Know-how  | Topic: [4G] | 6 MIN READ TIME
  

What to do if your circuit has been delayed

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We're regularly asked to help when a WAN or internet circuit is about to be delivered but has been delayed at the last minute. In these situations, time is of the essence.

There is no need to panic! 

We can almost always solve this kind of problem.  It is is usually possible to get connected within a couple of days.

We're commonly approached just a few  weeks before an office move or similar event.   People usually get in touch fearing that there is no circuit type available that could meet their needs within these timescales. Rest assured that very frequently there is indeed something that can be done.

First, ask yourself some questions 

If you are wondering what to do if your circuit has been delayed, you should start by asking yourself some questions.

1. How urgent is it?

If you need a circuit in less than a fortnight then pretty much your only option is likely to be 4G. This can support hundreds of users when set up appropriately. 

Satellite is also available quickly but it has significant latency, so it is ill-suited to many of today's applications and tends only to be used where 4G is not available.

Its also possible to use microwave line of sight dishes, which can be put up very quickly. However these are only suitable where there is a direct line of sight between the locations that you want connected (for example a warehouse on an adjacent site to your HQ).

If you can afford to wait two or three weeks, then broadband circuits could be ordered. If you have four or five weeks then EFM becomes available to you.

New Fibre Ethernet circuits can sometimes be delivered within a month.  Since fibre delivery often involves digging the road and traffic management, if it's a fibre circuit that has been delayed then an alternative fibre circuit is likely also to be delayed.   That said, some providers are much faster than others (the table below shows typical times quoted) so it pays to ask.

Access Technology

Minimum Delivery times quoted
(working days)
Fibre Ethernet 33, 35, 40, 67, 75
EFM 25, 35, 55
Superfast (aka FTTC, EoFTTC, GEA) 10
Multi-SIM 4G From 2 days depending on supplier

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2. How many users do you need to support?

You may be surprised to hear that most circuit technologies can support a large number of users if they are properly configured and potentially bonded (joined). However it's non-trivial to achieve a large number of users without specialist equipment and skills, so for urgent connections with large numbers of users it is usually better to use a managed service to take care of this for you.

Traditionally, people might assume that a DSL circuit could easily accommodate 10 or 20 users but it could be more or less depending upon what type of applications they are using, and whether you are prioritising traffic (see next section).

For a greater number of users, one might alternatively order a Superfast or EFM circuit. Superfast can handle 10's of Megabits per second (albeit contended). EFM can commonly handle between 10 and 30 Mbps depending upon the number of pairs ordered and the distance you are from the exchange. However it provides an uncontended service which is symmetric (same up-speed as down-speed).

So, if you can afford to wait then EFM and Superfast could support a greater number of users than DSL.

People are often surprised about quite how many users can be supported with 4G. When connecting business sites over 4G we usually combine multiple SIMs (usually from multiple carriers). Once you do this, you can achieve very high speeds and support large numbers of users (we've seen up to 600 supported in the past). Connecting using 4G is a whole subject in itself which you can read more about in our Complete Guide to 4G WAN.

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3. What are you connecting to?

When dealing with a delayed circuit, a key question is whether you need connection to the internet or to a wide area network (eg MPLS or VPLS network).

If you're connecting to a wide area network then there is an added complication that you may need to procure replacement circuits from the same carrier as the rest of your WAN. However that need not be the case if you can find a supplier who can connect into your carrier's network, or who can set up a VPN over the internet.

If you are using 4G then your traffic would be routed over a mobile carrier and then into your WAN or to the internet. It's possible to connect direct to the WAN using 4G, but you may need a hub to bond the traffic from multiple SIMs before connecting it to the WAN. This hub might be placed in your data centre, or it could be rented from a provider who has access to your WAN carrier's network.   If the provider offers a virtual hub then this need not increase your deployment time.

If you're considering 4G for a direct connection to your WAN then ask your providers whether they aggregate the traffic from all the cellular carriers and route it to the hub without it first touching the internet.    It's preferable (and this is the way we do it, for example) if you can aggregate the traffic from all of the cellular carriers and have it routed direct to your service provider's hub without it first touching the internet.  This will give you more peace of mind about security and performance.   If your security policy prevents you from setting up a direct connection to a provider's data centre, you can always have a secure tunnel set up from there to your network.

4. Do you have latency-sensitive applications?

If you have latency-sensitive applications such as Citrix then you may find that you cannot easily replace a delayed circuit using DSL, (or even Superfast). This will depend upon the nature of the applications and the number of users you have.

If using 4G with latency sensitive applications then there are some steps that you need to take in order to achieve the performance you need. For example you will need to decide whether to bond or load balance your multiple connections (Read more here). 

Also, if you are bonding 4G circuits then you need to make sure that your 4G router can exclude any SIMs that are connecting over 3G, because your overall connection will drop down to the far worse 3G latency. 

Generally we find 4G perfectly capable of supporting latency-sensitive applications when set up correctly.

