Friday, December 19, 2008

Phorm Management leave sinking ship

Debate continues to rage about spyware vendor Phorm.

This week sees there management team run for the door with their hair on fire... Phorms indominatable CEO Hugo Drayton and CFO Lynne Millar both resigned this week, saying that it had all been very rewarding - I hope they meant in terms of pay, because I doubt it's done their careers any good.

Just last week Hugo Drayton recently put up this spirited defence of Phorm and it's business model. While talking to the folks at TelecomTV

It's about time for BT, Virgin, EasyNet et al, to follow Hugo and Lynne over the side of the boat; So folks, if you're listening, . Stop it now! It poisons everyone who goes near it. It's a PR disaster, even the people who work their know it

Also, stop trying to steal each others marketshares by cutting the prices it just leads to churn which is incredibly expensive let the little guys have the small price sensitive customers like my mum who uses it to shop at Tesco online and email recipes to her friends in the WI, and get back to selling people a good product that homeworkers, businesses and people who want streaming media; they will be prepared to pay a fair monthly fee.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Obamafication of the Internet: We will renew Information SuperHighway

In his weekly address to the US President Elect Barack Obama staed that it was unacceptable for the US to be ranked 15th out of 30 developed nations in the adoption of Broadband.

In his regular Saturday broadcast, Obama has promised that he would make the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. A high-tech new deal if you like, though he does suggest that his administration will move to bring all schools and hospitals on line so that they can communicate and share data across the Internet; I can hear Richard Granger and his NHS National Program for IT team dusting off their CV's as I type. But seriously in a month when over 1/2 a million Americans were released form their jobs and a further 1/4 million contractors sent home the proposals to revitalise the economy by investing tax $ in infrastructure and training is a lead that other countries should be following, giving people who have been laid off the opportunity to earn, learn and contribute to the future of their nation, perhaps for a short while it might remind people that creation of real things is what carries civilisation forward; not, pretend trading in made up things that benefit the very few.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sprint and Google show Wimax has legs with $3.2Bn Clearwire investment

Google, Comcast, Time Warner, Intel & Bright House have coughed up $3.2bn (about £2.1bn) and Sprint has 'donated' their country wide Wimax license to a new company Clearwire.

As a connectivity nut I've been waiting for this since I first saw Wimax demo'ed at Intel back in 2003, it was low powered and pretty ropey but it worked. How things have changed take a look at this Clearwire Demo 7mb up 3mb down when your driving around, ok it's a demo: then again a $3.2Bn investment in the middle of the worst recession in 70+ yrs, tells me that they're sure it's going to work.

The reality of a truely mobile wireless high speed "broadband" internet is interesting (exciting) enough, but when it finally becomes ubiquitous as it will, forget personal Internet access for a moment think of the huge array options for in car entertainment, roadsafety, traffic management; streaming audio, video, headup displays, location based services and advertsing etc... I for one can't wait to see what opportunities this will eventually deliver.

In the realm of personal communications you can shove a lot down 7mbs; most of us will no longer need land-lines for home broadband, or telephony; most former PTTs can wave goodbye to their cash cows. You can see why the mobile service providers who have been poo-poo'ing Wimax for years, and who spent all those billions in overhyped auctions are certain to keep the Andrex puppy in dog biscuits for the next few years.

Remember as late as 2000 BT and Co were denying DSL Broadband would ever be widely available and that ISDN, X-25 and Dial-up was here to stay.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

AT&T Cut even more staff

After cutting 7,000 staff in October, Randall Stephenson CEO of AT&T (pictured) announced that another 12,000 are to go in 2009. The cuts represent 4% of the total workforce and is the largest single staff cut since the 1998 when it axed 15,000 in a bid to cut costs.

What is interesting is the difference in the cuts as a percentage of the overall headcount. In '98 AT&T had 130,000 staff and the redundancies in that round made up 12% of headcount. With the US economic situation far worse AT&T's current headcount at over 300,000 is likely to carry on shrinking.

