Thursday, 31 December 2015

2016

2016 should be interesting! A&A have a lot going on.

I personally have a lot going on - I won't bore you with details (that is what Facebook is for), but I am pleased to see my daughter planning to get married.

We have the new terabyte services launching - and whilst these are initially very specific services, FTTC, 80/20 capped, with the phone line part (no calls) as a new 12 month service (see here), we really hope that over the coming months some of the restrictions will go away, and more services can start to be measured in terabytes of usage and not gigabytes. I remember ISDN dialup and the dream of megabytes, let alone gigabytes or terabytes. I am actually really pleased we can start to measure usage in such terms, even if only on these specific new services. DON'T HASSLE THE SALES TEAM (they told me to make this big and bold) as we won't have a proper ordering system for about 2 weeks at the soonest. If you want this soon - best to get on the irc channel as we'll be asking for guinea pigs next month.

Our data SIMs are expected to allow 4G real soon. I have seen this working, but there is a lot going on at our suppliers with this and a lot of testing and tweaking, but we know it can work and expect it any day. The only down side is no improvement on pricing - so 4G lets you spend a lot very quickly. However, there are plenty of good business uses of proper fixed IPv4 with 1500 byte MTU and no filters on a mobile device. And for occasional use, like my iPad, it works out really quite sensibly priced! We'd love to do the same on voice SIMs, but that will take some more work.

2015 was actually quite good for finally sorting SIM card printing - it is silly, I know, but getting printers that work properly was not easy. We print cards with artwork of your choice and our logo, and so on. It should be irrelevant as you throw that away but it makes all the difference in the presentation, and we can do proper corporate branding on SIMs now, either as a mobile telephony service provider or as a corporate network. We even do an ID card printing service now which is starting to take off with schools and even ISPs using them for staff ID cards.

We had been making progress on SMS and other related stuff, but that is stalled slightly. We are trying to kick start that and have some improvements to services and prices for SMS soon. It is odd, we sort of expected SMS to go the way of fax machines, and the dodo, but the universal nature of mobile SMS and the closed nature of things like iMessage mean it is still a "thing"!

We have some massive work on the core network, and scarily some 40Gb/s optics involved in a fibre ring. This is happening real soon (January I expect), and we have extra transit and peering and links to carriers going in. This is kind of important to handle expansion of our network, especially with terabyte services. We have a new member of the ops team with a lot of experience, and things are plowing ahead on this. As ever there will also be a load of work on our systems, and we recently launched https://control.aa.net.uk/ as a new https link for our control pages (clueless) which meets some of the latest standards for https properly. Much more to do. We also want to improve the way we handle signed and encrypted email with customers this year. Privacy is important and we should be on the ball on this.

We even have new hardware this coming year, with the next generation of FireBrick expected this year with a true fibre interface and faster throughput and IPSec. We are working on the next generation of the larger scale kit as well, obviously.

Of course, fighting the IP Bill is important. I have done a lot in 2015, including talking to the home office, actually talking to the Joint Committee in parliament, talking to a peer in the Lords, and next month talking again in parliament on the matter. I have been on TV a couple of times on this too. I have a petition at over 10,000 signatures on encryption. It is hard to get over the importance of this, and there is a campaign that ORG are running to try and counter the government spin/PR campaign on this - do consider contributing (here) - we have!

Even little things, like the way we post out routers, are changing. We now have the new Royal Mail Shipping API and so should be able to get their tracked services so we can send a router that does not have to be signed for, and can even have a pre-arranged "safe place" to leave it, but is tracked to confirm delivery. We'll know more on that next week.

We are set to grow and improve in every area of our services for a very exciting 2016 ahead.

There are also moves afoot to improve the A&A web site - we'll see how that goes.

Happy New Year to all of our customers from myself and all of the staff. We may be a small family business, but we really appreciate your continued support.

33 comments:

  1. May you have a prosperous new year!

    In the nicest possible way, one of the best things about the service from A&A has been that we haven't had to talk to you - it either just works, or when it doesn't work you are transparent with the reasons via the status pages, web site and/or blog. Looking forward to another year of the same. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Quite. 100% of the times I've had a problem it's either turned out to be my fault or it's been something systemwide that you were already well into fixing. This is, oh, 100% better than every previous ISP I've ever tried, most of whom appeared to employ actual literal circus clowns as tech staff. (The only downside of this is that it's deflating: it becomes clear that I'm not as smart as I think I am!)

      Delete
  2. With the new Terabyte service, I think I will switch one of my lines to you, when it ends it's current contract :) I like the idea of not actually charging me for overage too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "and we recently launched https://control.aa.net.uk/

    It's a shame it doesn't work properly with Firefox (see ticket 2515T6), and there seems to be no urgency to fix it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting - I'll see what they can find - of course it does depend whether it is firefox or the server/proxy that are not following the standard - if it is firefox that is broken then the progress would be with the firefox developers :-) That said, I have no reason to know which side is broken.

