Lightspeed’s response and other points

3 Aug, '07

I’ve had a good long chat with Shaikh Abdulla Al-Khalifa, the MD of Lightspeed this afternoon where he crossed some tees and dotted a few eyes. As one might expect, he was not forthcoming as far as the money aspects of the issues (overhead per customer, investment levels, margins, forecast number of customers) but he was adamant that with the backing of big operators like France Telecom, which majority owns Jordan Telecom which in turn majority owns Lightspeed, they will have the financial wherewithall to pull this and future packages and services (triple-play).

Therefore, he said, whenever there is a reason to buy more bandwidth there will be no hesitation in doing so, and in fact they have already planned for that eventuality. It is interesting that he also stressed that they will buy from BIX and “from any other infrastructural provider who comes into Bahrain” – which is something I know that is being worked on, but that’s another topic.

As for the resilience and reliability issues, he was comfortable enough with the signed SLAs with both Batelco and BIX. I am not; however, as I could not find any audit requirement by independent watchdogs to ensure that Batelco and any other operator actually abiding by published and contractually agreed contention ratios. From my own bitter experience I can tell you that I feel that the contention ratio in my area could not possibly be what is promised; it possibly is much higher owing to how slow the connection gets in both the office and at home.

When I pushed for me to see their audited financials, he was a bit bashful and said that in reality they have only been in operation for about a year and although they do have audited reports, their costs and overheads where all lodged with the TRA. I could not find annuals on their website, which is another criticism I had put to him as I believed that their website is at best very amateurish. He agreed and promised that another nicer version is being worked on which should be launched by year’s end, maybe sooner.

There is no reason for me to believe that they are playing games; it is not in their best interest to be sure and what they are doing is slowly chipping away at the monolith. Their ability to be the first in the market to offer this service from the 1st of August, while others can only apply for the service on that date was due to Lightspeed being the selected beta tester for the service – according to Shaikh Abdulla. In fact, he said, they have been testing the service on a limited basis for quite a while, but the TRA and Batelco’s requirement for “belt and braces” by double testing everything before launching the product delayed them from coming to market even sooner.

As to the financial stability and some operators still owing money to BIX/Batelco he doesn’t see an issue in this at all and I partly agree; BIX provides a 45 day credit facility to its customers while Batelco’s terms are generally 30 days, so that actually and practically lumps all operators in the same basket as far as owing moneys to vendors. I agree that it is good business practice to utilise the full credit period given – why would you give your money away before you really have to while you can invest it however briefly in other pursuits?

Shaikh Abdulla also feels that the Batelco-mandated requirement of minimum registrants per month and a really stringent forecasting procedure could easily be reached and surpassed. He did not offer any specific numbers of customers already signed up to their service so far, nor was he forthcoming in disclosing their submitted forecasts. I somewhat hesitate to share his enthusiasm; however, but am more than happy to wish Lightspeed the best of luck in this regard.

The clauses I am talking about – by the way – are clearly stated in the TRA produced “Bitstream Service” description document of which I quote a few of relevant sections which you too might find interesting:

3. SERVICE TERMS

  • 3.1 Provision of the Bitstream shall be conditional on the Access Seeker agreeing to submit the following minimum aggregate number of Bitstream Requests for all Batelco Exchanges per month for each year of the provision of any Bitstream Service by Batelco to the Access Seeker:
  • (a) 192 per month in the first year;
  • (b) 128 per month in the second year; and
  • (c) 96 per month in the third year.
  • 3.2 Batelco will implement Bitstream Requests from the Access Seeker and requests for configuration and provision of connections from other Licensed Operators and from itself with respect to any Batelco Exchange in batches of 32, representing the number of ports on a DSLAM or MSAN equipment card in the Batelco Exchange.
  • and

    7. FORECASTING

    • 7.1 At the beginning of each calendar month, the Access Seeker must supply a forecast of the expected requests for the Bitstream Service in each month of the six month period following the date of the forecast, in the form required by Batelco from time to time.
    • 7.2 Subject to Batelco complying with paragraph 7.3 below, for each forecast made under this Service Description, the aggregate number of requests for Bitstream Services identified in a calendar month of the forecast plus the two following calendar months are a commitment to order those Bitstream Services. If the Access Seeker has not placed those number of requests by the end of the calendar month the Access Seeker shall pay an amount equal to three times the relevant monthly port charge for each request for Bitstream Services not ordered.
    • 7.3 Batelco will use all reasonable endeavours to adhere to the rollout plan for BEs at Annex 5 and will give the Access Seeker reasonable notice of any changes to that Annex, such
      notice period to be at least the same as any notice period by which any Batelco retail operation is notified of changes by any Batelco wholesale operation.

