How do I determine the right level of connectivity for my customers? Easy, just get your protractor and geometry set out!
Today the connectivity market has folded itself into two key types of access—fixed and non-fixed. If you’re reselling these services in the channel or working on a solution for a client with connectivity requirements, then deciding where to put the hard earned cash is a critical decision that can’t be easily reversed. So, let’s recap the two main types of connectivity access.
In the fixed arena, we have xDSL (i.e. FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet), ADSL, SDSL), Ethernet, and FTTP (Fibre to the premises). There are also the older and less popular technologies – i.e. ATM and ISDN (don’t mention Frame Relay!). Most of these are reliant on an exchange or junction box near to the premises.
In the non-fixed arena the main player by far is cellular, with 4G services leading the charge when it comes to aiming for parity with some of the fixed line mediums. Other wireless forms of access are Wi-MAX and point-to-point links services such as WiFi and microwave. If the requirement for bandwidth is specialist and low (i.e. M2M and traditional IoT solutions) then Sigfox and LoRa join the arena, along with new players such as LTE-M and NB-IoT, which are designed to retrofit into cellular networks.
The Triangle of Priorities
If one thing is certain, when going through the decision making process for a connectivity solution, one will encounter what some refer to as the “triangle of priorities”:
Fast and Good? It’ll be expensive!
Good and Cheap? It’ll be reliable, but slow.
Finally, Fast and Cheap? Well, this speaks for itself. Words like “uptime” and “SLA” don’t exist on this side of the triangle!
How do I decide?
Looking at this diagram, where do you think most decisions end up? Perhaps a nice, middle of the triangle, where we have a nice equal dosage of our friends Fast, Good, and Cheap? Think again—you’d be wrong! Actually a lot of hidden levers are behind the triangle influencing the project:
- In some cases we may have our rarer “money’s no object” client (don’t we love them!), where they can afford Fast and Good—an example of this may be high speed, uncontended leased line services.
- Alternatively we might have our budget conscious client who still wants to preserve a semblance of reliability, while pre-empting their solution will already lead to cries of “more bandwidth!”. They’re going for Good and Cheap, meaning high levels of reliability at prices that won’t break the bank. A classic example of this would be SDSL, but the number of use cases where a 2 Mbps bi-directional pipe is shrinking!
- Finally we have our Fast and Cheap customer who just needs a solution at the lowest possible price. In cases like this where cost is paramount, connectivity such as FTTC and ADSL rule the roost.
You may have the feeling that choosing a fixed line deployment is pretty straightforward—and you’d be right. It’s pretty hard to beat the fixed line connectivity argument and for one good reason: consistency (which could be argued isn’t represented in the triangle). If your fixed line connectivity is low latency, it’s always going to be low latency. If it’s of a certain bandwidth, it’s always going to be that bandwidth.
What about non-fixed (cellular) connectivity?
As I’m writing a blog and not a book, I’m just going to focus on cellular here. So, why is cellular a connectivity solution at all, besides on our mobile phones? Easy! here are just a few reasons:
the site may be in a place where it’s not possible to get fixed line services. This could mean that the site is too far from a local exchange (think rural villages or farms) or in a position unable to ever receive fixed line services (e.g. a site just off the coast such as a ship deployment). Cellular services run through the air, and if it’s possible to talk to the base station, it’s possible to get connectivity.
the site may be a work in progress, such as a greenfield construction site. In this case the site will eventually be eligible for fixed line service, but if service is required immediately, a cellular solution can be deployed immediately.
Broadband not spots have been in the news for the last couple of years, usually getting a refresh in the paper every time the government announces the latest broadband initiative. These are frustrating sites where location lies on the fringe of service. A lot of the time these are usually legacy ADSL services where it’s possible to get ADSL installed. But in practice the service is so slow or unreliable the site is intertwined in a perpetual dance with the service provider’s help desk, troubleshooting issues that randomly appear and can’t be replicated. In this state no one wins. In not spot areas it’s worth checking for cellular coverage and comparing performance and reliability to the fixed line alternative.
A marriage made in connectivity heaven?
When planning a connectivity solution, it’s possible and also beneficial to deploy cellular services alongside fixed services, combining the properties of each to fill out any possible gaps. Returning to our triangle again, with a bit more annotation, we have some aforementioned fixed line services on the triangle, along with a cellular connectivity option:
Let’s revisit those three Fast, Cheap, Good scenarios:
Good and Cheap:
Adding in cellular to supplement our reliable SDSL service means we are able to provide our client a speed boost(i.e.providing a weighted, load balanced or bonded multi WAN solution).
Fast and Cheap:
Adding in cellular will allow you and your client to count an outage in seconds, not days. If there is an outage the SIM will kick into action and provide continuity of service. xDSL service providers’ SLA’s for single line outages are still firmly rooted in the consumer space, with the exception of an emergency fix would cost multiples of a monthly backup SIM subscription.
Fast and Good:
High speed, uncontended leased line services. These guys already got it all, right? Wrong! While service is reliable, SLA’s are tight and uptime is exceptional, a cellular addition can bring benefits. Firstly if there indeed is an outage, having a backup on a diverse path is important. It is common to have fixed line xDSL as a backup but care must be taken to avoid routing to the same telephone exchange. In the cellular space, multiple base stations could be reachable by the SIM card to provide continuity. Secondly, if we’re in a rollout phase, the “Fast and Good” service could take months to be deployed while aforementioned challenges such as Location, Timing are resolved. A typical example is the 3-6 months for Ethernet services to be installed. In this case, cellular can come to the rescue by providing high speed access from day one, and then turning into a backup after deployment is complete.
What else do I need to know about cellular?
In summary, when we combine the two flavours of fixed line and non-fixed line connectivity we have many options to make a service as Fast, Cheap, and Good as possible for a client and meet all of their expectations. And we haven’t even delved into the types of cellular connectivity – for example multi-network SIM cards or aggregation of data across multiple SIM cards. For information on those check out our previous blogs here. And of course, Pangea can help with all of these solutions.
If you want to know more about about cellular connectivity and how it can help you win business and satisfy your clients needs in the best possible way, or just want to hang out and talk about triangles, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!