Let's hope they don;t make the same mistake as BT did, and allow their top IP engineers to take the very generous redundancy option; leaving Global Services short handed and costing the CEO is job.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Don;t pay for 0870 to contact Government helplines: Robbed by the DVLA

I've come over all Martin Lewis today! I've just spent £3.50 on a 20 second conversation with the DVLA, @49p/min.

I wasn't aware that public service help lines had become a government profit centre; but apparently they are.

According to Hansard: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has received the following amounts from its use of revenue sharing phone numbers for each of the last five years.


What a great scam! Apparently premium rate numbers were introduced in 1999 to "Not there to raise money but to flatten out discrepancies in the amount paid to call Swansea from different parts of the UK"

Well as a reader of On the BackChannel I'd like to introduce you to SayNoto0870 and if you ever need to phone DVLA here is the number you should call to get around the rip off 01792 782341.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

BSkyB to raise $600m bond to pay for Tiscali

That's about £240 per customer. To be honest it would be cheaper to run a decent TV marketing campaign and a special offer "First 3 months free to Tiscali customers". I wonder how much Tiscali's TV campaign cost them. Surely the Sky broadcast network could be employed.

I suspect BSkyB won;t be to bad a home for the poor users, but buying another companies unhappy customer base is a quick fix; and quick fixes always come back to bite you, as Tiscali has already found out.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The reality of consumer broadband; Only BT can win

Excellent week for consumer broadband again; Talktalk breaking apart, BSkyB to rescue Tiscali, and Virgin Media losing 15% of it's staff.

We don;t normally talk about Consumer Broadband; primarily because we believe that unless you own the network you will eventually go bust. But the last few days have gone so far to prove our theory, that we just had to cover the latest developments.

Back in 2006 the launch of a free Broadband service from everyone's favorite mobile phone store was hailed as the way forward. Despite losing Carphone warehouse £45m($70m) in the first 6 months, industry analysts claimed it was the future, and Ofcom said this was proof that they were taking a tough regulatory line: "Look at these 700 shiny, independent ISPs, we're doing a fine job". The elephant in the room was of course that virtually all of them relied on BTs infrastructure.

Since then a good number of these Standalone ISPs have failed; the prefered term I believe is "were acquired by Tiscali", and loads of little providers have been lost, failed to flourish, or just given up .

In the same period NTL was sold to Virgin Media for 4 pence, just before it went upside down, EasyNet was hoovered up by BSkyB. Now the same analysts who said Free Broadband was the future are urging Carphone Warehouse to split out (dump) Talktalk in the delusional hope that someone like Vodaphone might pay £1bn for its customer list, Virgin are cutting staff, and it looks like Tiscali is going to vanish.

BSkyB and NTL are only short term winners; yes they own network, but not enough to cover the country, they too rely on BT to reach their "off-network " customers and in the current economic climate there is no chance of finding the money needed to expand the networks; even these groups TV assets cannot be relied on to fund network coverage as people switch to freeview (you can get the BBC and Dave; what more do you need?!).

So it comes to this: Accelerated by the recession, the dream of a diverse, vibrant, multiplaying broadband led consumer teletopia has come down to three big players, none of which can deliver the whole convergence dream and eventually there will just be BT; just like back in the last big recession.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

BT to shed 10,000 jobs

Less than 24 hrs after Virgin Media announced they would be shedding a 2000+ jobs. BT have announced further 10,000 job cuts with contractors out the door first.

I say further because anyone who follows BT will be aware that they have already reduced their global workforce by 1/3rd, down from nearly 250,000 in 2006. In October 2007 a representative of the Now Connect Union, which represents BT middle management, suggested that only the generosity of the voluntary redundancy packages avoided a strike. Unfortunately the result of that generousity is that some highly experienced engineers and network designers took the deal and left BT Global Services, the division now pulling BTs numbers down.

A BT insider recently said to me "'s like 2001 again, lots of people in the office looking busy; waiting for the storm to hit!"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

THUS it came to pass, that CW finally squared up to BT...

For a couple of years we've felt Cable & Wireless has been heading in 'sort of' the right direction; focusing on profitable customers, core product lines, win-able business, etc. along with some pretty radical structural and staffing changes.

