Feb
25
2015

“And ponies! Free ponies for everyone!”

I had to laugh when I saw Marc Andreessen’s comment in a press release on “President Obama’s Plan to Regulate the Internet” issued by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai’s office last week.  While most of the comments were along the lines of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, “global Internet will suffer”, lack of transparency and “an unusual attempt by a President to influence a legally independent agency”, I thought Andreessen’s “free ponies” comment pretty much sums up the current goat rodeo in Washington.

On Thursday February 26, we expect the FCC to agree to new rules that re-adopt and expand the previous Open Internet rules that were thrown out by the Court of Appeals in early 2014.   The previous rules were relatively simple and carried forward the policy of a “light regulatory touch” first articulated when Democrats controlled the FCC under President Clinton:

  • Transparency. Fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network management practices, performance characteristics, and terms and conditions of their broadband services;
  • No blocking. Fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services; and
  • No unreasonable discrimination. Fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.

These rules were all subject to “reasonable network management.”  The Court of appeals had vacated the discrimination/blocking rules, however, because the FCC claimed authority under Section 706 to adopt the rules, but those rules were “common carrier”-type regulations, which was inconsistent with the FCC’s classification of Internet access services as an “information service.”

In response to the court decision, the Commission originally proposed to tweak the rules so they would pass Court review consistent with the 2014 court decision and the FCC’s authority under Section 706.  Unfortunately, succumbing to political pressure, including unprecedented intervention by the White House, the FCC will decide instead to reclassify Internet access services as “telecommunications services” under Title II, and to apply the new rules equally to fixed and mobile broadband.  Such a reclassification does allow the FCC to impose utility-like regulations on Internet access providers, but also carries with it regulations applicable to telephone services dating back to 1934.  The FCC is attempting to limit the application of some of these anachronistic regulations by “forbearing,” but many of the more burdensome provisions — including after-the-fact rate regulation and the specter of class action lawsuits — remain.

The new rules specifically adopted in the FCC order to govern Internet access service would provide:

  • No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration – in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans Internet service providers (ISPs) from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.
  • A Standard for Future Conduct: Because the Internet is always growing and changing, there must be a known standard by which to determine whether new practices are appropriate or not. Thus, there will also be a general Open Internet conduct standard that ISPs cannot harm consumers or edge providers.
  • Greater Transparency: The proposal enhances existing transparency rules, which were not struck down by the court.
  • Reasonable Network Management: For the purposes of the rules, other than paid prioritization, an ISP may engage in reasonable network management. This recognizes the need of broadband providers to manage the technical and engineering aspects of their networks.
  • Interconnection: For the first time the Commission would have authority to hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action if necessary, if it determines the interconnection activities of ISPs are not just and reasonable, thus allowing it to address issues that may arise in the exchange of traffic between mass-market broadband providers and edge providers.

The Good

The good news is that the Tier 2 and Tier 3 service providers who are accustom to operating in a regulated environment should remain on track with their plans to leverage the Connect America Fund (CAF) subsidies. These subsidies provide funds to build out broadband networks to greater and greater speeds. The recent CAF 2 Order increased the required broadband speeds from 4/1Mbps to 10/1Mbps and the FCC recently changed the definition of broadband from 4/1Mbps to 25/3Mbps.

The Bad

The rules themselves create confusion because of their ambiguity.   An ISP contemplating a new offering cannot know whether the FCC will decide that the service “harms consumers or edge providers.”  For example, AT&T’s sponsored data plan, where the content provider pays the usage charges of the customer, has been challenged as violating “net neutrality,” despite the fact that it’s just like toll-free calls, which have been perfectly legal (and beneficial to businesses and consumers) since the 1960s.  In addition, the FCC would allow prioritization of “specialized services,” but that is another vague term.  In sum, the uncertainty of knowing what conduct/services may be deemed unlawful is likely to deter ISPs from making investments in new services.  The threat of after-the-fact rate regulation will also deter investment in new facilities.

