In the B2B space, broadband provision is based on a top to bottom business. A wholesale broadband provider provides high quality IP services to Websites wholesale pipes Providers at wholesale discounts. Businesses (end users) get connected to the networks of Websites Provider (ISP) (i. e. Internet connection retailers). The wholesale broadband provider, will buy its broadband from carrier partners (Examples of carrier partners are: British Telecom; AT&T (United States); Sprint (United States)) and wholesale it to businesses down the stringed at discounts. The conventional service given by the wholesale broadband provider is that it hooks up end-user sites to the networks of the ISPs, but nowhere else (there is no connection provided to the larger Internet).
Typically, the end users are linked with the ISPs networks via ADSL and SDSL services ultimately given by Carriers to the wholesale provider and then expensed on to the ISP. These services are delivered to the wholesale provider’s network over connections known as “central pipes” or “centrals”. The wholesale provider then aggregates the data flows to and from these end-user sites and forwards them to the ISPs over a dedicated connection between the two companies’ networks.
An important part of the cause of broadband is “RADIUS” and proxy “RADIUS”. RADIUS stands for “Remote Authentication Dial In User Service” and is defined by the document “RFC 2865” as modified by RFCs 2868, 3575, and 5080; a few more RFCs also define related matters. (RFCs are the series of documents which define how the Internet works and are available online. Despite the name “Dial In”, RADIUS is used on DSL connections as well.
The stage that RADIUS is to separate the authentication of connections from the devices handling their traffic. Look at a typical DSL connection to an ISP. There will be a modem at the end-user’s areas that hooks up, over Carrier’s service, to a “gateway” or “LTS” on the ISP’s network. The gateway then forwards the user’s Internet traffic to various places as appropriate. An ISP will typically have many gateways dispersed around their network and cannot necessarily predict which gateway a user will get connected to. The vast majority of the work a gateway does is forwarding IP packets and its design is predicated around this. These facts among others mean that it is undesirable for the gateway to also do the work of deciding whether a user is permitted get connected to the ISP’s service or check whether their modem has presented the correct code. Carrier’s also have the issue of ensuring that the text is being wanted to the correct ISP in the first place.
Instead, when a new DSL connection is being set up (for example, each time the user’s modem is turned on), a computer device within Carrier’s network called the B-RAS (“Broadband Remote Access Server”) takes the user name and code offered by the modem, determines which ISP it relates to, and then passes them to a different computer in the ISP’s network called a “RADIUS server”. This makes the relevant checks and provides the B-RAS a “go/no-go” decision; it can also provide other instructions to both the B-RAS and the ISP’s gateway.
In some situations the ISP’s RADIUS server cannot make the decision directly but must enquire of another device, this arrangement is called “proxy RADIUS”.
RADIUS servers are only involved when a new end-user connection is determined up, not even as it is active. If the end user turns their modem off and on again, a new connection needs to be set up. If there is a fault in the carriers network causing several connections to be broken and then re-made, all of those connections will cause simultaneous desires from the B-RAS to the RADIUS servers; for example, if the equipment in a particular carriers exchange resets itself because of a fault, all the DSL users linked with that exchange or that piece of equipment will have to re-establish their connections.
There is no such thing as a 100% reliable service. It is possible to provide an Websites to a advanced of reliability by, for example, providing several servers where one would do or by replicating essential connections through physically diverse channels, so that damage to one route will not affect the alternate. However, doing this can be expensive, because more equipment must be purchased or rented, the costs for housing machines are higher, as are the electricity bills, and so on. These costs all need to be passed on to the customer.
Therefore ISPs, particularly those offering a wholesale service, will choose a level of reliability to offer their customers and design their internal network around that choice. This level is typically called a share availability; e. gary. 99. 9% (“three nines”) indicates that the service will be unavailable no more than 8¾ hours each and every year, while some telephone services are rated at 99. 999% (“five nines”), or no more than 5 minutes 16 seconds unavailability each and every year. The ISP will offer this service level, defined in some more detailed manner, and will back it with some kind of guarantee (e. gary. credits at a rate of X pounds for each minute or hour outage beyond the agreed amount). Sometimes a choice of reliability levels exists with different prices.
Where the ISP’s service makes use of facilities bought in from elsewhere, a commercial choice has to be made. The ISP must exclude the bought-in component from its service guarantee, accept that it has to pay compensation for outages caused by the bought-in service (and price a unique service to match), or pay the supplier for an high enough level of reliability for that service. This last case does not mean the same level as it offers, since this would provide no “failure budget” for its own services but, rather, a higher level. For example, if the ISP offers a 99. 9% service, those 8¾ hours have to be shared between problems without attention network and problems on the bought-in service. If they are shared equally, all of the two needs to be 99. 95% reliable.
