With ADSL hitting the headlines following 'BT and Oftel’s tiff over access to the local loop', the fact that some companies already enjoy low-cost, high-bandwidth DSL-based links seems to have been obscured.
One company boosting its Wan capacity using low cost DSL based links is Yorkshire-based Cold Drawn Products (CDP), which produces steel wire for everything from lampshades to BMWs.
CDP currently uses DSL modems, from Manchester supplier Hoodpoint Communications, to run a 256Kbps link between two sites in Yorkshire, situated four miles apart.
CDP turned to Hoodpoint four months ago, after the installation of an NT server slowed its 64Kbps Kilostream link between its two offices to a crawl.
“Traffic was moving very slowly down the line as more people used it,” said Victor Wain, IT systems manager at Cold Drawn Products. “Things were grinding to a sticky stop.”
Wain’s first impulse was to adopt an infra-red link, since there is line-of-sight between the two offices. However, that would have proved expensive.
“The cost was estimated at £28,000, and even then it wasn’t guaranteed to work,” said Wain. Instead, he assessed Hoodpoint’s DSL-based system. Tested at its top speed of 2Mbps, the equipment ran into some problems. “There were a few errors and spikes,” said Wain. But dropping down the speed to a still highly acceptable 256Kbps cut these out.
The solution relies on EPS 9s, a little-known type of line available for rent from BT. EPS 9s are low-cost lines traditionally used by security companies for connecting alarms to a head office.
They provide raw copper connections with no services. By renting the lines and putting DSL equipment on either side, customers can end up with a data link up to 2Mbps for a fraction of the cost of a Kilostream link.
“This has achieved our goal and better,” said Wain. The cost of equipment worked out lower than that of the infra-red kit and considerably less than the cost of renting more Kilostream lines.
“We spent about £2,000 in total, and it was money worth spending because it helped us achieve another goal, which was saving money on our voice line rentals.”
CDP cut its voice communications bill using DSL equipment because the company was previously using three EPS 9 lines between its two sites for voice. But Hoodpoint was able to run two voice channels plus an extra data channel across a single DSL link. This allowed CDP to dispense with two of the three lines.
Keeping a lid on these costs is important to CDP. “Price is a key factor in everything we do because 90 per cent of our sales are in the export market, and the pound is hitting us badly. I’m interested in anything that means we can improve on what we’ve already got, as long as I can cost-justify it.”
According to Hoodpoint, there has been a lot of interest in DSL solutions. Stephen Dracup, Hoodpoint managing director, puts this down to increased pressure on existing links due to e-mail and Internet access.
Using DSL equipment from Basingstoke company Link-Up International at either end of EPS 9 lines, Hoodpoint is able to supply faster connections at a lower cost to its customers.
“EPS 9s are a bit more expensive to install,” Dracup said, “but a lot less to rent.” The rental on an EPS 9 line is just £300 a year compared to more than £3,000 for a Kilostream line. Installation costs about £1,000, compared to £750 for Kilostream but, according to Dracup, the overall savings are substantial.
Dracup thinks it is not just firms like CDP that will benefit from DSL-based links. He is also looking to sell this technology to ISPs.
“For companies that traditionally run voice and data down a Kilostream line, we wanted a product that would let them send more data between sites relatively cheaply, and this product does that,” said Dracup.
“But there is also a potentially more exciting use of the technology, which is for small ISPs who want a big presence in their local area, on more than just ISDN or Kilostream circuits. This system means they can go beyond that.”
Dracup thinks DSL-based systems will allow smaller ISPs to set up local Internet hubs, meaning they can provide greater bandwidth on a more flexible basis. He said they can provide 128Kbps without upgrading their equipment, and then move up to 2Mbps when required.
“Our plan is to sell the whole package, including EPS 9 lines and routers, for an annual fee,” said Dracup. “We’ll install it all for a flat annual rate and ISPs will be getting a big increase in bandwidth.”
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