People on Boards

Having been reading and this rant is mainly because I can’t just flame all those people with misguided understanding of the ISP market as it would make work look bad. Anyone not interested look away now.

This post was inspired by the responses in this thread along with stuff I have seen in other threads in the past while.
This is in no particular order:

  1. IP Transit is not free.

    The reason we have a cap is because we have to pay for shipping all those packets about the place. The routers cost money, the circuits between them cost money, the transit providers charge per megabit. Oh yeah and someone has to pay for the people to run the network.

    And just because our sister company owns some submarine cables does not make the bill cheaper. Want to guess how much electricity it takes to power 120 optical amplifiers across a few thousand kilometers of ocean. Oh and yeah we do have people and ships on standby to go fix a fault. Oh and Eircom, BT and NTL all have their own and they still have to pay the same costs.

    Oh and INEX membership does not make the bad man go away either

  2. LLU is not cheap.

    Placing equipment in an eircom exchange is not a simple task. Anyone not getting this should spend some time reading the eircom wholesale website and be amazed at just how much hassle it is. From the point Eircom approve your application for an exchange (and yes you apply for each one seperately) it takes 84 working days to unbundle an exchange. Thats 17 weeks.

    So now you have this piece of floor space in an eircom exchange. Now you need to go buy a rack, something to hande the DC power distribution (Thats right no AC powered kit allowed), some DLSAMs, MDF blocks, tie cables to connect those MDF blocks to your DSLAMs. plus some other bits like remote managment hardware etc…

    You need people to install all this and people who can keep track of which pair goes where. The latter matters more than you think it does.

    So now you have a bunch of customers connected to your DLSAMs in an exchange and a pile of shiny IP tranist in you core network. But wait they need to be connected together. No problem I hear you say for you are in an exchange, there is loads of bandwidth there. <nelson>HA HA</nelson> There is no service provider who will connect your rack of shiny and expensive toys in the exchange to your core network. SO you will have to build it yourself. Digging up roads is not for the faint hearted. Very few dark fibre providers go near eircom sites because who other than eircom was going to want to connect there. The regional towns are bettter in this regard but you then need to connect all these towns together.

    Lets just say that you expect to spend a healthy six figure sum per exchange.

  3. Line Rental.

    It has not gone away. Eircom still have to get paid for the use of that copper pair to your house.

  4. Upto 24Mbps

    Yes you may not get 24Mbps but if you only get 14Mbps we will just move you to the 10Mbps package and if that is not good enough feel free to go back to eircom. While it is a speed rarely reached in the wild we have a few lines which are running at more the 23.5Mbps and many capable of 20+Mbps. In Dublin where the loop lengths are short expect pretty kick ass speeds. Oh and one of those 23.5Mbs lines failed the eircom DSL line test.

  5. Shame about the upload speed.

    Laws of physics people. If you really want to see upload speeds beyond 1Mbps then start writing to ComReg and ask them to change the Eircom frequency mask to the ITU standard so that we can use nice things like Annex.M

    If the last sentence didn’t make sense to you then please don’t tell me I should be running a faster service.

    Also running all customers at maximum upstream speed has all sorts of nasty cross talk problems.

  6. But it only cost €xx over there.

    Now that we can’t bitch about you not offering a service at blah speed lets bitch about it costing more than in someother country. You usually get some brightspark posting that it only costs €15 a month in some part of europe known for broadband. Usually Sweden or Holland. Guess what? While there may be some niche players that do such great deals it isn’t the norm. George, a frequent swedish visitor to our office pays more than €45 a month for 512k DSL

    Oh and €15 wouldn’t even cover the line rental let alone any of the other costs outlined above. Most residential services in europe are being run at a significant loss and this will end badly, the only way to compete in a low margin, high turnover market is to offer poor service.

  7. Why are you not in my exchange.

    This one is easy kids. It is all about market size. There are 1119 Exchanges based on the Eircom info I have to hand. For a total of 1,844,867 working lines. This gives an average of 1648 lines per exchange. If we take the top 10% based on number of lines (112 exchanges) we find a total of 1,102,738 working lines or 9845 lines per exchange. The top 10% covers more than 59% of the market. Given all the costs outlined above would you try for 100% coverage. The top 20% would get you 73% coverage. The bottom 50% of exchanges only gets you 10% of the market. I also suspect that most of that 10% would be too far from the exchange for viable service. There are 793 exchanges with less than 1000 lines, 37 exchanges with less than 100 lines and 6 with less than 10. Anyone in the bottom half who thinks DSL is coming to them soon is in trouble.

  8. Download Caps.

    Caps do not imply contention, they imply a usage based cost model. If you try a flat fee model 98% of your customers just endup subsidising the top 2%. The history of telecoms is littered with examples of people who forgot this fact. Any ISP that tells you it’s residential service is uncapped is either going to go bust soon / will have to impose a cap or has a conecpt of “fair” usage which running your line at 100% 24×7 will most certainly exceed. If you really need to pass that much traffic you are no longer a residential customer and should be talking to the commerical sales team who can come up with some decent discount and billing structures.

