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The definitive LLU and Tiscali FAQ

 NOTE:  Since the BT takeover in 2007 this option has been removed from the portfolio

        This page will remain for some time as a reminder of the original rules.  Many redundant web links have been removed



Please Note: The following text is reproduced directly from PlusNet, so all the references to "us" and "we" correspond to PlusNet.


The following questions have been asked of us from a number of sources over the last month. We have tried to answer everything with as much clarity as we can, but please note that while all the information here is correct at the time of publication [July 28th 2006], the nature of this process is that it will change from time to time.

The FAQ below contains additional information which compliments that available at: http://www.plus.net/support/broadband/products/network_suppliers.shtml

Provider Questions

Can I check if my exchange is being used by PlusNet for LLU? Is there a list of exchanges which are enabled or going to be enabled?
LLU suppliers are a competitive bunch, and they don't publish a list of planned exchanges publicly. We have and will again email all customers on an exchange that is planned to be activated to inform them of the possibility for an LLU transfer. This will ensure customers have access to relevant details about the LLU transfer process. When we become aware of new exchanges on the potential supply list, we will email all customers on that exchange with the same information.
Which of your customers are you transferring to LLU?
We have started by transferring customers from PlusNet, Force9 and Free-Online. At the moment we do not have any plans to transfer Business customers or users of the Metronet service to LLU. Additionally, no PAYG customers are currently being transferred to LLU.
Can I opt-out of being moved to LLU?
Yes, you can request an opt-out by going to (Links removed) and following the instructions.

Please bear in mind that you are only able to do this prior to an order being placed on your line to transfer your service to LLU. As the order process takes around a month from being placed, if you wish to opt-out you should do it immediately. This opt-out scheme was introduced because of difficulties with migrating away from an LLU service when our first customers were transferred. A Migration trial is now in place which can be used by our customers, however as this is only a trial, the option to opt-out will be continued until there is a business as usual process for switching between LLU and IPStream. More details about migrations are included later in this FAQ.
Can I opt-in to being moved to LLU?
Not currently. However if you have opted-out we may offer you the option to change your mind in the future, especially if there is significant demand for this. There may be a charge to move to LLU at a later date, although this is as yet undecided.
Who are you using for LLU provision?
Tiscali are the only supplier we are currently using. At this stage while we are still talking to a number of other suppliers (All of the providers who could offer a suitable wholesale product have been approached by us) as per our stated aim to provide service through multiple wholesale providers. However at the moment only Tiscali are offering a product we feel is of an acceptable quality for our customers.

We provision customers against a business grade product when they are moved to Tiscali. This is not the same service as Tiscali provide to their residential customers.
Why do you refer to an Alternative Network Supplier instead of just saying Tiscali?
Our original plan was to utilise multiple network suppliers and we didn't want to confuse customers by doing this. As it happens the lack of further LLU suppliers who have been able to meet our criteria for supply means at this stage we have no plans to engage another LLU supplier. As such, we will from here on in refer to Tiscali LLU directly, rather than using terms like "Alternative Network Suppliers".

Where a fault or similar is apparent across both BT and Tiscali, we will speak about our Wholesale Broadband Supplier.
What is the process for migrating people to Tiscali LLU?
We've explained that it can take a month to migrate people to LLU, and that once the process has started it is too late to opt-out. People have asked us why; below is a detailed breakdown of the process we have to follow for each LLU migration.
  • Each week Tiscali provide us with an Exchange Activation List (EAL) that lists enabled exchanges, migration dates and the number of customers we can migrate onto on exchange on each of these dates.
  • A script is run to generate a File containing a list of candidate telephone numbers that is sent to Tiscali.
  • At this point we also send a Letter Of Authority or LOA to BT giving them permission for the circuits to be migrated by Tiscali.
  • Tiscali look to place the orders with BT using a system called Line Share Automation or LISA.
  • Assuming they accept the order BT provide Tiscali with a migration date.
  • Tiscali email us a Migration Date Confirmation List (MDCL) each week containing the activation details that have been given to them by BT.
  • A script runs that places an internal note against customer's accounts and emails them advising that they are in the process of being migrated to Tiscali. (This script has been problematic, as the MDCL list has failed to be parsed correctly at times)
  • At this time a cease request is placed against the original IPStream Service. This should not complete until after the migration has been completed and confirmed.
  • Tiscali plan for the move and configure the relevant DSLAM port remotely.
  • Tiscali configure all Plusnet circuits with an 8Mbps Downstream Rate Adaptive Service (800kbps up), default target SNR of 12db and 8ms Interleaving. This may change moving forwards, based on the feedback we give them and we have some scope to change these settings for individual customers. This profile however is proven to be the most stable overall. More technical details are covered regarding this later in the FAQ.
  • Each day our Broadband Operations Team receive Migration Confirmation Lists from Tiscali on a daily basis containing a list of accounts that have been successfully migrated.
  • A script is run that triggers the required profile and account changes at this side
  • A confirmation email should then be sent to the customer.