However, patience seemed to be wearing a bit thin after a business update for City analysts back in March this year, comments were made along the lines of "... this is all good stuff; but on this business plan, we don;t think you can turn it around fast enough!" Here's the presentation, and what you won't see in there, is any reference to plans to grow the customer base in SMB, mid-market, business broadband, or increased infrastructure investment in the UK.

I guess the city feedback must have focused minds on shorter term revenue generation. For just 6 weeks later, in a stunning volte-face CW announced plans to acquire THUS Telecom; possibly the most successful mid-market ISP in the country, Bringing with it customers in each of those categories, as well as £450m in new revenues, some tasty data centres, a mass of IP services expertise and a country wide NextGen IP network.

The change in the market place is profound. BackChannels own research data shows that over the last two years the "re-Energised" C&W has turned the corner; increasingly good at serving the larger corporate market, with significant project wins and a marked decrease in customer churn, they are starting to give Verizon and Sprint a run for their money. In the UK market the merged company forms the only broad-spectrum competitor to BT.

The ability of C&Ws management to listen to its shareholders and then to turn the whole company on a dime, must be keeping a few people awake over at BT Centre.

Hmm... Wonder what they'll do with Demons broadband customers :0)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bill Throttled

The Campaign to stop an amendment to the European Telecoms Bill appears to have been successful, although the European parliament has left the door open for President Sarkozy come back with a modified proposal.

Those of you who've have been following this will be aware that the Hollywood funded Digital Rights (Anti-Piracy) lobby has been pushing for ISPs in the EU to be made responsible for infringing EU Citizens civil rights i.e. freedom of speech, association and communications by cutting them off from the Internet permanently if they believe (don;t have to prove) that they or a member of their family has downloaded copyrighted material from the web.

The first self regulated attempts have been a fiasco with errors in billing records leaving ISPs open to legal action, and we've seen ambulance chasing companies tracking down suspected miscreants and selling their details to the DR folks - what ISPs legal team is going to stand for that?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Things you might find in an O2 Shop

In response to my ravings, so common of a new iPhone owner, a friend sent me this today.

The Chrysler Peapod.
Is it the ultimate iPhone accessory? Will we be seeing it in the O2 shop in Cambridge any time soon? I hope not, it's pug ugly.

Integrating a mobile 3G device directly into the vehicles onboard systems, is going to add a whole new dimension and opportunity in mobile content. You thought SatNav was big... mix it with location based services and maybe even guide books.

Thanks to our friends at The Register for the original post.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wall Street Crash: Upcoming Telco Chaos

With the sudden and forced mergers of some of the worlds largest financial institutions, Telco and ISP major accounts teams will be preparing themselves for several months of travel, client meetings and late nights as they try to make sense of their position in the combined entities.

As overnight bags are stuffed and expense forms dusted off; here are some highlights of the fun to come.

Lloyds TSB has strong links to both C&W and BT.However, the major accounts team at C&W will be less than pleased to find that BT's position has been enhanced by virtue of BT being IP Services provider of choice at HBOS.
On the voice & legacy data side, things are likely to be more complicated, as with 3yrs still to run on Lloyds $1Bn outsource agreement with IBM, you can be sure that the IBM account team will be lobbying hard to get access to HBOS' branch network; currently supplied by "...strategic partner, BT"

Friday, September 05, 2008

Tiscali brands innocent customer criminal

Two articles caught my eye this week on the proposed EU Telecoms's package, a law that if passed, will effectively mean that ISPs will become unwilling Enforcers for the Digital Rights lobby.

The first is the surprise involvement of the European Data Protection Agency, whose Supervisor has come out against the act, stating that parts of it relating to the tracing of IP addresses, breaks existing EU data protection legislation, enabling the mass surveillance of Internet users. If true the ISPs will be spending a lot of money on legal fees.

The second proves that there will be trouble ahead for ISPs. It appear that Tiscali wrote to a chap accusing him of illegally downloading a TV show. OK, but this chap isn't a customer of theirs; he had left them a year before and his old IP address had been dropped back into the pool. The cause "Computer error" Nothing to worry about then, that hardly ever happens.