The Ugly

The FCC’s rules are likely to be challenged at the Court of Appeals as there are significant problems with this FCC rulemaking.  On a number of occasions, the FCC had examined how to classify Internet access services, and each time they decided it was an “information service” and thus outside of Title II.  The FCC is reversing all of those previous decisions, even though none of the salient facts have changed.  In addition, there is a very difficult statutory problem with the FCC’s application of Title II to mobile broadband, because it is not connected to the Public Switched Network.  There may also be challenges to their forbearance decision, since the FCC is not following its own standards of undertaking a granular, market-by-market analysis.  On top of those substantive problems are the procedural irregularities, including the influence of the President (which is also the subject of a Congressional investigation).

Following the release of the Open Internet Order by the FCC, we anticipate that the Tier 1 Telcos, MSOs and Wireless industries will begin litigation. The FCC’s order will also be challenged by net neutrality advocates that want more extensive regulation, including unbundling.  We also believe that the FCC’s Order will be eventually found to be unlawful.  These industries will petition to stay the FCC Order but it is unlikely that tactic will be successful in the courts because of the high hurdle for such judicial relief.  In theory, Congress has been studying a legislative fix that would apply “light touch” regulations, but passage of any legislation these days is difficult, and would face a veto in any event.

The bottom line is that we expect the FCC decision on Network Neutrality to inject a lot of uncertainty and confusion into the broadband arena, although we won’t know important details of the new regulation until the text of the decision is released, which could take several months.  The long term problem we’re going to face as a telecommunications industry is that the FCC has, sadly, become just another pawn in the disconnected, partisan dog-and-pony show that Washington DC has become.

Gary Bolton is Vice President, Global Marketing for ADTRAN. 150x150 Gary Bolton “And ponies! Free ponies for everyone!”

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.adtran.com/and-ponies-free-ponies-for-everyone/

Feb
06
2015

Super-Vectoring: Great for Central Europe, Less so for North America (3 of 3)

This is the third and final installment to my blog series regarding an enhanced DSL technology known as Frequency Division Vectoring (FDV). This technology and other super-vectoring technologies are being looked at by operators to once again allow them to leverage billions of dollars (or euros) of investment in their Fiber-to-the-Cabinet, -Node and -Curb deployments.  These super-vectoring technologies can double the performance of today’s vectored VDSL2 supplying up to 300Mbps of broadband service. This allows operators to stave off both the Cable/MSO competition as well as the high cost associated with full blown Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) deployments.

Now that we’ve looked at some of the challenges in the market and the DSL acceleration technologies that have emerged to address those challenges, today we’ll explore what this means for service providers and the business opportunities ahead. Before getting into the operational benefits of deploying FTTx advancements, whether deployed in lieu of or in conjunction with a full FTTH deployment strategy, we will look at the market drivers for expanding premium broadband.

Today, in North America at least, the average peak demand for a residential broadband connection is approaching 50Mbps. At first glance, this seems hardly worthy of an investment in FTTH or these innovative 300Mbps FTTx technologies.  However, with disruptive cable operators investing in Gigabit service supporting networks via DOCSIS 3.1, and other disruptive new service provider entrants expanding their FTTH footprint, there is a need to compete with headline speeds. Many consumers simply pick the higher rate when comparing a similarly priced offer.

Emerging consumer applications– as always– will drive the demand for bandwidth and operators have to be ready to deliver or risk being marginalized by the market and competition. Cloud-based home backup and Ultra HD (4KTV) are poised to push the bandwidth demand to 100 Mbps or more per home in the next few years. The shift to cloud services, mobile broadband expansion, the growth of Internet of Things and the demand for community development all play a part in moving the needle.

Great for Central Europe, not so much for North America

To understand the business case advantages offered by these new FTTx technologies, we need to understand an important FTTx metric – copper loop length. This provides an important indicator of which geographic regions and which residential markets would be in favor of FDV and therefore most likely to champion the industry standardization and network homologation of such technologies.