If the migration order is unsuccessful the customer stays on IPStream.
I've heard of problems occurring during the LLU transfer, how many faults have you had?
In total we have raised about 1000 faults to Tiscali, having moved about 12,000 customers to the service to date. Excluding a number of early issues on exchanges when they were first activated, fault rates have been similar to the levels we see on a BT IPStream Max service and we believe with planned improvements at our side and by Tiscali the fault rate will improve in the coming weeks.

To break this down more, in the last 7 days, we resolved 117 faults with Tiscali. 7 of these were caused by 'third party' (Tiscali Supplier) hardware, 35 were Tiscali issues (DSLAM configuration or VLAN issues) and 75 were marked as other reasons (Either incorrect settings on customer's equipment, a problem at our side, or no fault was found). The most common cause of problems is where customers are not using the correct encapsulation setting in their router (This should be set to VCMux, Not LLC based). The issue of incorrect settings has been compounded in instances where customers have not received the notification email from PlusNet.
What experience do you think most customers get?
We recently ran an on-line survey asking randomly selected Tiscali transferred customers this question. Where LLU works (In over 90% of cases), it seems to work very well indeed and customers either noticed no difference or said they were more than satisfied. Where customers experienced problems however it is clear that they have been severely impacted and we recognise the urgent need to ensure the causes of these issues get resolved.

The average per customer usage does increase when people are moved to LLU, and this suggests a better throughput than the equivalent BT service.
What are the details of the problems you have seen, and what are you doing about them specifically?
Although each of these problems on its own has a solution, the elements combined have caused serious inconvenience for impacted customers. The major issues we are aware of and the action we are taking are documented below:

- Issues with the LLU migration process, whereby users have not been properly transferred and a number days after the transfer, a customer has had a Broadband cease from BT meaning the line is down for up to 10 days.

We have raised this with Tiscali, and have requested specific improvements to status monitoring throughout the migration process so that we can understand and address any potential issues like this before they occur. We have also asked Tiscali to raise this with BT Openreach and will maintain pressure to improve the transfer process through this path.

- At some newly enabled exchanges the DSLAM had not been correctly configured by Tiscali to route traffic to our network before customers were first activated.

Tiscali have provided us with an assurance that they have identified the cause of this and will stop it from happening again. We are now specifically monitoring for this issue during every migration slot, and the last time it happened they had resolved the problem in less than 2 hours.

- An ongoing bug with our Juniper ERX's (L2tp Network Server) is causing random disconnections for some Tiscali LLU provisioned customers

A case is open with Juniper and we plan to perform upgrades shortly to resolve this issue.

- Slow Connection speeds and cases where connection speeds seem to be restricted.

In most cases, the information we have had back from Tiscali has diagnosed these errors as being due to customer wiring and filter setup, or the quality of the phone line itself. In a couple of cases this has been caused by incorrect user profile configurations within our systems. These issues have normally been easy to solve.

Some customers are also reporting lower speeds compared to the Max products they were previously on. This is due to interleaving and a higher signal to noise ratio, which is designed to make the connection more stable. We will have advanced internal tools available to change this profile for customers who report a problem in the near future.

- Customers unable to Synch for long periods of time.

Some no sync problems have been caused by incorrect jumpering in the exchange. This is a BT openreach task during the LLU transfer process. This has been escalated by Tiscali and we are also using other avenues to keep focus on this problem.