  9. Contention.

    Contention is a old world telco term which is about hard ratios of service provisioning. People who like contention talk about Erlangs a lot also.

    In the context of the Irish Residential broadband market this means that Eircom for example would only provision a single 2Mbps PVC from a DSLAM back to the core of the network when more than 24 customers were connected. Hence you see terms like 24:1. Now newer service providers use a different architecture in that we provision something in the order of Gigabit ethernet as our backhaul from the DSLAM. Now hear the quick among you comment that 4o odd 24Mbps customers and your GigE is full. You would be right accept in this modern world of packet switched rather than circuit switched traffic you get the benifits of statistical multiplexing. Users traffic patterns are bursty. How much time do you spend reading your email versus downloading it for example.

  10. Quality of Service.

    Expect the service provider to do some sort of QoS with your traffic real soon. Voice traffic between our voice customers is more important than your skype call. Get used to it. Your webbrowsing is less important than a business customers inter office traffic but is more important than Bob’s bittorrent traffic, especially since Bob is not at home but is in the pub watching a football match. If you insist on running applications that pretend to be http traffic on port 80 expect to have some horrid transparent filter device inserted in your data flow.

Wow that was long. Not that I expect anyone to have gotten this far but it was more productive than hitting my head off a brick wall.

Just for fun here are the top 20 Eircom Exchanges by number of working lines.

Name Code Lines


  1. Gary says:

    Hah, An attitude like that and you think you’re gonna stay in business?
    Good luck to ya buddy!

  2. conall says:

    Stop reading Boards! You have a brain!!

    if you keep reading boards your brain will ooze out one of your ears!!

  3. Blaster99 says:

    Lots of useful info. Why not engage on Boards?

    It would incidently be extremely useful if Magnet could publish the exchanges you’re in and which ones you’re planning to enable in the near future (if it’s not deemed commercially sensitive).

    With regards to the upload speed, even if there is a ComReg/Eircom problem, if you can offer 1Mbps on the 24Mbps service, then surely it can be done on the lesser products too? Just my own opinion, I wouldn’t go near a service that does less than 1Mbps up.

    Have you failed to provide service to anyone yet because of poor line quality?

  4. willie says:

    is it contended or not ???

    i accept its not contended at the access multiplexer because it its agigabit connection not a 2 mbit connection

  5. TimTim says:

    Very interesting point of view on how things run. And I have to say quite a refreshing attitude just telling people this is how it works. It would be interesting to see you sticking it to them on boards and see the reaction. Although as you said the PR reaction might not be the best.

    Nice to see my exchange is the 6th biggest in Ireland.

  6. in other news

    I’m just about to ready to finish off the list of things that have changed on the site and I expect to see loads of hits on xml-rss2.php from now on! :)

    I’ve been pointed to a post about what…

  7. Claire says:

    Who are all these people who read your blog?

  8. Mares says:

    I’m with her. don’t worry i didn’t actually read the thing wot you wrote but did try to as a dutiful LF should and failed miserably. i could give you my thesis and we’d be even.

  9. Matt.TBC says:

    Great rant!!! Seriously this should have been posted on boards. It’s incredibly honest although you may as well have said you were part of Magnet and be done with it.

    Only issue I have is with Q No. 7. That’s a very interesting list and confirms that my exchange (Drogheda) is one of the biggest in Ireland and the biggest outside Cork and Dublin yet neither Smart or Magnet are there. Havent heard of Magnet planning to come here. Smart choose to install in places like Letterkenny.

    Have to say it would be better if you were on boards to say it. And kudos on being the first company in Ireland to offer 24 mbps at

  10. colin says:

    Again in no particular order:

    Matt.TBC: given that I only expected people who know me to be reading this the fact that I work for magnet wasn’t a secret.
    Your issue with 7 needs to be considered along with point 2. Drogheda might be far away from any form of backhaul.

    Willie. no it is not contended

    Why not 1Mps on all products. needs to be some upgrade path from the other products.

  11. Very well put points Colin, agreed on most of it, and would love to make points like this to boards myself, but, I’ve long given up on even trying!!

    One comment to make on point 6. Another fact that seems to be lost on quite a lot of the people posting to boards is the fact that we live in a high cost economy. I am not quoting any real figures here, but, if for example my DSL rental cost me EUR 30 per month in France, I’d expect it to cost me EUR 45 in Ireland!! That and the rest in fact too!! My pint of beer costs me EUR 2.50 in France, it costs me EUR 5 in Ireland!! But, then agian, I’m also paid a whole lot more than I would be in France a fact that appears to be lost on most people!

  12. firsttuesdayshead says:

    Hear Hear. Well said that man.

    Customer complaints regarding residential service when they ‘demand’ commercial service for peanuts is:

    Eircom will gladly dig the road up and put fibre into your bedroom if you pay them. If you want a commercial service buy a commercial service. Businesses are in the business of making money. If you want something for free, Mr. McCormack, then feel free to set up your own ISP.


  13. Conor O'Nolan says:

    Interested in getting a list of exchanges with three letter codes. Can’t find online. Need it for work on geolocation. Does one exist?