      Delete
  4. In practical terms if you ignore the 2TB of usage what do you expect the difference between Office and a TTB EoFTTC to be... Same contract length, lower install, lower cost, the EoFTTC had the benifit of being unlimited but we don't push anything like 2TB on a 200Mb fibre that we use as a primary MPLS circuit

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed. EoFTTC will pretty much be pointless with possible exception of actual Ethernet handover from us in data centre - but for anything IP it is the same but cheaper.

      Delete
  5. I would love it if I could get a better deal on daytime traffic pricing. I'm on the traditional tariff. I'm in bed all day, so the Internet is my main form of entertainment now that tv seems to have degenerated into mindless mush.

    ReplyDelete
  6. With regards to your pricing models, how are you able to compete with uncapped services that are cheaper? Why would I use your 1TB service at £60 a month when I can get uncapped BT Infinity 2 for £48 a month including the line rental?

    If there's something I'm missing here, I'd really like to know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Internet is not like gas/electric - there are differences. Simply by not offering "unlimited" we have lower risk of congestion on links, but also things like policy on privacy, politics, blocking and filtering, fixed IP, reverse DNS, IPv4, Uk based tech support staff that know what they are doing, ability to get faults fixed, constant quality monitoring, line bonding options, etc.

      Delete
    2. I meant to type IPv6, but yes, we still do IPv4 as well.

      Delete
    3. It would be more meaningful to compare A&A to someone like Zen, who like A&A have no filtering or traffic shaping.

      Delete
    4. Unless I expected to exceed 1Tb a month or needed my landline, that amounts to "why would I pay an extra £12 per month for A&A's service" - IPv6, better support, no filtering, control over reverse DNS and better performance at peak times? Easily worth £12/month to most of us.

      Factor in another £8 for an unlimited (landline) VoIP plan and it's still a bargain.

      How are Mercedes able to compete with Ford when Fords are cheaper? Pretty well, really - you don't need to be any cheaper when you're much better!

      Delete
  7. Thank you for the response.

    It is different I agree, certainly in part because gas/electricity requires a constant supply of fuel. Network capacity requires infrastructure (I'm a network engineer who works in a data centre; I know there are a lot of zeros in the price tags!) and data is free once it's set up. (Okay strictly speaking it does cost more due to the electricity cost of processing and transmitting those bits over copper/fibre, but it's a pretty much negligible cost). It's the throughput capacity that's expensive.

    I suppose unlimited data would make the package more attractive to the P2P crowd, but then I would have thought that any serious user these days would just use a seedbox and download from it via a VPN, or even via a standard HTTPS. Takes up less bandwidth (and less of your ports!) and looks like regular web traffic for the most part.

    Do data caps actually make that much difference? Your 'typical' user it not going to be thinking "Well I really want to steam the football tonight but I'm close to my data cap for the month". They'll just use it regardless, and that will typically be around peak usage times when the working day is finished. Electricity costs more during peak time but that doesn't mean people put the kettle on and watch TV en masse at 4AM. We don't have blackouts and brownouts because the capacity is raised to fit demand, and the infrastructure is designed to handle the peak load; networks are typically designed with the same principles.

    The extreme users do use a lot of data, but the extreme users are ostensibly rare. You could also just use traffic shaping to avoid conjestion if really needed, while letting them get full speed in the middle of the night when those links are practically sitting idle. These can even be done at a flow level. I don't see how this would be particularly contentious since all ISPs use QoS measures of various types.

    A few of the things you do mention are interesting USPs though. It's also good to see experts tell the government they don't understand the slightest thing about the Internet. I submitted evidence to parliament myself, and also wrote to my MP to tell him how anyone could evade this ridiculous proposal in less than a minute. Will be interesting to see what response I get on that one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The data is not free as I am sure you know - whatever capacity you set up will have ongoing costs especially when renting fibres or data by the byte from someone else.

      As for the caps, we prefer to be honest and say a terabyte than say unlimited and then have "fair usage policy" to kick people off. Yes, for most people a terabyte is "unlimited".

      The really high users are rare, but realise that you only need a dozen people using an 80Mb/s FTTC flat out at peak time to fill a gig link and congest it for others on the same link.

      So the terabyte discourages people that really want to do things flat out all of the time, and is honest to everyone.

      Delete
    2. And well done yourself trying to get the message across to the government. I have another meeting this week as well. It may sink in - we can only hope.

      Delete
    3. It will never 'sink in' because you have a message they don't want to hear. I cannot believe that, before proposing this bill, the politicians failed to consult their own experts, with similar knowledge to yourself and who would have pointed out the same shortcomings and impracticalities. Ergo, they have other, more long-term motives.

      Delete
    4. True, it does cost for transit capacity, which is basically the same problem shifted up a level. Peering dramatically reduces the transit capacity needed though. Then again, the elite users are probably going to be using more traffic that requires transit capacity to arbitrary networks, rather than peering capacity with Google, Netflix, and the like which will make up a lot of the demand from 'regular' users.