    I really have a problem with the above paragraph being titled “Forecasting” because normal forecasting or pipelining I am familiar with in my business is an exercise for a us – the customer – to provide the vendor with a non-binding best guestimate of foreseeable purchases so that the vendor could statistically prepare their production lines to fulfill the needs. Needless to say, vendors have developed quite sophisticated methods to forecast demand based on feedback they receive from their customers.

    With the above requirements it is hardly a forecast but a commitment to buy services and you would get penalised for it if you don’t order whatever you have forecast for the current month and the 2 months which follow, essentially you are giving them a quarterly prepaid cheque and if you don’t deliver, boy your ass is grass, to the tune of a penalty which is three times the port rental charge! I will leave you to do the math if a customer does not fulfil their numbers. Man do I salivate at the prospect of having salesmen whom I can treat like this, slavery would be a blessing for them I can tell you!

    As to the very important contention ratios which Batelco must abide by (by the description does not provide practical manners in which it could police this very important aspect of the operation)

    [TABLE=19]

    Of course the costs of providing these services which the operators will have to pay Batelco (note that these are not all the charges obviously, there are several more which are quite steep that the operators have to pay for the privilege of offering these services in lieu of Batelco, if you are really interested I can give them to you, suffice it to state that the pleasure of establishing a bitstream relationship will set you back BD50,701 – don’t you ever forget the BD1 in that figure! – but fortunately that’s a one time charge. You do pay a monthly relationship maintenance fee of BD1,067 for the honour, however, not forgetting the other infrastructural charges you will have already borne by investing in equipment not provided by Batelco nor BIX.)

    [TABLE=20]

    I would like to draw your attention to the 256kbps package which is arguably the one that most of the 50-60k ADSL subscribers in Bahrain have opted for. Note that Batelco sells this service at BD10 retail, but offers it at higher than that for wholesale! I hope I understood the figures wrong and wish to be corrected, but that in itself is unsavoury isn’t it? Apart from it being completely anti-competitive.

    All in all, there is much more to this issue than meets the eye. I fully realise that getting anything out of Batelco is akin to wrenching a steak from the mouth of a hungry lion, but it has to be done, and if this is exercised by (now) smaller operators in the market, then so be it and I wish them all much luck. Anything that could takes a chunk of Batelco is good for this country. Generally.

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    Comments (17)

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    1. MuharraQi says:

      I will play any thing to get rid of Batleco :mrgreen:

    2. capt-arab says:

      something good has to come out of all of this..

    3. In other words, we’re stuck with Batelco until a vaporware product materialize.
      It’ll take a long time, it’s been a year with thresholds and I can remember other providers promising new packages in weeks… I really dunno how they face their shareholders.

    4. Dance says:

      It is not fare on Lightspeed or the other telecom providers to fight with Batelco on two levels. The wholesale and retail. I agree with you Mahmood, splitting Batelco’s wholesale from retail is the right way to go. Plus Batelco should stop playing the “I am losing money and I am a victim” card!! Come on!!! everyone knows that you are the monopoly and has the upper hand. You are not losing ANYTHING, your being paid retail and wholesale what more do you want???

    5. Hello Mahmood,

      U talk in such technical terms and know so much about the telecom market, i really think you should have your own telecom compnay. or at least be a consultant for the ISP’s in Bahrain. Honestly.

    6. Ahmed says:

      Mahmood,

      I might be mistaken, but the wholesale charges are per port aren’t they? meaning that 256kbps BD10 wholesale are for the port having the contention ratio of 15 users?

