RealTime IT News

ADSL is Delivering, But Not Always to Business: ISP

Melbourne-based ISP and network integrator GPM Internet has moved to dispel industry rumours that Australia's Asymetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) service is not operating efficiently, insisting the technology is sound but its implementation is not always suiting business.

The company has responded to reported claims nationwide that particularly corporate users are experiencing "brown-outs" when using ADSL. GPM Internet business manager Chris Core maintains that the brown-outs are a result of overly subscribed bandwidth rather than technology failures.

"As it stands at the moment, many corporate customers are using a residential service to broadcast data, when they need a business class service," Core insisted. "Residential users have different traffic and download patterns to business users, and they must be catered too."

Core believed the slower services business users are receiving are because while ADSL is up to 24 times faster than narrowband Internet access using a 64Kbps ISDN connection, the "contention ratio" can determine the actual quality of the connection9s performance.

While the more commonly accepted contention ratio for business class Internet services using ADSL is 20:1, residential services typically have 50:1 or higher. If a business ADSL has this ratio, the user9s service may not then be as fast as they expect.

The contention ratio relates to the nature of ADSL. The broadband data service, which allows high speed Internet access over a standard copper telephone line, is a "contended" service, which means that all customers share the bandwidth allocated to an ISP.

Core also believed that some corporate customers are simply not receiving what they are paying for. "At present, many corporate customers think they are paying for a business class service, but they are not. These customers are experiencing some problems.

"The market's full of residential services that are dolled up for the corporate market, because they can gain a premium of $5 to $10 on a $80 to $90 service," said Core. "We're saying that the technological provision required for the service needs more than $5 worth of infrastructure, but nothing is currently stopping people from doing this."

Core added that a number of ISPs have gone to industry watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to appeal for the organisation to investigate the different pricing models that abound in the market. "Some have realised that the price they are charging for retail services is lower than wholesale charges, and they want to know why the discrepancies are there," he said.

According to Core, some of these problems came about when Tesltra offered its ADSL service in a wholesale package to providers, at the time saying it would not be releasing its own retail ADSL service. "Then it did, and it dramatically changed the pricing models of ADSL," said Core. "Some providers decided to go after small residential customers instead for revenue. We decided to stick to smaller and medium businesses."

GPM has opted not to participate in this class action, as it uses Telstra's wholesale service and did not want to lose that access. "The horizon for profitable returns is so far off that we can't afford to bite the hand that feeds us," said Core.

Believing in the benefits of ADSL, Core said GPM has opted to highlight the positives of the technology rather than the negative side in trying to gain business users from residential and competitive business services. "Yes, we are competing with Telstra, but we are also a customer of theirs, so it is in our interests to highlight the positives of our service," said Core. "IT is for that reason that we mention phrases like 'fixed addresses'."

The fixed address operates similarly to the phone number traditional Internet users would dial to access the Internet. Some residential services provide a different address each time, however a static address is important for businesses who have mail servers and similar infrastructure that needs reliable and automatic connections.

Core's claims are the latest in the saga that highlights ADSL's contentious beginnings in the Australian market. Telstra announced its pricing and rollout strategy last July, but since then the technology has largely spread in fits and bursts, with projects such as Telstra9s work in Launceston (see story) aimed at building confidence in the technology and driving uptake.

Core said though that "the fact that ADSL has had some bad press recently from business users is not a fault of the technology, rather its incorrect implementation." He maintained that interest in GPM Internet's ADSL service, launched last May, "has been outstanding," with the company developing solutions to integrate ADSL into most Local Area Network (LAN) situations for its solely business customer base.