-to-the-premises service as an extra-cost option. A small business could opt for these services especially if they are using cloud services a lot or uploading data to online storage frequently.

Even a business using a fibre-copper setup could look at the feasibility of the full-fibre option as a long-term goal as they make more use of the Internet. As well, this would be a valuable option for premises that are underserved by VDSL-based fibre-copper services. 

It is also worth noting that when you have a “full-fibre” install to a premises, the sale or lease value can increase because of the availability of really high-speed broadband service at that location.

Conclusion

When fibre-based next-generation broadband passes your business, it would become a valuable business option to sign up to one of these services due to costs saved through the higher throughput available with these services. It also allows the business to “grow up” and adapt to increased data-throughput needs.

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Ethernet-grade broadband arrives for Britain’s small business

Article

thinkbroadband :: Zen launches NGA Ethernet service

From the horse’s mouth

Zen Internet

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Most small businesses and professionals end up buying ADSL or similar Internet technology due to it being considered cost-effective. But most of these services yield a higher download speed than upload speed which would suit consumers who download more content.

But the reality with small businesses and professionals is that they need to upload as much as they download. For example, they may want applications like remote backup or cloud-driven data services or they may make heavy use of VoIP or similar communications technology. Except for a hadful of FTTP services like Gigaclear’s where there is the same high upload and download speed, the slow upload speed may put these businesses at a disadvantage.

Zen, a UK ISP have offered a small-business “leased-line” Ethernet-grade Internet service that works with FTTC and FTTP connections to provide from 2Mbps to 10Mbps simultaneous bandwidth at the prices that this group of users can afford. This includes hardware like a managed router and options like failover DSL connections if the main line goes down.

Once more services like these start to come on line for small business at the prices that these businesses can afford, it could open up paths for these business to move off download-focused consumer Internet to business-focused Internet that is also about larger upload bandwidth.

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Secondary-house Internet packages now a key issue in France

Article – French language

Les résidences secondaires : sujet de discorde entre SFR et Orange – DegroupNews.com

My Comments

In the USA, some of the carriers who run wireless-broadband service have had to deal with an untested but real market in the form of the multiple-device user. This is where an account holder maintains multiple wireless-broadband devices like a smartphone, tablet or “Mi-Fi” router, Here, they are having to formulate the right plans that encompass multiple devices and have them gain access to larger bandwidth-allowance pools. It will take some time for these plans to be adjusted properly as the “bugs” and customer-service issues are ironed out in order to achieve the right multi-device plan.

But in France, a spat has occurred between SFR and France Télécom (Orange) over another untested but real service class that is facing the telecommunications aind Internet-service industry. This is a service that is provided to a secondary house like a city flat or a holiday house that is lived in on an occasional basis; and is considered important with France with 3 million householders owning such a place that is typically occupied 44 days in a year.

The accusation that is being raised by SFR is that Orange is working in an uncompetitive manner when targeting this market by offering a particular non-committed Internet package for this user class. SFR say that they can’t offer a similar deal because of their wholesale-bandwidth purchasing agreement with Orange.

There is a reality that people who use these properties do use a wireless broadband service due to its suitability to temporary setups and “there-and-then” setup requirements. But there is a desire by the carriers to provide the “full-bore” fixed broadband service, especially as part of a fixed-line telephony or triple-play package to these houses.

This is augmented more so by the desire for the competitive operators needing to pitch to this market and yield a “secondary-home” service that represents high value in a similar vein that is expected across France.

Personally, I would like to see other telecommunications and Internet-service operators that exist outside France looking at the “secondary-residence” user class more seriously and pitch telecommunications and Internet services that mean real value to them. This includes rental plans for services that are occasionally used such as 3-month / 12-month plans, plans that offer value to multiple-location services and, where applicable, services where bandwidth allowances for many locations are pooled to a larger allowance.

This also should encompass homes which are occupied on a seasonal basis like “summer homes” or houses that are let out to other users on a short-term basis. As well, it could encompass home / business setups where a person has a home office but also maintains a shopfront or secondary office for their business and they want the same communications needs replicated at both sites.

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thinkbroadband :: FTTC Etherway, cheaper access to business grade broadband

Article

thinkbroadband :: FTTC Etherway, cheaper access to business grade broadband

My Comments

Most small businesses typically head for a consumer-based Internet-access setup which has a reduced upload rate. This can be a limitation for these businesses if they dabble with cloud-based computing, IP-based telephony or IP-based video-surveillance.

If they do want this improved upload speed, the business would have to go for an Ethernet-based service that uses the high-throughput Ethernet protocols. Such services are primarily offered as “Metro Ethernet” copper services or FTTP fibre-optic prices at a price that fewer small businesses can afford.

But BT Openreach are offering a wholesale fibre-copper service that provides Ethernet-type connectivity rather than DSL-type connectivity that is pitched at households. This is mainly for the Etherway fibre-copper setups pitched at small business and professional setups and provides the high reliability that would be expected for this kind of computing.

A question that I would have is whether the copper run is Ethernet-based DSL or Metro Ethernet which uses Category-5 twisted-pair copper cabling similar to that used in Ethernet LANs. It would encompass this ability as well as the cost-effectiveness of these fibre-copper next-generation broadband setups.

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