    7. mahmood says:

      That would actually make sense Ahmed, thank you for pointing it out.

    8. As long as it means I can listen to my internet radio without breaking the bank every month, I’ll be happy!

    9. TwoTired says:

      Has anyone actually tried using their service?

      A lot of people seem to be reluctant to switch, due to possibilites of bad service / customer support (ie, line going out for days and such :P).

      People need a “stability” reading.

    10. Newcastle says:

      I have subscribed to Lightspeed, and I got my Batelco line disconnected yesterday, I’m still waiting for the connection of Lightspeed’s service. However I’m really happy to have said goodbye to the 64kbps connection.

    11. Kazarr says:

      I wrote an email yesterday with some questions which i like to get answered by LSC.

      I couldnt get the infos from their website (or i must have been really, really sleepy when i crawled it) and i only got an automated email reply from Mr. Sehrab, Customer Care Advisor.

      I *really* like to change, but atm i am a little sceptic. If their service for prospects is already like that, what can real cusotmers expect?

      I would like to see some firsthand experiences here from people who signed up.

      Maybe “boycottbatelco” could be revived? And made like a forum with the different ISPs as seperate Entries? More like a Bahrain-ISP-Community board?

      I wouldnt mind getting involved in some administrative tasks if needed.

      BTW: Here my questions, maybe some LSC customers or LSC employees could answer it here?

      1.For the Home Bronze and Silver, how long will this Promotional Offer last? Is it a fixed time? Or a time frame?

      For example, is the offer valid for 6 month from signing of the contract?
      Or is the offer valid till end of December, regardless when I sign up?

      2. What are your terms and conditions? Will I be locked in with Lightspeed for a certain time? Like one year? What are cancelation and payment procedures?

      3.What are service and response options?

      4. Which kind of modems are supported with LSC connections? For example, the common Linksys modems?

      Schoenen Gruss,
      Kazarr

    12. Sid says:

      Wow, lot’s going on I see! I’m out of the country and so out of touch a little bit. Just wanted some thoughts on what Batelco’s response to all of this is?

      There has been slow/subtle improvement in Batelco’s services I think – my linksys wireless adsl router sometimes pleasantly surprises me by saying that I am getting 2mbps service though my package is the 1mbps one, of course I am brought back down to earth when I do a speed test online!

      I just checked Batelco’s site, and their ADSL packages are very confusing now – all the packages now state that they are ‘unlimited usage’, but at the bottom of the page in fine print I find the threshold guidelines, with the same old setup – choose from: drop in speed, a predefined threshold extension or a pay as you go setup once you cross the threshold! They also very slyly continue to list ‘usage guidelines’ which I find hilarious because we all need to be told how to use our internet connections don’t we?!

      So I’ve gathered that Lightspeed is still a work in progress, but when, when can we finally get unlimited access back? Someone pls email me!

    13. Sid,
      Batelco’s Unlimited Usage means unlimited “within” the threshold :p
      I guess they mean unlimited, since you’ll have to pay for anything above threshold 😉

    14. Kazarr says:

      UPDATE: Finally got some information from Mr. Akbar (also Customer Care Advisor).

      To 1. How long will the Promotional Offer last?
      Open end at the moment.

      To 2. What are your terms and conditions?
      – Contract locks you for one year.
      – No cancelation fee, onetime setup fee (15 BD)

      To 4. Supported modems:
      Thomson ST-510v6 or ST-585v6.
      Linksys should also work.

      He mentioned a maximum contention ratio of 1:10.

    15. bo yousif says:

      We’ll people can’t change still, my friend went to light speed and he canceled everything with batelco throw light speed , but he still did not get the connection, Is something wrong or is it a beginning of a disaster ?

    16. almato007 says:

      The download is good put the Internet Explorer is very very slow , I have the gold one and most of the time out of service and no body answer the phone.

      The company still new and need to improve
      my mistake I leave batelco early

    17. Kazarr says:

      Hm, finally had enough last weekend of Batelco and quit. Just signed yesterday with LSC.

      They cant be worse than Batelco i suppose.

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