Imagine the damage to Tiscali's Brand, had it gone all the way to the guy being permanently expelled from the Internetit would have made national/international news; it's the modern equivalent of having your eyes put out...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Heatmap feature shows installed services

Following customer feedback we have added a new Heatmap feature to the BackChannel Account Manager. This makes it possible to see not just where your customers offices are located, but where they have services installed.

This screen shot from within the application shows where HBOS have their primary IP services installed.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Google polishes up Chrome to support GoogleApps

Whilst it has been slow to take off in Europe and the rest of the World, GoogleApps for Business have been as huge success in the US. In Mid 2007 we electronically surveyed 550k US companies to see who was using GoogleApps mail services and it hardly hit the Radar.

Re-running the Survey in Mid 2008 the results couldn't have been more different. GoogleApps had arrived, and the demographic is right in the heart of the US business, companies with between 20-250 employees.

You're probably all Google Chrome'd out by now but a significant part of the Chrome announcement is that it has an application development kit called Gears that allows Web App Developers; like ourselves, Salesforce, etal, to build Off-line features into our products, making them portable.

For Google, this means that users of GoogleApps for Business will soon be able to compose a Gmail that includes a GoogleApps Spreadsheet sitting on a plane, and have it sync up and send as soon as they are connected to the Internet again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Protect the European Internet industry from Copyright Hawks

BackChannel strongly supports Telcom TVs "Throttle the Package" campaign, we ask that you do too and that you sign the petition to get it stopped.

Check it out; because if EU legislation proposed for passage into law in September goes through; your kids could get you and your family 'permanently' removed from the Internet.

With three aged between 6 and 15, the chance that they will stupidly download a song or watch a copyrighted clip on Youtube which could result in me permanently losing access to the Internet, and changing my life, is a real issue.

Having bamboozeled the French government, and the lunch time o'boozers in Brussels, the US copyright hawks are finally winning the war to end the principle of network as a conduit; a principle that has previously protected the personal privacy and human rights of the individual, and ensured that ISPs are not forced to act as on-line content police for the media industry.

If you're an ISP think what it would do to your business if you're forced to monitor the traffic on your networks and maybe hand over your customers details in order that they can be permanently remove from the online world.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sub-sea Cabling Map

I spent an hour sorting out various service providers network maps this afternoon, and found this one that is rather good.

Global Submarine Cable Map 2007

In a world that is becoming more IT dependent it highlights the lack of redundancy in the global network of sub-sea cabling.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

That C&W takeover of THUS Telecom people are talking about

As the 30th June deadline looms and THUS Management remain coy about their plans, we take a look at how a combined CW/THUS entity would address the IP services market in the UK.
In this graph we see the customers of each player by turnover. The first thing that strikes you is that where CW is weaker than the market average (0 on the 'Y' axis), THUS is stronger and vice-versa. A combined entity would have a significant increase in market strength across the whole business IP services market.

CWs undeniable success in controlling costs, reducing unplanned churn, and bringing its customer base back to those it finds most profitable to serve; has led to a fall in its 'overall' market strength. It's position in the profitable £2m-£20m Turnover bracket is particularly effected, see below.
For CW being able to leverage THUS' position amongst this group could quickly address the concerns that some analysts recently expressed that CW has pulled back too far, too fast.

Given that unlike India, Big Vision in UK Telco sadly took a pasting in the 2001 crash, What is the Pluthero vision that is big enough to accommodate the acquisition of THUS?

THUS is a strong company, has a lot of potentially profitable customers, a UK wide NextGen powered network, and growing reputation for delivering value to customers & shareholders. CW, is a global brand, has a focus on increasing profit per customer, and access to a global network which makes them increasingly attractive to multinationals transitioning from legacy to all IP NextGen services.

My opinion is that both companies are growing in strength and left to it would thrive independently; together the potential is extraordinary.

Friday, June 06, 2008

"Vodafone is a national operator in mobile and we'll take that philosophy to the fixed line world as well"

In recent years New Zealand has become the place where technology companies go to test products, and hone business models prior to releasing them on a world stage.

After my comments on the likelyhood of Vodafone buying up more fixed line capability, one of my colleagues passed me this news report on Vodafone's LLU 'Red' Network in New Zealand.

