‘Best effort’ should be considered as critical for the telco of tomorrow

Many in the industry shudder at the concept of ‘best effort’, but this should change in future when latency can be billed as a business case.

The concept of ‘best effort’ is perceived in different ways partly reliant on whether you consider the glass to be half-full or half-empty. Those of a pessimistic nature will hear the term ‘best effort’ and decide those sitting on the other side of the table are unreliable. The more positive side of the population will consider their partner as a person who will try their utmost to provide the best possible service.

This conflict is unavoidable as it is embedded in the personality of the individual, but according to Crystal Web Founder Paul Hjul (pictured) embracing the concept of ‘best effort’ is critical for success in tomorrow’s digital economy.

Crystal Web is much more of a South African challenger ISP than anything else, having only launched commercial services in 2014. It bills itself as a business which operates differently and Hjul certainly lives up to that reputation in his public appearances and thoughts on the industry. With Crystal Web being free from many of legacy restraints which plague traditional telcos, and Hjul’s differentiating mindset, the company is free to operate in a unique manner. This is partly where Hjul’s thoughts on ‘best effort’ are derived from.

To validate the best effort approach, telcos have to appreciate there are two ways to deliver connectivity in the future. There is the commoditized delivery of the internet, and value added services with enhanced connectivity. One has a dumb pipe, while the other has a smart one which can be glorified with the network slicing euphoria. This is where ‘best effort’ should be applied, and is built on the demand for latency.

Many telcos want to avoid the dumb pipe, but why should they? A dumb pipe can effectively deliver on data demands for the vast majority of consumer cases, many of which are not reliant on latency. If it takes an extra five seconds for a WhatsApp message to be delivered, or an extra two seconds for a website to load, it’s not the end of the world. These are scenarios which can be tolerated, and the business case for the dumb pipe and ‘best effort’ can be realised. Building this dumb pipe and effectively utilizing the internet for this segment is perfectly acceptable, and allows telcos to concentrate on other aspects of the business.

The smart pipe is where money can be made. Telcos can work with enterprise organizations who cannot use the public internet for a variety of reasons, or on consumer usecases which require low latency, through the smart pipe to ensure enhanced connectivity. This is where latency plays a factor, but for every nine which is added onto the reliability and resiliency, more money will have to be charged. The usecases here are relatively obvious, autonomous cars for instance or transmission of sensitive data, but each have additional demands on latency, security and reliability.

According to Hjul, there is nothing wrong with a dumb pipe, as long as it is built smartly, but the business case for tomorrow’s telcos has to be established through separating the various usecases. Dumb is only as dumb as the business case which underpins it.

  • AfricaCom

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