I have spoken about Frontier Networks and how we play in the Retail Vertical. I thought it would be good to touch on a few new thoughts.
We have often joked that Wide Area Network (WAN) deployments are a bit like dental surgery. You need it, you don’t like it, you don’t want to do it, and once you do you don’t want to do it again.
More specifically, we have joked that it is like removing all your teeth and then putting them back in again.
But, it seems based on customer feedback and more-so prospective customer feedback the time is upon many to really address that is installed in the field and more-so who it is from.
Many prospective have had their current deployment for over five (5) years now. The driver at the time was the ‘critical event’ of installing IP based Point of Sale (POS) transaction processing for DEBIT and CREDIT services. As well, GIFT CARD processing. The current strategy at the time was ‘dial up’. Slow, expensive and
If the WAN was deployed 5 years ago, the equipment is likely now 5 years old. Remember the old days, ADSL services (the service that you likely have) were originally deployed to be 1.5 mbps down and 300 kbps up. Today, you can see speeds available up to 25 mbps down and 7 mbps up. Changes are, the equipment that you have has a snazzy 10 mbps network LAN interface. Today’s equipment comes standard with 100, many are 100/1000 mbps. This means you are choking any additional bandwidth that may be available to you. If you upgrade the service, you will likely need to upgrade the equipment… which leads us to point 2.
It was not uncommon to see customers paying for the router, paying for the configuration, paying for maintenance (usually next day, 2 day, mail / ship router to site). Years later, when you look to redeploy the likely hood of a fresh new install is more advantageous to a ‘hot cut’. This way, you have the new network sitting beside the old network. When ready, you cut over, leave the old one for a few minutes, hours or days, and then take it to the parking lot. Frontier Networks tends to take the view that our customers should not pay for equipment or CPE. We like to include it as part of our service. This way, there is a clear defined area of responsibility for us. We own it, we manage it, we replace it. We monitor it, we think about it. That said, we are totally OK with you using it to, having access (shared) to it for monitoring on your end or for any other purpose. Most don’t let you do this. We are not like most.
New Pairs / VS. Old Pairs
Chances are, your existing service is tagged on an analogue phone line, and when you see our next point, this is the very line that you may be looking to replace and eliminate its cost. We wrote about this on an earlier entry. If you missed it, take a peek here.
The days of having a voice link and a data link are ending. Today, smart retails are having a converged voice and data link with a secondary, diverse data link to support both services. Even alarm monitoring and related services are walking away from the ill-fated analogue 1FL (phone line).
Funny point, a phone line is called a 1FL. I have no idea what that actually stands for. So, I googled it:
1FL – literally translates as 1 “flat” line. The flat means “not measured” – unlimited local calling. The industry refers to this as a common business line that carries a single voice service from the CO to your premises. This is typically used for a single fax or telephone service.
Glad I know the name of the ill-fated technology. Easier to hunt them down and kill them now.
Remember, the key difference of a Frontier voice deployment and that of those of our competitors. We talked about the benefits of Voice over Private Network a few times. Remember as well that most broadband providers deploy networks the same way you do. ‘Hub and Spoke’ meaning remote sites connecting to a central ‘hub’ data centre or head office. Our network does that, but for voice and payment services, we have the exciting option of having our traffic ‘federate’ on a secure basis to different paths. This means, if you have a site in Vancouver, and a call comes in from Vancouver, it does not need to hit your head office or your providers core in Toronto (most do it this way)… and most lie about how they do it.
Backup Strategy at Each site
Most sites are single contingency. Meaning there is a single connection. Some sites fail over to a back up phone line, which relies on dial VPN Back up. Even though it is a 56 kbps line. You know that you are limited to old modem dial rules. Expect a 14.4 or 33 k type connection.
Been a while since you had dial at your house… but your retail locations are relying on that same like your kid’s would frown on if you had it today.
It seems that no one is monitoring circuits. I know we do. I know you do (the end user) but service providers don’t seem to be based on popular user feedback.
Popular monitoring techniques that we follow would be:
- Device on / off
- Hydro available yes / no
- Primary link fail yes / no
- Secondary link active / inactive
- Secondary link fail-over successful yes / no
- Previous provider sucks yes / no (ok, I made up this one)
- Latency thresh-hold exceed or neared
- Ping thresh-hold exceed or neared
- *Mean opinion score (MOS) score result of the last phone call
*Mean opinion score(MOS) is a test that has been used for decades in telephony networks to obtain the human user’s view of the quality of the network.
Mean opinion score (MOS)
|Good||Perceptible but not annoying|
Our goal is a 100% uptime objective at each site. We recognize that ‘things’ happen. So, the inclusion of a second link or backup link ensures continuity of operation even during an outage.
Our network provides for MPLS or private connectivity to each site. Unlike our competitors ‘pseudo’ MPLS or IPVPN, our failover is easy to configure, easy to monitor and easy to deploy.
Even during an outage, we have made it a point to create a comprehensive service plan which consists of a combination of on-site and regional equipment sparing with a very comprehensive network of on-site repair technicians. This team is able to diagnose any of the following:
- Power, AC or electrical work
- Cabling issues (layer 1)
- Router swap and re-configuration
- On site Telco meet me person (the person who babysits the Telco for an on-site repair visit to ensure that they actually fix the problem
The need to reduce costs
When you look at the original deployment cost, and consider what your provider would like to charge you to ‘refresh’ your infrastructure (better circuits, new equipment etc.).
Managed Installation / Project Management
We appear to be different. This week I had a meeting where a potential customer complained about their current provider at the 10% mark of their installation (with the the point being that they are looking for options to not proceed to 11%.
What we do different is have an actual Project Management Office (PMO). We recently completed a PMO boot camp. We thought we were pretty good, but we knew we wanted to be great. And it is hard to be great when you are dealing with the following:
- Phone company missed visits
- Revisits to install dry loop tags because they forgot the first time
- Revisits to reinstall based on circuit
Other Services (Security, Cabling, Field Device Support)
Since this entire infrastructure exists. We are often asked to do or perform work ‘over the demarcation’ or past the router. We are happy to do so. This can include pretty much anything that you can think of. We simply build and create a sustainable process for it.
- Tier 1 – Call / Email NOC and post request
- Respond to ticket
- Schedule field tech if required
- Complete work
- Close ticket
Update NOC and / or prepare closing documentation.