Vodafone Red has unbundled half the exchanges in NZ's major cities and is busy working it's new triple-play across the country. Russell Stanners CEO of Vodafone NZ said " Vodafone is a national operator in mobile and we'll take that philosophy to the fixed line world as well,"

NZ's a small country so costs are manageable, but if Vodafone were planning such a move in the UK, they should look at THUS Plc. THUS already has the country wide LLU network in place and their Demon Internet subsidiary has many years of experience in providing consumer broadband and telephony.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Tiscali to sell off Broadband Business to Vodafone

Tiscali's 2million UK subscribers are to be sold on again as yet another consumer broadband company does a Python; exit stage right shouting "run away, run away".

The tiny premium proposed on the share value underlines what we industry watchers have long been saying; that there is no value in the consumer broadband as a standalone business. It only makes sense if you either own the networks, or can supply it as part of a total communications package; even that model is unsustainable.

I strongly suspect that long term Vodafone will look buy more NGN/LLU providers. They've shown capable with the piecemeal acquisition of Arcor Germany's No2 telecoms provider last week.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Rely on Emerging Markets Players...

... to make Telco world interesting again.

So Vanco is to be acquired by Reliance Globalcom the highly successful telecommunications and services company based out of Mumbai, India.

Reliance is a conglomeration of three companies: Flag Telecom, Yipes Communications, and the original Reliance Communications.

The VANCO acquisition establishes credible base of customers for Reliance in Europe. Flag provides a global network of undersea optical cabling; Yipes, managed carrier Ethernet services (including VPLS) and Reliance's experience of building its India-wide network of wireless and wired services, including large scale MPLS deployments, sets it in good sted for an assault on the European markets.

Reliance joins TATA Communications amongst the Indian Companies who are taking the experience of building infrastructure and supporting western service providers, and who are now determined to play on the world stage.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Accenture bid to run a ViNO in a brewery

Thanks to one of our readers for pointing me at this. The VANCO story continued to gather pace with speculation rife that bids could be expected and on Sunday this appears to have been confirmed, with IBM and Accenture named as separately interested in a bid for the failing Virtual Network Operator.

Hmm, Accenture & Telco - as Accentures primary customers include some of the worlds largest "real" Telco's they may find that a successful bid would put them in direct conflict with some there largest customers.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Where is the next VANCO

In May 2008 respected stock watchers The Motley Fool rated Savvis as the worst stock in the world like Vanco they offer VNO services and boy have they had a rough year.

I thought it was a little harsh; at least they have some of their own network real estate. But we're already pulling reports off our systems on Savvis' customers, alongside those of VANCO, so watch this space.

Overall, we think 2008 will be a difficult time for VNOs large and small, they are effectively margin traders, and the big network providers seem pretty hostile to them just as their customers are putting the elbow on them to keep their prices down.

Many of the larger players have started offering VNO style services themselves and I am picking up quite a lot of undisguised glee from the bigger ISPs.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Vanco demise: Real beats virtual...

Great news for traditional telco as customers discover that sometimes, real beats virtual...

Vanco looks like going the way of the many margin traders - just like the city boys they too have been caught out by in the credit crunch.

Vanco is fundamentally a buy low, sell and live on margins, business. They're now finding that as the market turns against you, you had better hope and pray that your backers will cover the gaps in your cash-flow.

Having seen the April earnings announcements I was a bit surprised to read the news, especially to discover that analysts, whose praises just weeks ago drove the stock to an all time high, saying "we don't expect to see any value in the companies equity."

Could they have seen it coming? with hindsight probably: 3 things coming together have almost certainly caused a crunch in the companies cash flow, and collapse in the confidence of its backers and investors.
1) Tightening of economic climate causing slow payments from debtors
2) Channel stretching the elastic in the supply chain to breaking
3) Creditors unwilling to increase their risk and extend fresh terms

BackChannel work with enough Telco and ITC companies to know that the big customers are using their buying power to push out average payments, and with a growing and aggressive channel this will have been compounded by the number of links in the cashflow system.

