Getting naked reveals the hard truth of ULL

Getting naked reveals the hard truth of ULL

Summary: Streaker Robert Ogilvie may have learned the hard way that getting naked can be painful, but many other Australians are apparently learning the same lesson as they try to break ties with Telstra once and for all.


Streaker Robert Ogilvie may have learned the hard way that getting naked can be painful, but many other Australians are apparently learning the same lesson as they try to break ties with Telstra once and for all.

The promise of unconditioned local loop (ULL) services was always significant -- allowing Internet service providers to offer customers a range of services over existing last-mile copper lines without relying on Telstra -- but it appears that turning them into reality is proving much more complicated.

Just ask many of the would-be customers of so-called 'Naked DSL' services offered by iiNet, which bundles ADSL2+ and VoIP phone service over a ULL connection -- without forcing customers to pay Telstra around AU$30 per month for a local line.

Although the mechanisms are in place to enable their switching, some iiNet customers are waiting far longer than expected to get hooked up with the new service.

This doesn't bode well for a rather revolutionary telecommunications product that needs to get things right -- and quickly -- to resonate correctly with customers. It's the kind of service that is likely to irritate Telstra supporters, who no doubt see it as unfair piggybacking on Telstra's copper network.

Nonetheless, 'naked' services have become a rallying point for a host of Telstra competitors including Internode, Exetel, Adam Internet, Amnet, TPG, and Primus Telecom. Response to the offer has been strong: Optus' Q3 results (for example, show that the company added 64,000 ULL customers in that quarter alone -- bringing its total to 265,000 and contributing to a 28 percent increase in consumer on-net revenue. During the same time, Optus shed some 89,000 Telstra wholesale ('off-net') customers, which confirms the company's strategy of promoting connections to its own network instead.

Perhaps the only company not seeing the potential of ULL is Telstra, which is hardly going to give customers a landline-free option no matter how much they may be asking for it. Heck, Telstra doesn't even offer a consumer VoIP service; things just work differently in Telstra's strategy.

Yet things couldn't have worked better for Telstra after what many would-be iiNet customers are reporting waits of more than 30 days to get connected to Naked DSL. For a service that's being marketed to the general population, you'd think the kinks would have been worked out in advance.

These kinds of problems are PR disasters for any kind of mainstream service -- and are very hard to overcome if poor word-of-mouth isn't contained early on. After all, just look at the VoIP industry, which was riding the early wave of anti-Telstra sentiment but has faded into a quiet obscurity of sorts as VoIP providers de-accentuate the fact that they're actually using VoIP.

iiNet, like many others, is one of those trying to avoid consumer associations by focusing on what VoIP delivers, rather than how. "I think it's irrelevant to customers," said Michael Malone, iiNet's founder and managing director, when I rang him to find out what was going on with Naked DSL.

"The questions we get up front are just about making sure everything goes to plan -- but that's normal for any broadband service. Your average customer doesn't care about the technology."

Certainly, however, waiting for more than four weeks is not a normal part of broadband service, I asked? Was Telstra being helpful enough in assisting iiNet's customers to ditch their Telstra local loop services?

For someone whose company last week joined eight rivals in formally protesting Telstra's wholesale-free ADSL2+ rollout, Malone was commendably restrained.

"I don't actually see any of this as being malicious intent by Telstra to cause difficulty for our customers," he said. "That's the way it's positioned sometimes, but the technicians themselves are doing what they're required to. In reality, 97 percent are commissioned within the required timeframe of 20 working days; the ones you'll hear about on Whirlpool are the ones where the wheels fell off."

Well, not literally. But since each ULL rollout requires not one but two Telstra truck rolls -- one to handle work at the Telstra exchange and another to confirm the service is working at the customer end -- inevitable delays have blown out timeframes.

So, too, have a rash of floods and wild weather that has had Telstra techs battling more than just their swelling job lists.

Those lists have struggled to keep up with higher-than-expected demand, Malone explains (iiNet has connected over 8000 ULL customers in two months, ten times higher than the 500 to 1000 it predicted to Telstra when preparing to launch the service).

iiNet, you see, had initially begun offering ULL on the sly to business customers, who had been reluctant to stuff around with services that work, even if they're expensive and slow. But once the word got into the general consumer space, things took on a life of their own -- and so did the potential for delays.

Telstra, the consummate retail market payer, is great at managing broadband expectations -- even if it does so by setting them low (in the case of fixed broadband) or high (in the case of Next-G). Can iiNet find equal success? "A year from now, I'd like to see this being our biggest selling product by a wide margin," Malone said.

