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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Iliad and Differentiation

Dave Burnstein produces without doubt the must read newsletter for the worldwide broadband industry, which has the added bonus of being free and available via an email subscription. In the most recent edition, he reveals that the French broadband operator, Iliad, has integrated some Broadcom software, called DSLSafe into its network.

Iliad explain the benefits of the technology in its Press Release:
The quality of a broadband connection mainly depends on the intrinsic quality of the telephone lines: the distance between the subscriber and the telephone exchange, the quality of the cabling and parasitic sources such as the electro-magnetic environment. All such factors cause errors in data transmission on telephone lines that in turn interfere with the signal quality and slow down the connection.

With the new software based on Broadcom’s Phy-R (TM) technology, the error rate measured on lines has been reduced by a factor of 10 - the connection speed has improved considerably without any increase in latency (ping). By contrast, whilst prior to the introduction of this software solution 50% of lines used to record around 10 errors per hour, with this new protocol the residual error rate has dropped to 5%
Iliad is very interesting, well at least to me, because they take a huge amount of technology risks compared to the average broadband operator. They actually develop and deploy their own dslams and customer modems/routers/set-top boxes based upon leading manufacturers’ silicon, linux, other other open source software and contract manufacturing. Although risky, this strategy has the advantage that Iliad can easily differentiate their network compared the other operators “pipes”. Top download speed for Iliad is in fact 28-meg as opposed to ADSL2+ speeds of 24-meg and now they have a “quality differentiator”.

Obviously, any advantage is only temporary as the big equipment providers usually catch-up, but leads to Iliad being seen as the market “technical innovator” which obviously helps the brand out considerably with a certain segment of broadband users.

It is a real shame that we do not see similar examples of technical innovation in the UK broadband sector.