Ethernet leased lines in the UK usually carry at least a 99.9% Service Level Agreement. We have in the past competed with companies selling services with a single fibre carrying a 100% SLA. Which, as any budding techie will tell you, is an engineering impossibility.
The likelihood of all Tier 1 leased line providers in the UK being on-net is low. Many of the Tier 1 providers will need to use BT for the final part of the circuit. The tell-tale signs are an install fee and higher rentals on a 36 month term.
Almost all UK leased line providers make use of dedicated circuits from their competitors’ wholesale divisions as it is often cheaper for them to do this than to extend their physical networks by digging the road or pavement. There are some notable exceptions depending upon location and building, which you can learn about below.
When we quote for resilient leased line, leased line failover and high availability leased line services we:
1. Inspect the internals of the site, such as the comms room
Our most memorable initial inspection was at a global brand hotel chain, at an hotel here in Birmingham. We found the ethernet fibre ingress with the comms cabinet, all of which was below the lowest point of the swimming pool it was behind. Needless to say our initial recommendation was raising the cabinet to a higher point in the building and moving the fibre ethernet ingress to suit.
2. Assess the external area for leased line access routes
This usually entails wandering around the outside of the building making measurements for where a known egress from the building lies. Often looking for tell-tale signs of raised paving slabs or renewed tarmac heading off the site.
3. Survey the surrounding areas physically identifying a DP (demarcation point)
Once the egress from the building is identified, plus the route from the building, we then need to find the DP covers starting with the nearest. Photographs are taken and GPS locations recorded. Main link routes can be identified easily enough as they have multiple covers and will usually be found at road junctions. (I always feel a little conspicuous wandering up and down roads, photographing the floor trying to contain my excitement at finding a Mercury five cover DP – that’s a big one!)
4. Qualify identified DPs with providers
The Tier 1 providers don’t always know what they have and where it is located. Therefore, this step takes a little more time, usually relying upon the local engineers. We have a number of contacts outside of the ‘normal’ process which enables us to find fibre that the provider we’re trying to purchase it from had no idea they had. One such incidence is with a provider who is strong in Birmingham, and shall remain nameless (Colt), where they had made the building on-net in the early 2000s. However, a bar chain had moved in on the lower ground floor, and their renovation and refit in 2010 had ‘disappeared’ some fairly expensive kit behind a stud wall.
5. Confirm route and location with providers
This step is very difficult to carry out with BT, however, with the correct contacts the gaps can be filled so it’s not impossible. BT maintain they won’t share route maps due to security, however, we all know the real reason is they just don’t know. For an example route map from Virgin Media see page six of Leased line survey – SAMPLE.
6. Insist providers identify other carriers in use applied to the quote supplied
For commercial reasons leased line providers here in the UK are often extremely reticent to openly share from whom they are purchasing the initial leased line circuit. Heaven forbid they tell you and then you ask them for a quote! We maintain very close relationships with sales and operations to ensure transparency. Our contracts where leased line resilience is identified as the primary purpose also carry a caveat regarding third party failure and liability where we have explicitly requested all parties involved.
7. Identify suitable media resilient options, such as Microwave or Radio, if the diversity cannot be confirmed
Simple leased line failover via ADSL or FTTC are viable options, although not our preferred recommendation. Cost effective media resilience, in the case of an ethernet fibre leased line, include 4G, and soon potentially 5G. For the gold standard in media resilience a fixed band Microwave is the only option. Many years ago we provided such a solution to the Birmingham Head Quarters of a high street opticians, and the employees on the site believed their brains were being cooked by the Microwave dish outside. (I seem to remember people refusing to work in the office and wearing aluminium foil hats when they did. Needless to say, a great deal of technical data was provided to allay their totally unfounded fears, especially given the fact they would receive a far greater amount of radiation from hugging a Henge Stone.)
8. Using provider route maps and our own photographs create a visual map report with locations marked by GPS
You can read a sample report carried out for a customer here: Leased line survey – SAMPLE.