This is always going to be an uncomfortable time in any board room especially bearing in mind and a few months ago Vanco CEO, Allen Timpany, hinted that their backers were not a very amenable bunch, "they want us to build a £200m business when we should be building a £2bn business". After they issued a profits warning in Aug 2007 we can only speculate how the relationship between founders and backers went, but it might have been opportune for someone should have reminded them of the Golden Rule: The man with the Gold makes the rules!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

SofNet 2008 - The great BT love-in

Barring a fire on the last day, the Sofnet 2008 conference and exhibition has been a great success, just about every industry Journalist and Analyst I know, or know of, has beaten a path here to London's Olympia Conference centre.

So for an event that emphasizes the convergence of the global ' telecom networks with software, why the 10meter stands filled up with hardware vendors? Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent, Hauwei, Nokia all showing a presence (no Cisco). I guess the answer is the identity of the host sponsor, BT, and in the list of speakers and panel members, which is rather heavy on BT senior staffers.

People tend to be a bit dismissive of BT on a world stage, but here is why the great and the good turn out to fate BT: - A report from the department of innovation, universities and skills shows BT as the UKs largest investor in R&D and in fixed line infrastructure. So for the vendors it's great opportunity to share a platform and network with the golden geese that will see them through the credit crunch.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Security Industry Blog: Infosecurity Show, London

Due to our backgrounds being in information security inc' ISS, CESG and CheckPoint; we've have been invited (with promises of beer) to guest blog for Security consultancy 360is, so here is the first one - looking at the run up to Infosec London and reports on the RSA Conference in San Francisco.

Monday, March 10, 2008

New Corporate ISP League Table for 2008

Our New Corporate ISP League Table for 2008, can be picked up free from our here.

This is our January 2008 baseline. It shows you exactly where the UKs largest companies sourced their Internet Services on the 20th of January, 2008.

Your chance to catch up with BT's ongoing battle with Verizon for the top slot. The new league table has been widened to include the Internet services of the companies that make up the "FTSE All Shares Index", including BAe, Tesco and Tomkins.

The big news is, that as the Internet services market suffer it's heaviest downturn since the Tech' Crash, UK based service providers are once again struggling to compete with their US counterparts.

Register when you pick up the league tables and we will send you the figures as soon as we have them.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Julius Baer backs down over Wikileaks

A good day for free speech as Bank Julius Baer (BJB) decides not to pursue further action against the whistle blower site Wikileaks. If you recall they won an injunction in February to close the site down, that caused a mixture of concern about restrictions to freedom of speech and high entertainment over the inept methods of both Bank Julius Baer and the California courts to get the information off of the web.

But we shouldn't be too pleased, the law found in BJB's favour. BJB, has decided not to proceed because of the negative publicity the exclusive Swiss financial management company has received from the story. It has been posted on thousands of blogs and news feeds around the world, reaching in turn 100's of thousands of people who had never heard of either party - a sort disastrous viral anti-marketing!

CW: PanAm or VirginAtlantic

This weeks analyst call was a toughie for CWs pilgrim and his team of Energisers. I just watched webcast; skip the bit about the Caribbean, it's all phone minutes.

Times Online reported one analyst saying: “Their plans are far too long term for this market. They need a quicker fix than this.” Mate! Go find something else to analyse! If you haven't worked out that there is no quick fix for telco, you're' in the wrong job.

It's not a CW specific problem; it is the same for all the Telco's: After 100yrs of selling voice minutes somebody invented the Internet, and that's having the same effect that airliners had on oceanliners. Massive increase in traffic, loads of competition, and a huge drop in revenues per head as customer choice expands.

In todays financial markets this is a recipe for volatility, and volatility = risk. SO, vicious circle; everyone's risk averse, so everyone's looking for the quick fix, and there isn;t one. The answer for the service providers is to sell core services, to valuable customers over their own networks, and, once they have those customers keep them. Not so simple as it sounds.

After years of volatility, crashing stock prices and stranded passengers; the airline industry introduced Revenue Management in the '80's. They filled their planes with the customers who provided the best economic return. First class, business, early bookers, flexi-tickets, block bookers, loyalty card holders, late bookers all became categories that were given quota's, and managed using sophisticated booking models. They didn't invent anything, or come up with fabulous new killer services! They just provided a core service and managed their customers more effectively.