The goals of iiNet and its peers are ambitious -- and, judging by demand, seemingly realistic. However, while the mixed experience of early ULL customers may be typical of any new technology -- call quality and bandwidth issues hit many early adopters of VoIP, for example -- ISPs hoping to use ULL to liberate customers from the Big T clearly need to figure out how they can better manage expectations for their soon-to-be naked customers.

Have you had issues getting naked (DSL)? Are there better ways to get rid of the landline? Or do these problems, perhaps, show why ULL was a bad idea from the get-go?

Topics: Telcos, Broadband, Unified Comms, Optus, Telstra


Australia’s first-world economy relies on first-rate IT and telecommunications innovation. David Braue, an award-winning IT journalist and former Macworld editor, covers its challenges, successes and lessons learned as it uses ICT to assert its leadership in the developing Asia-Pacific region – and strengthen its reputation on the world stage.

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  • Getting naked reveals the hard truth of ULL

    Maybe you should talk to Internode. My new line ULL install was done on the day specified, took around an hour and minutes after the Telstra tech left, my naked ADSL2+ service was up and running.
  • Telstra control the phone linres

    Telstra control the phone lines - period.

    If there is a delay for ANY ISP's customer to receiving "naked DSL", it is due to the fact that Telstra have not done their bit - period.

    Whilst Telstra have near control of the last mile of phone line, every other telco in Australia is at the mercy of Telstra - period.

    Telstra chose to saclk a large portion of it's field support staff, therefoe, extended delays are due to Telstra - period.
  • Lack of control of you own mind.

    If you read a NEWS story on this site from about a week ago (NOT A BLOG) you will note that iiNet have admitted they did not expect the high demand and apologised for the delays caused by their own poor preparation.

    Before yo make any comments like above you may want to ensure you are informed - period.
  • Great once the copper from home to iiNet dslam is connected

    My iiNet Naked DSL is working great, as is the iiTalk. It took 13 working days for installation.

    The problems have been communication and procedural issues between iiNet and Telstra during setup... and these REALLY need to be addressed.

    Procedural problem: If you're on Telstra phone and dslams (NOT on iiNet dslams) and move to iiNet Naked DSL its relatively painless - Telstra just disconnect your copper from their equipment and plug into iiNet's. If you're on iiNet dslam then Telstra disconnect it from iiNet as the first job, then the 2nd job is queued (a week or so away) where they disconnect the copper from Telstra phone equipment and plug into iiNet dslams. This should really be one job.

    Another procedural problem: If you don't have an existing phone line, identifying your wiring etc seems very difficult. Either iiNet or Telstra are determining the wrong info occasionally and the wiring fails. It takes ages to sort out.
  • iiNet NAked DSL working Fantastic

    I had my Naked DSL installed in the specified Time Frame. 12 Mb Link, iitalk Voip calls, it works fantastic, zero complaints.

    I believe that users signing upto Naked DSL who have had no previous services on the line, get it quicker, then someone changing a existing Telstra line to Naked.
  • Reliance on Telstra

    My iinet naked DSL is also working great, and was connected on time. I was one of the early adopters of this technology, having moved into a new house about two years ago and deciding then not to get the phone connected (admittedly partly due to high mortgage repayments, but that's another story...), but also because I was hanging out for this technology to become available. When it did, I signed up immediately, and had no problems whatsoever with the connection process.
    That said, my colleague signed up for the same thing and had no end of trouble getting connected! And the first issue he had was because he had a Telstra prepaid line, and wanted to change to naked DSL, Telstra actually refused the connection on the grounds the phone line he had was not a full service phone line! Ludicrous, considering part of the process was disconnecting what service there was and re-routing the physical line away from the exchange equipment. He had to actually cancel his phone line with Telstra, and then the connection to iinet proceeded apace!
    I may be a little jaded, but I suspect Telstra, while it would probably never be overtly obstructionist, is certainly guilty of some foot-dragging on the whole naked DSL changeover front.
    As the old addage goes, "Can't go round them, can't go over them, can't go under them, gotta go through them"
  • Naked no problems

    I went Naked and didnt have any problems but it was before the NSW floods and I believe that many of the techs have been moved from various states to NSW and this is why there are delays.

    Well worth the wait :) No more line rental to pay and all my local and STD calls are now free, more money for me! :)
  • You're a twit - Period

    The authoriy in which you make your comments is a bit naive. It has been publicly documented many times recently that Telstra has sent many technicians from all over Australia to assist areas of QLD hit by floods. This is still occuring.
    Don't get all up in arms when Telstra does fault repair work, for not only it's own customers but everyone else's as well, at no charge no less, and crucify them because the cheapskates in the world aren't getting their naked DSL quick enough.