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5. How long will you need the circuit for?

If you can't get your circuit expedited then you'll need to install another in its place.   Circuit types that take a long time to install won't be appropriate if your original circuit will be delivered before the replacement.  The table below will give you an indication about which circuit types will be appropriate based on the time you expect you'll be without your original circuit.

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6. How much can you afford to spend?

In the majority of cases delayed circuits tend to be Fibre Ethernet. This is because it's the Fibre Ethernet circuits that have the long lead times and the more onerous installation requirements that can cause unexpected delays.

If this is the case for you, then start by recognising that you won't be paying for that delayed circuit while it is delayed.

Clearly, DSL, Superfast and EFM circuits will be cheaper than a Fibre Ethernet circuit. 4G using multiple SIMs and multiple carriers is commonly a similar order of magnitude to the circuit that it is replacing.

In most cases, therefore, a question of cost comes down to the ability to avoid paying for two circuits at a time. This means that if you can install and decommission quickly, you can avoid most concerns about cost.

One point to bear in mind, though, is whether there is a minimum term for a temporary circuit that you might put in place.   Fixed line circuits will have a minimum term.  This term will depend on the supplier, but will often be twelve months.  However, since 4G circuits are typically built to support urgent and temporary installations, you should be able to find one that avoids a long minimum term.    Ours is one month, for example.

7. Billing and cost management

Traditional circuits are straightforward with regard to billing and cost management, and won't have a usage charge. For 4G,  look out for a few things to safeguard your costs.  Check that:

  • The provider only uses SIMs that are designed for sustained data use.  This will avoid you being penalised or cut off by your carrier.
  • The provider supports multiple carriers (so that you get the best throughput at each site by spreading the load across carriers), but that costs are pooled into a single bill.
  • The provider is flexible about usage; for example, offering bundled packages of usage for customers who are confident in their data usage, pay as you go for those not yet clear, and the ability to move between them.
  • Pricing is transparent - providing clear billing so that you can see what you’ve used, but more importantly you can see for yourself using the portal.
  • Pricing is under your control.   For example, that you're provided with a portal that gives you complete visibility and control of your usage.  This will allow you to see what (and usually also who) is driving your usage,  anticipate charges and then control and limit usage.  

8. Can I do this alone or do I need help?

For a traditional circuit, the ordering and installation is generally straightforward.  If you're connecting to your WAN and not using the WAN provider, then you may need help to set up the connection into the WAN, or to set up a secure tunnel.

For 4G there are some additional considerations where you may need help.  For example:

  • Offering rental and short term contract options to avoid you having to make a long term commitment
  • Supplying multiple data-friendly SIMs from multiple carriers, aggregating the traffic and the billing and allowing self serve usage control
  • Selecting and supplying a business grade 4g router appropriate for your expected usage
  • Selecting the correct number of SIMs from across a range of carriers to accommodate your usage
  • Selecting and installing specialist aerials if your site is in a remote location.
     
     
     
  • Setting up local WiFi, cabling and telephony alongside the 4G connection if that's required.
  • Connecting to your existing network
  • Tuning for performance
  • Monitoring and maintenance
  • Recovery

Options to choose from 

After considering these questions there are a few broad approaches open to you such as:

  1. Change your plans to accommodate the delay
    (but we'll assume this option isn't acceptable!)
  2. Order a shorter lead time circuit from your existing WAN provider
    This is likely to involve a lower performance circuit such as DSL, Superfast or EFM. There are often few choices available from traditional WAN providers, so this option may only be acceptable if you can accept low performance.
  3. Order a circuit from an alternative provider
    If you need Fibre Ethernet then you may be able to obtain one more quickly than your current provider. However, don't expect to connect this to your WAN: you would most likely be connecting this site to the internet and would also require a VPN to be setup to connect the site to your WAN.
  4. Order a 4G replacement circuit
    So long as you use multiple SIMs from multiple carriers and you combine them properly and set up the aerials correctly, you can usually get perfectly adequate performance. A hub may be required in your data centre or in a specialist provider's data centre. Despite this, a good provider could have you up and running within days, for example with our service. 

If you're interested in 4G to solve a delayed circuit, what happens next?

    1. Speak to our friendly, experienced experts, who will talk you through your options without obligation
    2. We'll ask some sizing and scaling questions; how fast, how long, how many users?
    3. We may perform a quick remote coverage survey if there is any doubt about coverage
    4. We'll explain usage and SIM tariffs
    5. We'll agree costs with you
    6. Deliver and set up, usually within a couple of days
    7. We'll tune for performance
    8. Then we'll monitor 24x7 while you have the service
    9. At end, we'll help you migrate over to your replacement circuit
    10. Sometimes people retain the equipment for disaster recovery - talk to us if you think you might need this
If you would like to find out more, then you may like to read one of our other blogs or downloads, or request a conversation with one of our consultants. We are always happy to discuss, without obligation.

 

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 Editor's notes: Last updated June 2019

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