Telco's must do what the airlines did, introduce Revenue Management and fill their networks with valuable customers. It was realising this fact about 4 years ago that caused us to give up the day job and start BackChannel.

So, CW, PanAm or Virgin Atlantic? Personally, left to it's own devices I think CW has the potential to become a truly global telecoms provider; they have the network, the services, the contacts and the mindset to do the job. Question is; Do they have the time?

Friday, February 29, 2008

BackChannel has new products and a new website

Just a quick note to say thanks very much to those of you who were able to provide feedback on the new BackChannel website it was valuable, valid and consistent.

So, we learnt a lot and made some changes. Thanks to one particular mega value reviewer for his excellent critical analysis - " you really know how to mangle a metaphor !?" Regular readers will also have spotted I can't spell ether.

The release of the new product is driving this change, beta trials at number of carriers have been completed and initial feed back is that it both saves a great deal of the sales peoples time in gathering customer intelligence and reveals a lot of otherwise un-knowable detail on the use of IP Services by large organisations and within Fiber served buildings.

We will of course be continuing with our regular free reporting and market intelligence services: when you're monitoring nearly a million companies you learn some interesting stuff.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Google take stake in Unity TransPacific Fibre

Google has taken a stake in the Unity TransPacific super fibre linking the US Westcoast to Japan.

This is the Google that purchased a 270,000sq ft interconnect facility in New York in 2005. The Google that has a division engaged in acquiring dark national, international and metro-fiber. Is investing heavily in consumer WiMax, a mobile phone platform, mobile applications, oh and spectrum

Still think Google is a search engine and advertising company? Read on...

In 2006 Google was recognised by the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN) as an ISP, when it was granted a large allocation of IPv6 addresses.

At the time of the allocation ARIN's director of external relations , Richard Jimmerson, said. "Any organization that has received (IPv6 addresses) has met that criteria -- and that would include Google,"

Note: IP v6 will enable the Internet address space to several trillion, trilion addresses, more than enough to absorb the current 4 billion IPv4 Internet addresses several times over. They must be planning an awfully big grid network, or is there more to it than meets the eye?

Nervous now? Get in line behind Microsoft; a queue is forming.

Friday, February 22, 2008

UK ISPs to face legal sanction's over downloads

The British government has given ISPs till April '09 to "get on board or face legal sanctions".

The moves follow similar legislation in France due to come into force this summer.

The Media folks will identify the file down-loader by joining BitTorrent storms, then pass lists of offenders to the ISPs and then require them to identify repeat offenders and cut them off from the Internet, probably by invoking breach of contract.

As Tiscali found - If it goes wrong, (surely not) you're on your own.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Judge in WikiLeaks driven Dyna"dotty" as archives go P2P

The Wikileaks train now seems unstoppable. As due to massive pressure on their remaining servers the Whistle Blower has posted it's archives on a number of P2P sites including the notorious Piratebay.

Some good comment over on El Reg regards the Julius Baer/Dynadot/Wikileaks debacle, which shows that the judiciary have no clear understanding of how the Internet works, or even that its geography extends beyond the bounds of their jurisdiction.

Being a working guy, and unlikely ever to need their services, I had hardly heard of Julius Baer and their spat with Wikileaks. If you want to know more about the "due process" take a look at Cryptome it has chapter and verse including all the legal two'ing and fro'ing

This is the kind of viral marketing JB could do without.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

ISP Executives in firing line as Governments move on online privacy

Senior Executives within ISPs will be calling in the lawyers this week.

Why? well it's been an interesting week for on-line privacy, freedom of speech and data protection; with the ISPs being moved firmly centre stage again.

In the UK, the Labour government has presented a Green Paper that will coerce ISPs to monitor their customers Internet traffic for illicit content. Recidivists will have their connection cut off, and to stop them doing it again, their names could be entered into a central database of law breakers, to be circulated to other ISPs, government agencies and potentially even to the owners of the content.

In the USA, the Protect America Act has been passed allowing the NSA to filter the day to day emails and web content of both Foreign and US Citizens, in the ongoing search for Al Queda.