      I don't see fair usage as being fundamentally dishonest if it's explained, though clearly it's far more complicated than a fixed data allowance. There's also the issue of communicating to the customer that their connection is being throttled for now instead of a line fault, because the local link is saturated and you've just downloaded 10TB. I do think there is a lot to be said for 'unlimited*' though, if only for the fact that one doesn't have to worry about their usage. It's also a much harder sell for a limited service.

      I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my points in any case.

      Re: snooping, yes, I hope it sinks in as well. Unfortunately being a politician doesn't require the slightest knowledge of this "Interwebs" thing, which is odd when such ignorance of anything else so vital to the modern world would not be acceptable.

      The main example I gave was that anyone could download TOR using Google in seconds with no particular technical skills. It would also be interesting to see what happens if the UK government tries banning VPNs. Somehow I don't foresee my (very large and important) clients allowing me to send their highly confidential data and connect to their network otherwise... nor do I foresee positive developments for the UK economy when they instantly leave.

      I'd definitely like the experts to hammer it in just how easy a child could get around these schemes. It's important to point out how much of a moral failure it is of course, but at a technical level it's a disaster. I'm not sure which offends me more.

      Many thanks for taking the time to talk to the politicians. Good advertising for A&A too; it's how I heard of you guys and found this blog!

      Delete
    5. We're hoping that the 3Mb/s cap once you hit a terabyte will be clear, but I suspect we'll email/text as well to make it clear. I think it is better than having top-up and charges and stuff, and is a useful speed anyway. At the end of the day - we'll see how it goes - marketing is a tad tricky at times :-)

      Delete
    6. > hoping that the 3Mb/s cap once you hit a terabyte will be clear

      Seems clear enough to me!

      > Your 'typical' user it not going to be thinking "Well I really want to steam the football tonight but I'm close to my data cap for the month".

      I've certainly been in this situation for a couple of months on our Home::1 connection, where I had not appreciated just how much streaming must have been going on — we had to make a choice between topping up or waiting to watch the programme another night.

      So we topped up :)

      Delete
    7. Yes, but 3Mb/s is enough to do some streaming typically, so not the same as dropping to like 256k or some such.

      Delete
  8. Still no sign of native IPv6 on Data SIMs? Also, is there a dongle you recommend for 4G on Linux?

    ReplyDelete
  9. My problem with Home::1T is not having a voice line on it. I have two pairs into my house, but using one for voice only and one for VDSL is a non standard install. Non standard is always a worry, not to mention two boxes on the wall which I really don't want. How do you prevent Kelly engineers stealing the non voice VDSL line as a spare pair because it has no ring tone on it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We do not know yet what tone, if any, it will have, and we are waiting for first lines to be installed to confirm.

      Delete
    2. Once BT do single order GEA, that will be a concern for us all.

      Delete
    3. What is GEA, and why would single order be any different to what happens now?

      Delete
    4. Generic Ethernet Access is the "back end" of VDSL FTTC/FTTP services and what people like Talk Talk buy from BT to provide FTTC. SoGEA is where you just have the VDSL and and not the "phone line" part to which it is normally jumped. Much more true "naked VDSL".

      Delete
  10. Even having dial tone is no guarantee - I lost my E-side last week and only got reconnected this morning. (No comment from Openreach as to who might have disconnected a pair inside their cabinet, but I think we're all pointing to the same suspect...)

    I'm just glad I have FTTC, so that was unaffected while I was without voice service! (Particularly since mobile reception here is patchy at best, so I rely on a femtocell for that - but Ofcom are still taking the mickey with termination rates, so using a mobile seriously is out of the question. Otherwise, I'd just go mobile only.)

    Where's the E-side terminated, a TTW port or something of BT's? If you could bundle in a TT calls package, instead of having no calls at all, I'd be a very happy ::1T customer ASAP. (They seem quite adequate for calls and tariffs, despite their ISP's retail side!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apart from history, why does the voice line still go as analogue all the way to the exchange? Once a line is on FTTC, it should be techically feasible to do the voice part in the FTTC cabinet as well. But has the gear in FTTC cabinets been designed to be capable of this?

      I do know at least some of the FTTC cabinets can do ADSL, because if VDSL doesn't work decently for people one of the things they can be offered is ADSL from the cabinet, which will nearly always give better speeds than from the exchange.

      Delete
    2. Single order GEA does this - next year we expect.

      Delete
    3. I would also be keen on a Home::1T line bundled with a Talk Talk call package. But only if I could port my BT phone number to it (and cease the BT contract obviously).

      Delete
  11. This is great news, I contacted aaisp about a year ago asking about talktalk based FTTC and was told not available, then I waited and in the end forgot about ordering a second broadband service, was going to order from another isp who uses talktalk, but then this news came out, so you may have got me in the net as a new customer, I got no issue with the 1TB limit especially as the capped speed is something still quite useable. I also like how you included phone line cost without saying X price but requires line rental.
    BT wholesale are horrible in my eyes, and its been confirmed lately they have congested MSIL's so I am sure you will be glad as well revk to get customers moved to a better quality backhaul.

    ReplyDelete