OTA Update for August 2008

 

At the end of August, the number of unbundled lines now stands at 4.961 million although the rate of growth has reduced significantly in recent weeks. There are 5.01 million WLR lines and the number of telephone numbers using CPS dipped to 5.05 million.

Equivalence Management Platform: Openreach have confirmed that the R900 software build was successfully deployed during the weekend of 9th/10th August and that whilst there were some initial quality issues with the build, the necessary fixes have been implemented and the build is now stable. A full programme of ‘live’ testing is now being carried out by the ‘Proxy CP’ facility on behalf of industry. This will confirm (or not) that all new functionality is working correctly before a ‘clean bill of health’ is given and CPs can proceed, with confidence, to upgrade their own systems and adopt the new release.

The next build, R1000, is scheduled to be delivered in November 2008 at which time Openreach will cease support of older builds from R400 backwards.

We have previously reported concerns over the capabilities that will be available in future releases of EMP and how and when CP requirements will be delivered. Openreach are reviewing the options which would give the best outcome and we expect to be able to report an improved picture in our next update.

However, the proposed new Openreach (technology) forum that will focus on developing a different strategy which overcomes these issues has not yet materialised, although the need is getting greater. The two key weaknesses to overcome are:

  • To improve CP's ability to consume new functionality as soon as it becomes available
  • To ensure EMP development capacity exists to keep pace with aggregate demand for new requirements

In the meantime, Openreach are being pressed to produce a high-level statement which provides a clear, definitive 2-year view of what EMP releases are planned and broadly what their content will be (i.e. WLR, LLU, Service, Regulatory, NGA, etc). With this statement on the table, industry will be better placed to assess the full implications for their respective businesses and can plan accordingly.

Product Development – Openreach & industry continue to collaborate closely on a number of key development work streams, although ultimate delivery will be constrained by the wider issue outlined above.

Specific updates as follows:

  • Directory Entries - As previously reported, the industry SOR for improving the product offering for Directory Entries on WLR3 is being reviewed by the various BT Group stakeholders. The next industry review and update is proposed to take place in September. The meeting will cover progress to date and provide an outline of BT’s position and current thinking.
  • Resource Planning - The findings from the resource planning review were presented at the August OTA2 Exec meeting. There was a general consensus that both Openreach and industry were committed to making the forecasting process work and that a new ‘Code of Practice’ should be created which all parties would sign up to. Openreach will circulate an initial draft to industry for comment ahead of the next OTA2 Exec Meeting in September.
  • Ethernet – The second Ethernet Subgroup meeting, jointly chaired by Openreach and OTA2, was held where a comprehensive list of the key Ethernet issues was discussed and actions were assigned. Each issue area has an Openreach and industry person assigned to resolve it. Progress was made on Excess Construction Charges (ECCs), where an industry workshop was held and the action plan was presented at the August Ethernet Forum. The OTA2 will continue to actively participate in the programme management of the key issues to ensure that assigned actions are completed in a timely manner and that tangible improvements are made.

Exchange Space and Power - A range of concerns had been expressed by CPs relating to accommodation issues within LLU Exchanges. A series of Openreach sponsored product and process enhancements are already underway, which have been broadly welcomed by CPs. It is however, not yet fully apparent whether the associated commercial terms surrounding the products will fully meet the expectations of CPs. This will be an area subject to consultation by Openreach and we will continue to work with CPs and Openreach to ensure issues are resolved.

CPs had also expressed some concern regarding a perceived difference between BT and themselves with respect to allocation of space and power within LLU exchanges. Openreach suggested an audit of a number of exchanges be undertaken, overseen by OTA2, to fully investigate these concerns. The audit brief and site list was agreed with the CPs which voiced these concerns and the audit commenced during July. We will report the findings in our October update.

Blocked Frames - Openreach have recently raised the issue of blocked frames and are engaging industry and OTA2 to develop a way forward.

Minimum Security Standards - There is concern within Government and other stakeholders about the security of the UK’s critical national infrastructure (CNI) in light of the current threat climate. Telecoms networks form a vital part of the CNI, and their importance is growing as they are increasingly relied upon by the other parts of the CNI as well as consumers, businesses and Government for their ongoing function.

Currently there is an assumption that each network operator should be free to offer services with whatever level of security and resilience they feel is appropriate. However, in the case where different operators make use of shared network elements and facilities, such as is the case in LLU-based competition, there are other factors to consider. It may be the case that the action, or inaction, of an operator offering low levels of service security and/or resilience may seriously undermine the ability of sharing operators to offer higher levels.

A draft “minimum standard” for security, developed by NICC, is being reviewed by OTA2/PCG. The draft minimum standard is intended to form a baseline but set at a level which seeks to ensure that the associated costs do not become disproportionately high and that competition between operators is not affected.

Next Generation Access (NGA) – Following BT’s announcement on its potential investment in fibre deployment, Ofcom hosted an industry forum in early September designed to engage all stakeholders. OTA2 will participate to assist in defining and implementing best practice processes to ensure the best possible outcome.

Migrations Programme – The Headline Migrations KPI which tracks the level of Tag issues arising each week, has been negatively impacted in recent weeks due to a sudden increase in Tag issues emanating from two specific Service Providers and a significant increase in the volume of Tag issues due to erroneous BT Data. OTA is working with the parties concerned to make sure the underlying root causes are understood and actions are put in place to reverse the trend as soon as possible. The overriding aim is to prevent Tags occurring in the first place.

These Tags are escalated by CPs to the 3rd line Tag-support facility currently managed by BTW. A plan is now underway to re-position the 3rd line Tag support function from BTW to Openreach.

The Migrations Programme Board (MPB) continues to develop the ‘Best Practice Guide for Broadband Migrations & Home moves’. Arrangements are in hand to publish the current version of the Guide via the Openreach, BT Wholesale and Ofcom web-sites.

Service Levels - Our KPI charts have been updated to include the current ‘stair-case’ targets which Openreach have signed-up to. Overall Service levels remain relatively stable although MPF provisioning and repair performance appears to be once again falling behind corresponding SMPF performance. Backhaul provisioning performance has also deteriorated in recent weeks and appears to be co-incident with an increase in order volumes, although this should not be an excuse. Openreach remain confident that they have plans in train which will enable them to get back on track and hit their committed Targets.

OTA2 will continue to focus on:

  • Key Product development programmes
  • WLR3 Roadmap to achieve WLR2 parity
  • Best practice migrations processes & CP adoption
  • Service levels (LLU/WLR/Ethernet & EMP)
  • NGA
  • Exchange Space & Power – Capacity & Flexibility issues
  • Forecasting improvements

     

 

Rod Smith