Finally, Tiny Californian ISP Dynadot which hosts whistle blower site Wikileaks was forced to hand over the site, contents, supporting literature and all log data to the courts.

So what is the potential fall out for the service providers?

The US government has stated that ISPs who voluntarily co-operate will be protected from litigation by their customers. But we know from experience that won't stop the lawyers having a bash at a few multi-billion$ class actions.

The UK Government has also promised protection for the ISPs. But refusal by the media industry to indemnify the likes of Tiscali against costs involved in fighting prosecution, has already caused that company's attempt to implement the "three strikes" proposal to collapse in disarray. As the process is equivalent to asking the postal service to open and vet every package and letter in the system, there is surely plenty of scope for litigation.

Even after the legislation I foresee many IT Illiterate parents carted away as their kids continued to download music without their knowledge, as well as the media industry choosing to pursue teenagers for individual criminal actions.

It's just a matter of time before ISPs find themselves under siege from the lawyers of those prevented from accessing the Public Internet, email and possibly even phone services, or for abetting the media companies in malicious prosecutions.

Dynaspot shows that ISPs will increasingly being held accountable for the content and themes of web sites that they host, and the authorities will support action against them.

So why should the Senior Executives worry; well there is currently little protection in law that will protect them from irate customer. Reviewing the 2002 Electronic Communications Act (figleaf) passed to protect ISPs who remove content from customers websites.

The Dynaspot case is the final proof that if ISPs don't co-operate they will face court action, heavy fines and even jail.

Oh you're outside the US / UK! "Don't get comfortable folks" - the gaming industry thought they were safe until their CEOs started finding themselves held in US jails for wire fraud and racketeering.

Those ISPs in hosting havens like Finland and Norway should bare in mind that a US arrest warrant cost Swedish Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom $100m, he can afford it, but can you!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Managed Hosted Service in USA: Comparitive strength of vendor

As part of a wider survey of the use of Internet services by over 500,000 organisations in the USA we surveyed the Messagelabs/Postini/MS Frontbridge market for Managed AntiSPAM - AntiVirus services.

Courtesy of our friends at ManyEyes (IBMs visualisation business) Here is something for you play with; just click on the charts title.

The Control is the normal distribution of organisations by state.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Pipex Business to lose prime asset - It's name!

Tiscali's acquisition of the Pipex Broadband last year, has had an interesting knock on. It appears that as part of the deal Tiscali acquired the PIPEX brand; so the business end of the operation has got to change it's name. The new name for PIPEX Business is apparently Vialtus .

It's been a long journey for the PIPEX name, since the Monday morning in 1991 when
the original founder, Peter Dawe, bounced into my office and said "hey Steve; Public IP Exchange - PIPEX, what do you reckon?!" I doubt it mattered what I thought, but he was clearly excited. For weeks he had been struggling to find a really "meaningful and pointy" name for the UKs first commercial Internet services provider.

Despite many changes of hands, PIPEX has remained a benchmark of the UK internet scene; justifiably known for it's quality products, support and services ethos. Pipex continued to grow business customers even as it became better known for its consumer offerings.

Losing such an established brand identity is a big issue for any business. But for an established ISP, ouch!! Ofcom reference over 500 ISPs in the UK; even when you take out those who are just reselling other peoples services, it's still over 170 competitors servicing UK business.

The market is overcrowded, economic situation is tightening and competition for corporate customers is now from international players like AT&T, Colt, Verizon and Rackspace. Even with a big bag of money from the sale of the consumer business; it's a brave time to launch a new brand.

So what next, well with the PIPEX name gone we think another power brand is likely to step in and pick up the business; as well as a lot of customers it has some very desirable physical assets.

Cable & Wireless, THUS, and Oakley Capital have all been named as possible suitors. Given their stated strategy of shedding customers, it would be mixed signals to the city from C&W, Oakley would probably want it for "parts", increasingly successful UK operator
THUS would seem to make much more sense.

Who knows, BT might even re-enter the fray; our latest research data, published next week, shows it could sorely use a couple of percent more market share in it's ongoing battle for corporate IP customers with US giant Verizon.