In the case of intermittent synch, where it takes a long time for the modem to train and gain synch, this seems to be due to the way in which the LLU network chooses the correct connection speed by decreasing the line rate gradually until a connection is achieved. This is an item we are monitoring the faults on closely in case there turns out to be another cause.

- Flapping Synch - Unable to hold a solid connection for any length of time.

There are times where the connection profile is set too high, resulting in an unreliable connection. We can change the speed profile using automated tools provided by Tiscali. We can also increase (but not reduce currently) the interleaving setting and the target signal to noise ratio for a customer by using this tool.

- Emails not sent informing customers of an impending migration to the LLU platform, and for the same reason, support initially being unable to see that a customer was moved to Tiscali LLU.

This problem occurred when the spreadsheets with updates from Tiscali were not being parsed correctly by our scripts. We have implemented multiple fixes to this and believe the bugs which were causing this are now resolved and customers are getting the expected emails. We would like to apologise to customers for any confusion caused when these emails weren't received in a timely fashion.

- Slow response times (2 - 3 days) when we raise faults with Tiscali.

Tiscali have identified the need to train more staff to deal with our LLU implementation, and are currently 10 days into a 30 day training schedule. This should reduce response times greatly. With that said, our faults staff report that they find Tiscali generally more responsive than BT. In over 96% of cases both Tiscali and BT met the SLA they provide to ISPs (48 working hours for BT, 50 working hours for Tiscali).

- Confusion over the status of the opt-out and in some cases a migration occurring even though an opt-out request was made.

The problem here was the sheer complexity of the opt-out process combined with the long order lead time of LLU. We have done our best to make this process as robust as possible, and it is very unlikely that someone who has opted out of LLU would be migrated now. If that does happen we will provide a free of charge transfer back to IPStream as soon as possible (it's worth noting that have been at least three customers who opted out and have chosen to stay on Tiscali LLU because the experience was better than they expected).

We initially planned to remove the opt-out when a suitable MAC Migration process was available. Although there is a trial, we have decided to continue offering an opt-out until the migration process from LLU until at least the time when the Migration trial finishes and this becomes a business as usual system.
What else are you doing to improve things for those with problems?
  • We have been, and are continuing to hold talks with Tiscali.
  • An improved escalation process is now in operation, providing us with key technical and customer service contacts within Tiscali. Our support team and developers are building direct relationships with these people.
  • A weekly problem review with Tiscali is taking all of the items on our action list and ensuring there is action we are all happy with.
  • We identified 10 customers from the PUG forum for in depth monitoring and analysis of the problems they were reporting. This is ongoing.
  • We have analysed where and why BT suffer errors with the migration process and have been holding them accountable for this via the mechanisms we have.
  • We are training more of our analysts to deal with the Tiscali fault and administration systems.
  • We have created a 'virtual team' from various departments to focus on the Tiscali LLU transfer process and ensure people from all areas of the business are working closely together to intelligently analyse and address the problem reports we are seeing.
  • We are working on various smart reports which will show us if a customer's migration has been successful. This is harder to check for than might be imagined, because many customers use USB modems and don't have these connected at the time when the physical migration is done. Our aim is to be much more proactive about addressing such problems. That means less inconvenienced customers who need to contact us directly to log a fault.
Why don't you suspend your LLU transfer program like you did when Max caused issues?
It is our belief that suspension of the upgrade programme isn't the most appropriate way for us to manage the problems we have experienced with Tiscali LLU migrations. The reasons for this are listed below:
  • With Max, there was a specific problem which we hold the supplier (BT in this case) accountable for and we could test as to whether there was a resolution to the identified problem easily before we resumed the Max Upgrades.
  • The LLU issues we have experienced have been during the initial period following a customers transfer to LLU. With Max, there was in-life and ongoing problems for upgraded customers. Tiscali LLU, once working as expected after the transfer, is proving very reliable.
  • Orders are in process for a month, so a suspension now would take a month to have effect. Within that time it is imperative that we resolve the remaining issues, and we are confident that this will be the case.
  • As there have been many different issues, some of which caused by us, a suspension wouldn't allow us to test we had resolved them and as such wouldn't achieve a useful result
  • These problems are nothing like on the scale of Max issues (Although these were often lower impact for customers) which swamped our CSC.

