DSL switch proves to be headache for New Zealand ISP

Von Juha Saarinen

Auckland ISP Orcon Internet Ltd. is feeling the stress of moving its DSL customers to the wholesale Unbundled Bitstream Service from Telecom.

A recent newsletter from Orcon says helpdesk call volumes have increased four-fold thanks to UBS provisioning problems, with wait times for response being up to half an hour. Timely email responses to customer enquiries are also proving difficult for Orcon, despite bumping staff numbers on its the helpdesk from 12 to 26 over the last few months.

?Our call volumes have quadrupled, and it"s tough for us to get on top of all the migration and other issues at present," says Orcon managing director Seeby Woodhouse. Nevertheless, Woodhouse is optimistic and says ?we"re getting there? in terms of the UBS migration.

In the newsletter, Orcon says it is currently halfway through provisioning UBS for the ?several thousand? customers who signed up for it. The ISP complains about the manual process which involves performing many tasks to migrate each customer. Also, Orcon says Telecom is only able to move up to 90 customers a day, meaning the ISP has been shifting customers to UBS for the past two months.

Another issue identified in the newsletter includes failed transfers to UBS, in which Telecom disconnects customers from Jetstream but doesn?t reconnect them to UBS. Orcon says it is at the mercy of Telecom on the issue.

The ISP also reports fluctuating latency and bandwidth congestion for its UBS customers. Orcon says this is due to high-volume users moving to UBS first and taking up the available bandwidth between the ISP and Telecom. While Orcon expects the congestion issues to go away when lower-volume users come onto the service, it says that links between it and Telecom are of a fixed size and that the telco won"t increase their capacity.

Asked about Orcon?s UBS migration issues, Justin Caswell, the communications and strategy manager of Telecom?s wholesale services group, is upbeat. ?All in all the launch of UBS has been going very well indeed,? he says.

However, Caswell admits Telecom is faced with some stretched provisioning capacity issues, but adds the telco has communicated these to stakeholders ? providers and customers. Caswell says Telecom is taking steps to streamline the UBS provisioning processes and has made great improvements over the last few weeks to provide better service.

Asked to explain in detail what is causing hold-ups, Caswell says a network rebuild is required for each connection when it is moved from Layer 3 interim UBS to Telecom?s commercial proxy of the Commerce Commission?s regulated Layer 2 service. This, says Caswell, has been taking about 30 minutes of manual work. However, Caswell says the network rebuild is one area that Telecom is streamlining to make it quicker.

On issues of failed customer transfers, Caswell says these are usually caused by lack of correct information to enable the provision. Telecom is communicating with providers on a daily basis to resolve the problem, he says. Caswell adds that if providers give Telecom the correct customer information, failed transfers will be minimized.

Like Orcon, Caswell expects the network congestion experienced by UBS customers to ?dissipate once the traffic patterns of their average customers come down".

Matthew Hobbs, director of UBS ISP Quicksilver, has read the Orcon newsletter and says nothing in it is a surprise or unusual.

In his experience, Hobbs says, Telecom is struggling to cope with wholesale customers and labels the migration to UBS as a painful process. ?It would be fair to say that parts of the UBS installation/trial period were a bit of a disaster,? Hobbs says, adding that Telecom told the provider that UBS is a ?living project?.

When asked if Quicksilver is ready to sell UBS, Hobbs says ?We are in theory through our installation period,? adding that the provider is still ?having problems with Telecom activating customers in a timely and accurate manner if at all some days?.

Hobbs also says a double billing issue has arisen with the UBS migration. If an ISP has a customer wanting to swap from Jetstream to its UBS, it could end getting billed by Telecom for up to a month"s worth of DSL charges, he says. Telecom also bills the customer for the same period, leaving the ISP with the option to either pass on the charge to the customer, or to wear it. Computerworld understands that most are wearing it.

The only way out of this fix, according to Hobbs, is to manage the change-over dates for the customers" migration to UBS, keeping it as close to customers" billing period anniversary as possible. However, even then Telecom"s provisioning delays could mean the date is missed, and thus the double billing come into effect, he says.

Caswell says there was "an initial teething issue" over billing, "but that has been sorted. Affected end customers have been credited."