The test of whether the connection is available involves sending a regular sequence of standard test packets (“ICMP ping”) from some unspecified location within wholesale provider’s network. Such a test would prove only that IP packets are bridging the text in both directions; it would not demonstrate any other qualities, such as the maximum bandwidth being carried or what fraction of packets was being corrupted. In particular, it would not demonstrate that any end-user was connected right through to an ISP. The wholesale provider will need to carry out the test as described.
There is an obvious need for a service level agreement or guarantee of reliability for the various parts of the wholesale provider’s network.
Careful consideration needs to be meant to the “force majeure” clause. Specifically you need to consider carrier’s provision of DSL service to the end users. Is there a SLA to be had for this area of the service? Carrier’s ADSL service, in particular, is a low perimeter one and carrier’s SLAs are accordingly low. The standard service aims to fix faults within 40 timepiece hours of being reported, while the “enhanced care” service at extra cost reduces this to 20 hours. In each case compensation is payable if this is not met (though the details do not appear to be publically available). Even if there is no specific SLA to be had, a reasonable wholesale provider would pass fault reports on to carrier’s promptly and keep track of their response, anxieties to be able to claim up against the carrier’s own SLA.
A fault in a service of the kind being provided could have any of several causes:
- A fault at the end user’s site.
- A problem with the telephone line used to carry the DSL service.
- A fault within carrier’s network.
- A fault on the carrier’s central line.
- A fault within the wholesale broadband suppliers’ network.
- A fault on the connection between wholesaler and ISP.
- A fault within the ISP’s network.
The first two of these would tend to affect single end-users. The next two are usually to manifest themselves as influencing blocks of end-users simultaneously. A fault within either company’s network could have a range of effects. Finally, a fault on the connection between them would be likely to affect every end-user simultaneously. If there is actually more than one connection, then depending on the technical arrangements, a fault on one connection might have no effect, since all traffic is shifted to one of the remaining ones, or might affect a subset of end-users.
Migration access codes
Migration Access Codes, or Macs, were a process set up by Ofcom (UK Telecoms Regulator) to allow end-users to transfer between ISPs while at the same time preventing “slamming” (ISPs transferring end-users to their service without the consumer’s permission). Ofcom considers that competition in the ISP market is enhanced by making it simple for consumers to transfer between ISPs that both use the same wholesale service. In principle all that is important for the transfer to happen is for the assorted invoicing records in the two ISPs and at carriers’ to be updated, and for the user to be given a new username and password relating to the new ISP; no physical action is needed at the telephone exchange. Without such a transfer mechanism, however, the only way to do this is for the customer to terminate their service with the first ISP and then order a new one with the second. This will involve several days without service, to no obvious benefit. There are commercial and operational issues to be addressed. If the “losing” ISP has control over the arrangements, they have no compensation to make them efficient or quick. On the other hand, if the “gaining” ISP can simply order a move, there is a risk that an ISP would move complaintant without their agreement (known as “slamming” that customer), potentially causing them significant disruption. Therefore Ofcom introduced the “MAC code” system on 14th February 2007 via General Condition twenty-two, replacing a present voluntary code.
Under this feature, an end-user wanting to move their service, or their agent, desires a “MAC code” from their current ISP. The ISP must make a reasonable effort to authenticate the customer (so as to prevent slamming) and then transfer the code from the carrier’s wholesale (or the appropriate provider) and issue it to the customer. The customer can then take this APPLE COMPUTER code to their offered new ISP, who in turn uses it as their authority to offer the service transferred. Macs are valid for 30 days from issue; once a APPLE COMPUTER has expired, it cannot be used to migrate the customer. However, the customer can request a new APPLE COMPUTER at any time after the previous one expired. Alternatively, the customer does not have to transfer their service because they have requested a APPLE COMPUTER: it is purely an enabling tool and expiry of a APPLE COMPUTER is explicitly not grounds to cancel a consumer’s service.
ISPs are necessary to issue the APPLE COMPUTER within 5 trading days written or by e-mail (unless the original request was by telephone and a code was issued during the call).
They may only reject on the grounds that:
- they cannot authenticate the customer;
- the service had been terminated or is in the process of being terminated;
- a still-valid APPLE COMPUTER had been issued (but they are necessary to remind the customer of the particular MAC); or
- they cannot get a APPLE COMPUTER from their own wholesale provider.
The APPLE COMPUTER process is policed and unplaned by Ofcom under the Communications Act 2003, sections. 94-104. Ofcom has an ongoing enforcement programme in relation to APPLE COMPUTER codes; in respect of an ISP, this normally operates in three development:
- Ofcom has informal discussions with the ISP over the issue, and may use its powers to request information from the ISP.
- Ofcom tells the ISP that it has reason to still find it in breach of the General Condition and sets a deadline day for the ISP to remedy the situation. The ISP has time to make representations.
- If Ofcom is satisfied that the ISP has failed to remedy the situation and/or to meet certain requirements in the notification, it can fine the ISP.
A clause in a Master Agreement may not defend against the Ofcom regulations governing APPLE COMPUTER codes.