MAC codes/migrations

Are MAC (Migration) codes available for LLU connections so customers can migrate to another ISP?
Yes, however there are some important caveats:
  • This is a trial process, and the number of MAC keys could potentially be limited. At the moment there is no problem in issuing MAC codes to any customer on LLU if requested but because this is a trial things can change.
  • These MACs can only be used with ISPs that accept LLU MAC Codes - ie: they are also participating in the trial and are configured to accept them. The gaining ISP will be charged by BT for using the MAC Key.
  • If a customer wishes to transfer from Tiscali LLU to our IPStream service rather than receive a MAC key to migrate away we will only transfer them back under certain circumstances:
    • If an opt-out was received before the migration request was made via http://trials.plus.net
    • In the event of a long standing fault as a result of the migration (Long standing is judged on a case by case basis depending on the type of fault).
This policy is because in order to perform the transfer back to IPStream we have to perform a significant amount of manual work and there is a cost to us of £47(this is a new ipstream connection charge).
Are these MAC codes widely accepted by other ISP's?
Yes, although it will be up to the ISP in question as to whether or not they will accept the code as they take a different format to those generated on an IPStream service. The gaining ISP will have to pay a charge for a new connection to BT Openreach/Wholesale in order to use the MAC, which means some ISPs may refuse to operate this process.
Do LLU MACs allow migration to other LLU providers?
Yes, they allow a transfer to any ISP that accepts LLU MAC Codes. The gaining provider may charge for this service.
Can you migrate in a new customer from another LLU service?
Yes, this is possible (Depending on the other ISP issuing LLU Mac codes), but during the trial of these MAC codes we cannot process them through our normal systems. Customers will need to pay a activation cost, but this can be deferred as per our normal activation offers. Customers should sign-up for a free account via the portal and then request the upgrade via the portal Help Assistant if they wish to have a connection migrated in from another LLU provider.

Technical

Do I need to change any settings on my router/modem when I am transferred to LLU?
You should check to ensure that your settings are as described in this link:

http://www.plus.net/support/broadband/help_and_setup/connections_settings.shtml
What are the router settings I need to have?
Most problems which occur following the LLU transfer are caused because customers were using settings that BT had allowed to work on their network, but which are not standard and have never been recommended for use. These settings do not work on the Tiscali LLU network.

The router settings should be as follows;
  • VPI: 0 VCI 38
  • Encapsulation Mode: PPPoA / VCMUX only.
  • The MTU settings should be set at 1458 unless you are running IPSec for a secure connection, in which case it should be 1442.
What are the downstream speeds available on LLU products?
Upto 8000kbps
What are the upstream speeds available on LLU products?
Upto 800kbps
How is it decided what speed a line is capable of and what bandwidth profiles are used (within PlusNet's and the LLU providers network)?
Tiscali assign a default DSLAM profile of a rate adaptive 8000kbps service. At our end, a script is run every day to pick up any newly migrated platform, and the restrictions at our end are duly lifted to 8000kbps.
Is interleaving on or off by default? Can I request that this setting is changed, if so how?
By default, 8ms interleaving is applied. This means that the standard ping response times will be 8ms slower, which is not generally noticeable. We are currently unable to remove interleaving on a line, but we are able to increase it to 16ms. We are currently in communication with Tiscali at a high level to discuss our options in terms of removing interleaving completely.

