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By 11 October 2012 | Categories: news

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The local telecommunications industry has undergone a lot of change in the last few years, with  telecoms infrastructure  increasingly being being installed nationally by multiple players and the undersea cables landing and launching, resulting in a drop in prices and “more-for-your-money” throughput upgrades.

This according to Danie Fourie, director of local internet service provider (ISP) XDSL, who notes that the strength of the communication capability of South African businesses is not just measured in price and the size of the data pipe, but also in terms of agility and reliability.

Fourie believes that with the arrival of open access, ISPs can tap into infrastructure that belongs to a number of network providers. This means the size of an ISP’s owned infrastructure is no longer a deciding factor for users in their selection of a service provider. Instead, it’s the quality of the services the ISP can provide on top of the network that counts.

Owned infrastructure, according to Fourie, has, in fact, become somewhat of a hindrance for ISPs who must focus on punting their own (sometimes legacy) assets to recoup investments and maximise returns. In addition, more established service providers are often also bound by existing long term contracts and cumbersome red tape. These limit them in terms of exploring and introducing new technologies or packages and/or fully leveraging new services, but agile “well-connected” ISPs such as XDSL are able to benefit from this scenario.

A new breed of ISP

XDSL came to market ten years ago, and has taken an innovative approach to development of its offerings, leveraging the strengths of its sister companies in the ConvergeNet Holdings group by building data centres, providing government support and services, and technology hardware import and supply.

The company believes that the two most vital components to the firm’s offering are its national operations centre, that provides 24/7 network monitoring and support, as well as the partnerships the company has built. To deliver services to its clients, it makes use of a shared IP network, reaching across metro networks, carrier networks, ISPs and data hosting centres, with the help of the fibre, 3G and wireless infrastructure of the multiple service providers with whom the firm has peering agreements and back-to-back SLAs.

This includes all the major ISPs, fixed and cellular service providers, as well as niche ISPs providing fibre to select clients (such as high density office parks). In all, XDSL now has access to more than 200 000 km of fibre through its agreements with various providers, with dedicated links to all major fibre rings. According to the company, that’s access to more than 25% more fibre than the biggest individual player.  

With a platform comprising many networks, there are multiple alternatives in terms of infrastructure, making network scalability, better failover and least cost routing possible. The network agnostic ISP will provide the customer with a physical link into the fibre (or other) network, identifying the best suitable access method and utilising it. The customer’s communication is then routed on networks from various network providers, with interactions terminating in the XDSL data centre.

For consumers and business owners, the benefits of open access are immense. They not only get greater capacity but increased reliability, which is the result of intelligent monitoring, appropriate failover and high levels of expert and pro-active support.

Uptime will depend on the levels of failover used, which may include Diginet, ADSL lines, IP connect, 3G APN networks, or satellite if appropriate. Throughput will depend on what the customer wants and will pay for. Although with no legacy commitments, agile ISPs can double the capacity most businesses are experiencing at no extra charge, as well as provide more services.

When no-one else wants to take responsibility

XDSL asserts that in order to be successful and deliver on service promises, an ISP must include traffic management and traffic engineering. With a full time data centre watching for network fluctuations, the cause of any loss in capacity or ‘flat lined’ throughput can be proactively identified, alternative routes allocated or the challenge resolved.

One XDSL customer, for example, was struggling with a virus which was ‘vanishing’ all available bandwidth. Neither the organisation’s ISP nor its WAN provider could identify the challenge through their standard troubleshooting processes. XDSL identified the activity of the virus, and then worked with the company to isolate and remove it.

Another example is a customer that was seeing huge bandwidth use from a particular location . With the assistance of XDSL it was found that a feed from its CCTV cameras was inadvertently left ‘open’. A short onsite visit to provide the security employees with some training resolved the matter.

Risk and competitiveness

For XDSL, free ‘proof of concept’ pilots that run in parallel with an organisation’s existing ISP offerings are proving a winning formula. They prove the point that much of the risk of switching providers has disappeared - it can be seamless and reliability is greater, not less.

Intelligent solutions will balance access, pricing, traffic engineering as well as quality of service, taking into consideration technology limitations, appetite for risk along with the need to sweat business assets, ‘migrate’ to new solutions and technologies. For example, a cloud solution may make financial sense but without access to fibre, it’s risky.

According to XDSL, what is no longer risky is looking at new telecoms and communication provision models since the local technology and infrastructure is maturing to a point where a network neutral model costs less and offers competitive business advantage.

In related news, XDSL also recently announced its latest offering, dubbed Xtreme MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching). MPLS is a standards-approved technology for speeding up network traffic flow. In contrast to many mainstream MPLS offerings, Xtreme MPLS makes use of a multiple-network platform, and offers high WAN security as well as made-to-order levels of failover, network monitoring, traffic engineering and support.

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