    And I would consider some of your statements above in the reverse. I think it is Telstra that are at the mercy of every other telco because they are forced to give away their services.
    Also your point about any delays are due to Telstra is a reflection of just how ignorant you are. Do you actually believe that every ISP in the country is faultless with the exception of Telstra? I doubt it.
    I've been with 5 ISP's (for varying reasons) over the last 8 or so years, and while Telstra were never perfect, some others were significantly worse.
  • Naked DSL

    Once again we see the ability of a journalist(?) to distort the truth, quote "The promise of unconditioned local loop (ULL) services was always significant -- allowing Internet service providers to offer customers a range of services over existing last-mile copper lines without relying on Telstra"

    Fact - Naked DSL (in most cases) still relies on a Telstra connection, therefore it is (almost) impossible to provide naked DSL without Telstra�s involvement. There is this myth peddled by a number of journalists(?) that if you get naked DSL, you some how have no further reliance on Telstra, which is simply untrue. What is true is you no longer have a Telstra phone connection and you are not directly billed by Telstra.
  • Clarification please

    From my understanding the only work Telstra does if the client already has a phone line is to jumper one connection to take the line away from the voice network and put it on the other carriers network.

    There is no need for field technicians as this is done in the exchange.

    If that is correct then Telstra can do this within an agreed time and the rest of the work is on the other company and delays would be on their end.

    Am I wrong?
  • Re: Clarification please

    As an ex-Telecom (yes, that old) tech, yes, just one jumper needs to be re-run at the exchange from the existing connection to go directly to the ISP's DSLAM - and that should be tested there and then with the ISP to make sure it is done correctly.

    If the process somehow requires another test at the sub's end of the line then that will cause all sorts of delays.

    If Telstra connect the pair to the correct DSLAM port then they should "wash their hands" of the service if their was proven connectivity to the other end, only if it is a new service that there needs to be a full end-to-end test - and that is required.
  • Thankyou

    Based on this I would guess that the majority of Telstra finger pointing above is simply another way of people "washing their hands" of the the real issues within the telecommunications industry by by blaming Telstra.
  • No Naked For A Large Amount Of Us

    Naked DSL is only an option for those with access to ADSL2+ services atm. With a large amount of exchanges only having Telstra only ADSL2+ services the naked option isnt available. I went seeking it out only to find the recent Telstra ADSL2+ retail only enablement prevented me from getting it.

    Once again Telstra are blocking fair access to government owned infrastructure.
  • What a load of horse manure

    Just because Telstra does not wish to wholesale ADSL2+ services it does not stop you of accessing Naked DSL. What stops you of being able to access Naked DSL is the fact your beloved ISP will not cough up the money to invest in equipment at your local exchange, once they do that the copper is freely available to anyone who wishes to access it within the ACCC's guidelines.

    Once again some uninformed person is making comments based on a lot of misinformation by ISP's who are not willing to take responsibility for their own lack of investment and from the media who know if it is anti-Telstra is sells.
  • Prepaid phone lines are diiferent

    from memory prepaid home in telstra records list the line leasee as "telstra prepaid services" so yes your friend does need to cancel his service for the Iinet connection as the current connection will not be in his name.
  • Wrong choice of words?

    You raise a good point. Perhaps 'relying on' was the wrong phrase, since it is indeed pretty hard to get a local service in Australia without relying on Telstra's network.

    What I was trying to say is that naked DSL lets customers get their data service without having to pay Telstra for a landline service they may not want or need. Apologies for any confusion!
  • Fantastic to hear

    It's great to know it works well when it does work. If nothing else, Naked DSL is a great example of the things ISPs can provide for customers when they don't have to factor Telstra profit margins -- and the sale of products to customers that those customers don't want -- into their product decisions (and yes, of course, they have to invest properly too). I, for one, look forward to seeing what else they come up with (multi-line VoIP was one recent announcement that comes across as pretty interesting, at least for SMBs).
  • Look forward to the future

    David, I look forward to reading more of your blogs about this, especially now you will not be able to attack Telstra in your usual bias method.
  • Government Owned Infrastructure?

    Sorry, which government and which infrastructure are you talking about?
  • Great to hear

    And I look forward to speaking with innovative telecommunications companies that don't have to spend most of their time complaining about Telstra (although I have been looking forward to this for 11 years now). The more options the market has for service delivery, the better it will be for everyone!