There are longer FTTx loop lengths deployed in North America, whereas in central Europe they generally have deployed their services cabinets much closer to the customer, many of which fall into the loop length ranges that could take advantage of super-vectoring service rate gains. As a proof point, since I last wrote on this topic in December, there has been an ITU-T standards meeting in Geneva where European incumbent operator DT was proposing to create a new annex for enhanced data rates compatible with today’s VDSL2 17a services deployed in Europe today.

It is important to note that for any super-vectoring technology to be usable, whether FDV or another, it must be standardized and available from all of an operator’s vendors; must be deployable into existing cabinets and must run in parallel with the existing vectored VDSL2 services. Of course, the technology must also improve upon the performance of today’s vectored VDSL2 service rates at intermediate FTTx copper loop lengths, generally 200 – 400m from the customer. This loop length is too far for typical FTTdp/G.fast deployment scenarios but much closer than 500 – 700m distances…perfect for vectored VDSL2. Super-vectoring is all about squeezing more bandwidth out of these shorter copper loop lengths sitting in no-mans-land – too long for FTTdp and too short for vectored VDSL to take advantage of.

The Overall Cost to Pull Fiber

How committed a service provider is to their large investment in FTTN/Cab comes down to the cost of the alternative which is pulling fiber down or across the street, through a yard or wall and throughout a residence.  This cost is what is saved by leveraging next generation DSL technologies like FDV and G.fast as the premium bandwidth is already installed. New construction houses, condominiums and apartments, known as greenfield deployments, are strong targets for FTTH. We want to pull new fiber… not new copper. This means not just though the street but the building as well. This latter part has been a challenge as many new homes continue to be wired with CAT3 telephone wiring or 100Mbps CAT5/6 Ethernet cable. When service providers get involved in new residential development they plan for these new homes to be constructed with optical fiber through to the wall socket. Now what about the cost of upgrading existing homes with copper wiring to optical fiber?

The cost savings afforded by cabinet and distribution point FTTx deployments is based on the cost to pull fiber those last few hundred meters to and through the home. US$500 – 700 dollars per home is the range seen most often in published business cases. The cost to pull fiber can vary. It can be as low as $1 per ft ($3 per meter) when good quality duct and conduits exist, or it can cost a magnitude higher when boring is required. Boring can be required when ducts are full, do not exist or are in disrepair. This is the case for most homes over 20 years old and historic streets and buildings. North America has relatively newer buildings compared with Europe so lower FTTH connection costs generally apply. That said, according to the 2013 American Housing Survey from the US Census Bureau, the average residential dwelling was built in 1974. Less than 15% of homes are younger than 15 years old increasingly the likelihood of requiring higher priced techniques to connect homes with fiber.

Multi-dwelling units (MDU), apartments and condominiums house a large percentage of the population and offer a great opportunity to leverage existing fiber that often pass by these buildings. The cost to connect each suite can be costly and with 25% of the population living in MDUs and as high as 40% in many dense urban environments, MDUs must be a target for delivering premium broadband services. Leveraging FTTx technologies allow operators to quickly and cost effectively add subscribers. And unlike DSL technologies of the past, the existing phone wiring delivering broadband is owned and maintained by the landlord – not the incumbent telco allowing competitive service providers.

Super-vectoring as an accelerant to Fiber rollouts

DSL acceleration technologies have sometimes been criticized for taking resources away from – and ultimately delaying – the deployment of FTTH. G.fast and FTTdp has been the most recent target of that criticism. However, the prudent operator and careful observer of these technologies recognizes that when a FTTx solution can allow new bandwidth-intensive applications to be rolled out, this in turn drives demand for FTTH. FTTx deployment models allow operators to maximize fiber deployed in the street today allowing for an important return on that asset which raises monies to be later invested in FTTH.

In the same way super-vectoring should not detract from the momentum of other premium broadband deployment models like G.fast-fueled FTTdp and PON fueled FTTH. FDV meets this important requirement. FDV is aligned with the DSL technology roadmap. FDV leverages advances in G.fast chipset technology and is therefore synergistic with G.fast deployment plans being constructed by dozens of the world’s largest broadband network operators.

