BT "RAMBo" patent infringement could reduce service

"They drew first blood, not me" - Rambo 

British Telecom employ a DLM (Dynamic Line Management) system called "RAMBo" which helps to optimise the broadband speeds for million of its customers. The telecoms giant was forced to stop its use after UK courts found it infringes on two patents owned by ASSIA, a leading provider of software solutions for broadband access networks.

In order to continue the use of RAMBo, BT would have to pay ASSIA £250,000 per week until the firm could modify their system to not infringe on the patents. Rather than coughing up the cash, BT discontinued use of its system altogether on Friday 21st November.

BT claims that its actions will "“have no material effect on the operation or performance of our networks" which is something that ASSIA disagrees with. The charts below show the real-world benefits of DLM which are expected to disappear in just a few weeks after systems have been switched off...

In the bar chart above, the percentage of lines which saw a rate increase is displayed by country after a DLM system was deployed. Between 27% and 93% of lines achieved higher rates after the DLM was used; which will be reduced if the system was switched off.

As a result of better line management, the amount of customer calls went down after DLM was introduced. In various locations around the globe, customer calls were reduced between 7% and 23%. Turning off DLM will result in an increase of calls between 7.5% and 37% which will put a strain on customer service.

Reducing problems (and customer calls as a result) means less technicians were required to be dispatched by service providers to check on issues. Technician dispatches were reduced between 10% and 30% after DLM was used, and is now expected to rise between 11% and 49& after being switched-off.

Noah Messel, ASSIA's Executive VP of Corporate Affairs & General Counsel, comments: "If BT discontinues use of the NGA-DLM system, a significant number of BT customers will be affected. Broadband services to businesses and homes will experience degradation of speed and reliability over time."

He continues: "DSLs have to be ‘managed’ or performance suffers over time, in some cases drastically. The support costs for those problem lines will almost certainly be more expensive than licensing ASSIA’s patents or software. We would be delighted to work with BT to deliver the best performance to businesses and homes in Britain.”

Update 10/12/14: BT has provided us with their side of the story:

“BT has been defending a claim brought by ASSIA since November 2011. They had asserted three patents against BT but during the proceedings, they had to narrow their allegations and withdraw one of these patents entirely.

In January 2014, the High Court found BT was infringing on only a minor part of one patent, and the Court of Appeal, whilst invalidating the majority of the claims of ASSIA's other patent, ruled that BT's network infringes what remains of the other patent.

Although BT was disappointed with the ruling, we have made minor changes to our programming which means these two decisions have no material effect on the operation or performance of our networks.”

Do you think BT made the right decision switching-off their DLM solution? Let us know in the comments.

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