For all business users, the ability to communicate reliably and trade electronically with suppliers and customers is vital, and there is an expanding choice of broadband services on the market. So the problem and opportunity, for you as a reseller, is to accurately assess which service option best suits each customers needs and delivers a healthy return in margin terms.
Should you advise your customers to choose current ADSL or SDSL broadband services, wait for the emerging standards from BT, or go with a leased line?
The broadband market is changing on an almost daily basis as new ADSL and SDSL products and service developments come on line, says Chris Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for business ISP altoHiway.
ADSL introduced high-speed, fixed-cost Internet access to the market, but currently it has a limited capacity to deliver. It is low cost, but is arguably not robust enough for all business use. For example, there is no service level guarantee from BT and this means that if there is a fault, the cost to a small business relying on the connection could be enormous, adds Wood.
Options for change
Which service your customer should use is entirely dependent on the type of business they operate. Typical costs for a home or small business user with a standard ADSL line is between 15-30 a month, but has a high contention ratio of 50:1 (shared with up to 50 users within the ADSL network) which means that performance can be poor at busy times of the day.
The next step up in business ADSL gives users a lower contention ratio of 20:1 for around 40-100 a month - some ISPs are capable of delivering uncontended ADSL where the bandwidth is dedicated for your use alone.
The increasing use of always on connectivity combined with a need for upstream performance greater than the maximum 256k afforded by ADSL triggers a switch to SDSL.
Companies looking for this increased performance would typically be involved with applications like hosting web servers, remote workers and VoIP. Prices for SDSL vary between 200-600 a month and are available broadly as a 10:1 ratio, but this can also be offered as a dedicated line.
Currently only 300 telephone exchanges in the UK are enabled for SDSL which are usually located in densely populated areas. Over the next year, this number will rise to 1,300 exchanges, so as technology is rolled out, it will become more available to businesses that are frustrated by the performance of ADSL.
Wood adds: This is something resellers should consider as up-sell opportunities will increase as the network deployment rolls out. As ADSL continues to become more and more of a commodity, resellers should look at SDSL as an opportunity to continue to earn reasonable margin from connectivity.
Cost versus technology
ADSL availability, service agreements and scalability are all part of the cost and technology reasoning. Wood adds: SMEs and business users buying broadband should avoid buying on the lowest headline price, but look for hidden extras such as fixed IP addresses (necessary for VPNs) and email feeds being chargeable items.
Invest in a true business service and look very carefully at what your ISP is offering because there are a number of offerings out there that are home user services which are thinly disguised as a business tool.
If you go for a 50:1 connection, you are going to be stuck with a consumer product and may need to buy a new circuit at 20:1 later on. Users paying for this kind of service may have to cease using the existing circuit and order a new one. Depending on the line used by the company for the ADSL connection, you could face a loss of service.
Currently in development is ADSL Max, which is about to be alpha tested by altoHiway and a handful of ISPs in the UK. This uses a standard ASDL line to offer the potential to work at 8Mb download speed and improved upload capability.
It is early days for ADSL Max, but following alpha and beta testing, this should be available later this year. Although pricing is yet to be finalised, according to altoHiway it is likely to be competitively priced between standard ADSL services and SDSL. Further advances in ADSL technology will see the fastest service yet begin to appear towards the end of this year - ADSL 2+.