Super-vectoring technologies like FDV allow incumbent operators to deliver double the bandwidth currently deployable out of their existing cabinet infrastructure. Raising service rates from today’s 100 – 150Mbps up to 200 – 300Mbps. These rates provide important provider differentiation and in the case of FDV help accelerate the deployment of 500Mbps and greater FTTdp deployments by seeding G.fast components into the network.

As handheld and home devices and appliances become more powerful, more connected; As consumer and home automation applications become more cloud-based and more sophisticated, your residential broadband connection must become a high bandwidth, low latency cloud services conduit. FDV is another tool broadband network operators can use to meet this network performance objective.

Kurt Raaflaub serves as ADTRAN’s senior manager of strategic solutions marketing, and has more than 20 years’ experience in telecom. He has global solutions marketing responsibility for SDN/NFV, Gigabit Broadband, Packet Optical, Carrier Ethernet-based Cloud Connectivity as well as managed/hosted ProCloud services delivery for residential, enterprise and backhaul markets. Prior to his current position, Raaflaub was responsible for directing ADTRAN’s Broadband, Carrier Ethernet and Packet Optical solutions marketing activities within ADTRAN’s Carrier Networks Division. In 2006, he joined ADTRAN from Nortel where for over a decade, he held various roles focused on marketing and managing new disruptive market opportunities.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.adtran.com/supervectoring-great-for-central-europe-less-so-for-north-america/

Jan
29
2015

A Flexible Approach to Wi-Fi for E-rate

The meteoric rise of smartphones and tablets combined with the transition from desktop computers to laptops are putting substantial strain on Wi-Fi networks at today’s school districts. Not only are more devices connecting to these networks but students and faculty expect to remain always on and are increasingly streaming media and other high bandwidth applications in classrooms.

With the new funding for E-rate making the news, school districts are looking to take advantage of this program to build out a world class wireless network for their students and staff.

The demand for more bandwidth, more real-time multimedia and access to e-textbooks and educational applications, such as Moodle and Blackboard, all via Wi-Fi, means that any drop in performance is immediately noticeable by users. In addition, as schools migrate from a primarily wired infrastructure to a wireless one, the growth in devices on the network also highlights a need for additional security.

IT staff at school districts have been trying to keep up with user needs and expectations but the requirements are evolving fast. Today’s IT needs to be faster, more nimble, handle many devices, provide tighter security, scale quickly and be cost effective. To achieve this, a new approach needs to be taken to the problem.

The traditional Wi-Fi architecture has been based upon a controller-based switch that becomes the central point of intelligence and control for all access points (AP’s).  The controller becomes the choke point and bottleneck for the network, requiring IT to add more controllers as inevitably more users and devices come onto the network.

This traditional architecture has been replaced by a Cloud Wireless design where the controller is eliminated, with management and control of the network virtualized in the cloud.  This approach greatly increases the ability to scale the network to meet Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) demands, with the ability to support a factor of 10X more devices than before.

The Cloud Wireless approach has also opened up the possibility of educational institutions taking advantage of a managed and hosted service for their Wi-Fi network, offloading routine network management burden from their strapped IT staff.

With so many choices for today’s K-12 IT staff when it comes to their wireless network and mobility needs, there are several questions that come to mind:

  • Should I opt for a hosted/managed service vs. managing it on-site?
  • Should I go with 802.11n or 802.11ac?
  • What kind of back-end switching network do I need?
  • What kind of security do I need to ensure privacy mandates?
  • And on and on the list goes…

We will dive into these issues in later posts.  The key point is as IT managers wade through all the options to pick the right wireless solution for their situation, they need to ensure their network will be able to stand up to the demanding needs of their users.

 

Jason King is the director of marketing for the Bluesocket Business Group at ADTRAN. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, he is responsible for the overall promotion and positioning of the company’s Wi-Fi solutions. Find him on Twitter: @jjking24

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.adtran.com/a-flexible-approach-to-wifi-for-erate/

Jan
28
2015

Three Lessons Learned from Valley Business Solutions

This is the fourth and final post in my series based on case study research done with ADTRAN customer Valley Business Solutions – VBS. They represent a great example of how channel partners are finding ways to reinvent themselves as their world of legacy telephony gives way to both Internet-based and wireless forms of communications.