We are hoping to publish some further information and explanation about interleaving shortly.
What is the default target noise margin? Can I request this setting is changed, if so how?
By default, the stable noise margin on a line is 12dB. We are able to request that Tiscali drop this to 6dB or 9dB (6dB is unadvisable). You can request this by sending us a Question via the help assistant on our portal. However, this does generally take 5-7 days to action and we are reluctant to carry out changes unless we feel they are essential, due to the entirely manual process currently involved. We expect to have tools available shortly which will simplify this and mean we are prepared to make these changes more readily.
How is the target noise margin for a line decided
A 12dB profile is automatically assigned against a line.
What is the full range of available target noise margins?
There is no set range for a target noise margin, and it can set anywhere between 0 and 32dB depending on the quality of the line and the amount of noise. We can't currently request directly that Tiscali reduce this to below 12dB, but this will be possible in the near future. As with BT, these values are incremented in steps of 3dB. We will provide more general information about how this works on our website soon.
Is there an initial training period or equivalent such as that seen with BT's DSL Max? If so how does it work?
No. The 8000kbps rate adaptive profile is assigned by Tiscali as default. This means that at every Synch event the line will adopt the highest profile available based on the quality of the line.
Are there equivalents of BRAS profiles/Data Rates with LLU? If so how are they determined?
No.
Are there equivalents of MSR/FTR with LLU? If so, how are they determined?
No. As previously discussed, a default 8000kbps profile is assigned.
Are there discrete levels for bandwidth limits like there are with BT's systems?
We have a high capacity link from Tiscali, and there is generally more capacity across their network. We don't have to buy centrals like we do with BT. There is of course still exchange contention but generally Tiscali have built out more bandwidth to exchanges than BT.
What does the 'stable rate' figure on the portal mean with respect to an LLU line?
The stable rate figure refers to the maximum speed allowed at our end. For all customers on the Tiscali platform, this should be 8000kbps.
What happens if my line speed drops, will my speeds be limited as they are with BT's DSL Max?
No. There is no equivalent to BT's BRAS profiling. It is important to remember though that if the synch speed reduces, when the throughput speed will also reduce in line with that. If synch speed increases after a re-training, throughput will follow suit.
Are the Tiscali DSLAMs similar to those being installed by other LLU suppliers, i.e with the newer ADSL/ADSL2+ capable chipsets?
Tiscali use Huawei hardware, in comparison to the equipment used by BT Wholesale which is sourced from multiple suppliers including Alcatel and Fujitsu.

For your info: http://www.huawei.com/
Are there any potential compatibility problems between my hardware and the hardware at the exchange?
We are currently unaware of any specific compatibility problems between ADSL hardware and the exchange hardware, however we are interested in feedback from customers about their experience with different equipment.
Can I connect with ADSL2/2+ equipment (and get upto 24 Mb speeds)? If so will I be capped to 8Mbps?
Tiscali will provide ADSL2+ connections when the number of our customers on any exchange exceeds a given threshold (This ranges from exchange to exchange).

If you have an ADSL 2+ capable device, you will still be able to use this to connect to a non ADSL 2+ exchange. Once the exchange has been upgraded, the speed you receive will depend on the quality of your line and the product you have with us. You won't be capped if you are on an upto 24Mb product.
When will the faster speeds be available?
As above, this will happen on a per exchange basis, faster speeds. We are working on an ADSL2+ trial on some specific exchanges, we will keep you updated on this.

Faults / Problems

Is there an equivalent to BT's Speedtester for helping to isolate where a connection or speed issue may be?
There is not currently a Speed tester equivalent, but we are discussing this with Tiscali.
What are the procedures for reporting faults, do they differ from non-LLU connections?
From a customers point of view, the processes are similar - We need the same types of information and checks to be performed.

We do however communicate about customer faults with Tiscali in a different manner to BT. Due to the limitations of BTs "eCo" system, which we use to log faults with BT currently, it can take up to 25 minutes to submit a fault.

Tiscali provide an automated tool that allows direct interaction with their fault system from inside our own customer management application ('workplace'). This means we can fill in a few fields on a customers account details and easily raise a fault with Tiscali. They then update us via email, where our Faults Team will then be able to supply subsequent updates to the customer.

We are working with both BT and Tiscali on updated versions of their systems to allow fully automated end to end handling of faults in the future.
Does the automated fault-tool work for LLU connections?
Yes - It intelligently uses the right testing processes and asks questions based on the customer connection type.
Any more questions?
We don't like leaving questions unanswered (If we do, it's because it's easy to miss things when we are busy). Please ask new questions or for clarification on any of the points here in the PUG forums, and we will try to keep this FAQ updated with any reasonable questions that we haven't covered so far.
Article last edited on Saturday, 13-Mar-2010 01:05 AM