How ready are you for 21CN?

How ready are you for 21CN?

Neil Watson
Neil Watson

Which 21CN or NGN camp does your wholesale broadband supplier fit into? Has it created its own network to deliver next generation voice and data services; already taken BT’s Wholesale Broadband Connect (WBC) and IPStream Connect to deliver both ADSL2+ and ADSL1 connections over BT’s 21C network; already adopted LLU to deliver ADSL2+ in dense areas; decided to wait until late 2009 to take Wholesale Broadband Managed Connect (WBMC); or done nothing? This is an important question for every UK reseller to ask that’s intending to survive 2009.

Your provider’s choice of strategy then significantly impacts on your ability to provide next generation services. It will affect how the services you sell will be delivered, how quickly you will be able to sell them and how competitive your proposition will be. So what are the implications for resellers of where their supplier is in terms of next generation services?

Providers currently waiting to adopt WBMC are most likely doing so because of the prohibitively higher cost of building out their existing network to each of the 20 nodes that form BT21CN in order to take WBC. However, resellers should consider the implications on timing, cost and operations. In its January ISP Forum, BT confirmed that WBMC consuming IPStream Connect will not be available until September. This means providers taking WBMC to deliver

ADSL2+ will have to maintain more costly IPStream Centrals for ADSL1 for a while. At a time when bandwidth demand is rising, this represents a financial burden which may be passed on to resellers. This compares with providers who have already taken WBC and consequently are now also able to utilise IPStream Connect.

But while BT may be the incumbent supplier, its 21C network isn’t the only route to providing ‘nextgen’ services. Other major carriers have developed their own infrastructures to offer business-grade and consumer services. The point resellers need to satisfy themselves on relates to coverage. For some providers it may prove uneconomic in the medium term to extend the availability of ADSL2+ beyond the 40-50% they are understood to be at, especially now that their revenues are threatened by BT being allowed by Ofcom to compete more aggressively in LLU stronghold areas. BT says its 21CN will reach 100% population coverage by 2012, with 40% of exchanges enabled by the end of April this year and 60% by April 2010.

If you’re partnering a provider that’s ‘sitting on the fence’ you should be especially concerned. The amount of work any provider has to complete to develop nextgen services or, in the case of BT21CN, take either WBC or WBMC is considerable and requires substantial operational change. Resellers would be naive to think they won’t be affected by unforeseen technical and operational issues. Yet running the very real risk of being left behind in the market isn’t exactly a strategy for success at a time when customers are feeling the squeeze and are attracted to the notion of doing more with less.

To think you need not be concerned about your provider’s NGN strategy yet is short-sighted. Growth in bandwidth-hungry applications is fuelling demand for faster and more resilient services. ADSL1 is not always able to meet these demands and if that’s all you have to offer, customers may look elsewhere.

So, what do you need to do next? Firstly, talk to your customers to find out what their needs are and see how well your current products fulfil them. Then find out what your wholesale provider’s nextgen plans are and whether they’ll strengthen your position.

Once you know, start thinking about how you market ADSL2+ and convergence, whether your provider can support the changes needed to your ordering and billing systems and about how you’ll inform customers of new products. It all takes time and effort. The question is, is your provider allowing you too little time to prepare or worse, too much time to lose out to those acting now?


Ask yourself…

Do I know what my wholesale provider’s 21CN strategy is?

How soon will I be able to resell 21CN services?

How competitive will these products be?

How easily can I integrate the new products into my billing and operational systems?

What do I need to do in order to facilitate reselling these services?


Ed Says

Some challenging questions for resellers to consider and ask of their wholesale providers. As a reseller they are best placed to demand a competitive offering for the market. Next month we will discuss the impact of 21CN on the voice reseller.

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