In my earlier posts, I’ve addressed the business case for becoming an MSP – Managed Services Provider – and how this opens up new opportunities to address the real needs of customers as they too, struggle with today’s technologies. I’ve also addressed specific use cases for managed WiFi, which VBS offers via ADTRAN’s ProCloud platform. Most communications technology vendors now provide similar solutions as mobility increasingly becomes the environment of choice for businesses and their employees.

To bring this series to a close, I’ll summarize the VBS story in terms of three lessons learned. Needless to say, while this reflects well on ADTRAN, my intent is to provide this as an example that any channel partner can follow.

  1. Rethink the buying process

For legacy-based channel partners, IT has long been the point of contact for both buying and selling. Things are different with managed services, especially if you’re trying to be strategic. It’s one thing to sell managed WiFi to save money or make the network easier to manage, but it’s something else to sell it on the basis of solving pressing business problems.

VBS understands this, and along the way came to learn that it’s not enough to sell this to IT. By elevating the discussion into a strategic business-level solution, IT isn’t the only decision-maker when it comes to buying. More often than not, management starts driving the buying process when they see this strategic value. However, they may not be part of the initial discussions as a matter of course, and if you’re following this path, then you need to be proactive to ensure they become involved. IT’s needs are not always the same as management’s and this is a key area where channels can bring new value.

  1. Focus on risk mitigation

Businesses understand this, and management tends to frame decisions this way. Technology risk can be a major inhibitor for moving into the Nextgen world, and this is where the move to an MSP has paid off for VBS. When previously selling point products and services, decisions were made around the virtues of specific technologies or vendors. SMBs have their fair share of biases, perceptions, bad blood, etc. in this regard, and much of the sales effort gets tied up explaining or defending a particular recommendation.

By selling managed services instead, the discussion shifts away from these specifics and over to the applications that WiFi will support and how these will address pain points and drive business outcomes. This allows the channel partner to remove a lot of the customer risk from the decision-making, as that burden now shifts to the hosted provider. VBS put their faith in ProCloud to give them that capability, allowing the end customer to focus on addressing their business issues. No longer does the customer need to worry about getting locked-in to a particular vendor or technology, not to mention long-term financial commitment to a Capex investment.

  1. Understand the new business model

This may seem like the biggest leap of faith, but VBS has come to embrace the tradeoff that comes from moving to a smaller per-customer revenue base, but getting it on a recurring basis. Thinking particularly for SMBs, the Opex business model makes for easier decision-making. With cash flow often being a prime consideration, small but regular payments are more manageable and not dictated by capitalized budgeting planning cycles.

For VBS, this has advantages as well. First, they can pitch managed WiFi any time, since it isn’t tied to an annual budget review. Second, if VBS wants to be aggressive entering a new market or vertical, they can reduce the monthly customer price to win the business. They can earn this back over time, plus the incremental cost to add a new customer to their platform is nominal, so the financial risk is minimal. Finally, the recurring revenue model makes it easier for VBS to manage their growth since they don’t have to make major investments to upgrade capacity to support new business.

Conclusion

While VBS has become an MSP for WiFi, this is just one of many services a channel can offer by following this path. The key is to understand where the growth opportunities are, and wireless is certainly one of them. Equally important is to recognize the risks of sticking with legacy, both in terms of technologies, but also the business model. Nothing is guaranteed, but given how frequently communications technology is changing, your odds of success as a channel partner are greater by focusing on the business needs of your customers rather than the technologies they think they need.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.adtran.com/three-lessons-learned-from-valley-business-solutions/

Jan
21
2015

Gigabit Communities

Last week during a visit to Cedar Falls, Iowa, President Obama announced steps to help more Americans, in both rural and urban areas, get better, faster and more affordable Internet to their homes. The Obama Administration outlined five main agenda topics, including ending laws that harm broadband service competition and announcing new initiatives to support community broadband projects.

