03 October 2021 / /
Expanding the core network of a wireless ISP
TxRx Communications is an ISP and hosted telephony provider based in Basingstoke. They specialise in delivering Internet connections to seemingly impossible locations which have been abandoned by other companies, often using a combination of fibre and wireless connectivity.
We met Tim from TxRx at a UKWISPA conference a few years ago although we were aware of them through a talk given by Tim at UKNOF34 describing how he started a wireless ISP by accident. In October 2020 TxRx needed additional resilience to provide a more reliable service to their customers, and they approached us to help them expand to another data centre in London.
We designed the network expansion, had a delivery plan in place and signed contracts. The first thing we needed to do was to extend their backbone network from Telehouse North to our data centre in Interxion. We ordered the cross-connect, it was installed by Telehouse and TxRx asked their current colocation provider to install the cross-connect.
The provider at that point gave TxRx twenty one days notice terminating their contract. This was a surprise given that it was the week before Christmas and almost all network providers were already in change-freeze. The UK was also trying to suppress a second wave of the Covid pandemic with a second lockdown. So were stuck in a position where we could do very little until the beginning of January, giving us just two days before the end of the 21 day notice period.
This meant that TxRx would have to move all of its equipment from their existing provider’s rack space to a new location and have connectivity re-established with all of their other network providers such as ICUK and Neos who provide much of the wholesale broadband service to TxRx. Unless this was done within that short window TxRx would have gone offline and their hundreds of customers would have had no Internet access, during a period when the UK government was advising people to work from home where possible.
Now this was a real challenge: there was time pressure and change-freeze to contend with. We managed to get a series of workarounds designed and configurations prepared, and Tim’s team at TxRx racked new routing infrastructure in our space in Interxion. During the subsequent weeks we then had to negotiate with the various network suppliers providing the onward connectivity to TxRx’s customers.
We had a short window of opportunity once other networks came out of change-freeze, and we also knew their engineers would be busy catching up on the inevitable backlog. We needed them to make emergency changes to their configurations to avoid disaster when TxRx’s old equipment was switched off at the end of the notice period. We have a good working relationship with many of these providers’ teams and were able to ask for some favours — and the NOC team at LINX were particularly helpful. In effect we had to rely on ‘social capital’ and goodwill.
By the start of January we had everything ready, just in time for TxRx’s other connectivity providers to make their last minute changes. And just after midnight the day that the notice period expired the existing rackspace provider remotely turned off TxRx’s equipment in Telehouse North. But we were up and running already — the transition had been smooth with very little effect on the service to the end customers beyond some no-notice maintenance windows.
Since then we’ve continued to work with TxRx, and have helped them to extend their network to a new POP at Telehouse North using our London dark fibre ring providing diverse routes between the Interxion Brick Lane and the Telehouse Docklands campuses.
We’ve also provided a few additional services: we’ve on-boarded them through our Zen wholesale broadband partnership for FTTC and FTTP connectivity, and we’re now hosting parts of their VoIP service on our our virtual server platform.
Marek said “The original aims of the project have been met — to provide a resilient network providing a reliable service to their customers — even if they started in quite adverse circumstances!”