Seeing firsthand how Gigabit broadband is changing the lives of communities across the country, ADTRAN welcomes efforts to spur broadband deployment, and we are anxious to see the details of future FCC proposals before we can say whether it will achieve these noble goals. High-speed, ultra-fast broadband is not only a crucial element for the financial growth of the country, but also for enhancing the overall quality of life for American citizens. As the administration has put it, there’s a national need for better broadband and we now have the technology to make it possible.

Gigabit service is the latest and most advanced broadband infrastructure available. Both rural and urban cities have been working to rapidly deploy the ultra-fast broadband as they’ve seen the benefits of increased speeds— including transforming communities, stimulating economic growth and delivering innovative residential and business services. ADTRAN has developed an initiative, Enabling Communities, Connecting Lives, which showcases how service providers are deploying Gigabit speeds to evolve, change and grow communities across the country.

We’ve seen how Gigabit broadband promotes economic growth by invigorating downtown business and residential districts, connecting classrooms with learning centers around the world, and attracting new companies seeking to relocate out of crowded urban centers. For some communities, the increased speeds will allow them to stay competitive when attracting large enterprises to the area, while for others, it’s enhancing educational opportunities and making access to healthcare much easier. Gigabit isn’t just about faster speeds for the sake of enabling new and future technology, it’s about bettering the lives of the American people.

Here are a few of the communities we have featured as part of the initiative:

• Pelican Bay/Summit Broadband: Florida – The community of Pelican Bay deployed its own Gigabit network to handle residential services including voice, video and gaming. While only 35% of residents are full-time, the community sees the network as a key factor in maintaining and improving home values, and they can now ensure the network can handle the spikes associated during the high season.
• Blue Valley Tele-Communications: Kansas – Located throughout rural Kansas, Blue Valley Tele-Communications (BVTC) is deploying Gigabit speeds to enhance local educational opportunities. With the closest university an hour drive away, Gigabit speeds will ensure residents can connect to online education, allowing students and adults to take advantage of distance learning opportunities.
• Jackson Energy Authority: Tennessee – Jackson Energy Authority (JEA) is deploying Gigabit services along one of the nation’s largest FTTH networks in western Tennessee. The ultra-fast broadband will take the town of Jackson to the next generation, provide necessary infrastructure for the city, hospitals and schools, and enable the community to be competitive in attracting businesses to the area.
• Canby Telcom: Oregon – Canby Telcom has become the first community in the Portland metropolitan area to deliver Gigabit broadband service to residents and businesses. As a result of Gigabit services, the community has been able to transform from being an agricultural-based town to a high-tech community, attracting big name corporations to the area.
• C Spire: Mississippi – Looking to create a “Silicon Valley of the South,” C Spire deployed Gigabit broadband service for its C Spire Fiber to the Home Initiative, with the goal to transform the region into a magnet for investment and economic growth. With Gigabit services, C Spire can bring ultra-fast broadband to thousands of homes, businesses and schools.

These communities are just a few examples of how Gigabit broadband is taking hold across the country. As part of ADTRAN’s program, we’ve enabled over 50 Gigabit communities in 2014. As for 2015, we’re on track to enable more than 200. These communities represent towns as small as 7,500 residents to major cities with millions of citizens. It is clear that no community is too small or too large to realize the transformative benefits of Gigabit services.

Gigabit broadband has proven to be a main catalyst for growth in communities of all sizes. Seeing the transformative benefits of Gigabit firsthand, ADTRAN understands just how crucial it is that service providers have the equipment and opportunities to deliver world-class broadband access to their customers. ADTRAN not only remains committed to ensuring all communities have access to reliable, affordable and fast Internet, but that our service provider customers have the support and guidance to continue delivering next-generation technologies.

 

Gary Bolton is Vice President, Global Marketing for ADTRAN.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.adtran.com/gigabit-communities/

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