OTA2 Update for September 2008

At the end of September, the number of unbundled lines broke through the 5 million barrier and now stands at 5.032 million. The rate of growth continues to remain flat with volumes approximately 30% down on throughput levels experienced this time last year. There are 5.08 million WLR lines and the number of telephone numbers using CPS dipped to 4.59 million.

Equivalence Management Platform: Unfortunately we are unable to provide any significant update to the situation with regard to the EMP development bottleneck. The next build, R1000, remains on schedule 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 whilst we hoped to be able to report an improved picture in this update, we have not yet had the result of the Openreach deliberations. We are aware that the subject has been discussed at the highest levels of Openreach management and are pleased that Openreach have arranged a full briefing of the outcome of those discussions by audio conference call to industry on Monday 6th October.

However, the proposed new Openreach (technology) forum that will focus on developing a different strategy which overcomes these issues has still not yet materialised after two months of waiting, although the need remains great. 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

Following on from the Openreach conference call, we anticipate that they will produce a high-level statement which provides a clear, definitive two-year forward 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 will be 30th October in Birmingham with a second event planned for 24th November in London. The meeting will cover progress to date and provide an outline of BT’s position and current thinking.
  • Resource Planning – Openreach is drafting a ‘Code of Practice’ that both industry and Openreach will sign up to with the aim of improving forecast accuracy. The initial draft will be circulated in the beginning of October for comment.
  • Ethernet – The third Ethernet Subgroup meeting, jointly chaired by Openreach and OTA2, was held where some progress was made on the list of focus areas that the subgroup will drive resolution to.

    • Excess Construction Charges (ECCs) – Openreach is on track to deliver their 30/60/90 day improvement plan whose main aim is to reduce order processing time and improve transparency in the calculation and charging of ECCs, especially around the planning rules used by Openreach.
    • Reporting – Industry raised concerns that the level of provision and in-life reporting provided by Openreach was not adequate to manage their business. A proposal on provision communication updates has been developed jointly by Openreach and industry and distributed for review. Openreach will also soon be launching the ‘KPI Online’ reporting tool, which is expected to improve the detailed information available to industry.
    • Fibre mapping – In order to accurately plan and cost customer circuits, industry needs to know the Serving Exchange for any given post code. As this information is currently not available to CPs, a SOR has been submitted by industry for Openreach to provide an Ethernet dataset that defines the local footprint area for an exchange. The SOR is being reviewed by Openreach for feasibility.
    • Contracts – CPs raised concern that they were incurring unnecessary internal costs associated with the multitude of contracts that Openreach requires when purchasing Ethernet products. An industry and Openreach plan is being developed to reduce the number of contracts initially from eight to three with the aim of eventually getting to one Ethernet contract.

The OTA2 will continue to actively participate in the programme management of the key Ethernet issues to ensure that assigned actions are completed in a timely manner and that tangible improvements are made.

  • Service Harmonisation - The Cross Industry Working (i.e. LLU/WLR/OR) group continues to progress this development, albeit the task is proving very complex & difficult. Essentially the objective is to establish a single (harmonised) set of WLR/LLU repair products which on the one hand satisfies the needs of CPs (including pricing) and, on the other hand, enables Openreach to deploy its finite resources in the most efficient manner. Openreach continue to investigate the art of the possible through the ‘Out Of Hours Appointing’ and ‘X Hour Repair’ proof of concept trials. Key outstanding stepping stones towards conclusion are:

    • Delivery of a ‘journey map’ which succinctly describes
      • what repair products exist today (LLU & WLR)
      • what the proposed Harmonised Service levels look like
      • the transition roadmap to get Industry there.
    • ‘Indicative pricing’ which is still under review by OR Executive

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 and the audit undertaken during July and August. This audit found that BT does not favour its own equipment over other CP’s equipment however it did identify that High Temperature detectors are generally not installed in line with current BT Operate policy. BT Operate have agreed a programme to retrofit these across all affected exchanges.

Blocked Frames - Openreach have recently raised the issue of blocked frames. They have engaged industry and OTA2 to develop a commercial option to release capacity. This will be trailed shortly to assess its effectiveness.

Next Generation Access (NGA) – The recent Ofcom-hosted NGA event was well attended and clearly demonstrated to all concerned the high level of interest shared by a very wide range of stakeholders. This event was followed by the publication of Ofcom’s consultation document – ‘Delivering super-fast broadband in the UK’. The closing date for this consultation is 2nd December 2008. OTA will continue to facilitate industry engagement with regards to NGA and it’s evolution.

Migrations Programme – The Headline Migrations KPI which tracks the overall level of Tag issues arising each week continues to track the original target (1%). Performance is set to improve further with the long-awaited launch of Openreach’s new ‘Tag Resolution facility’ (OTRF) in October 2008 and the introduction of ‘Flexible Cease’ which removes one of main root causes of a ‘Tag on the Line’.

Hopefully, once these final deliverables have bedded in, the expectation is that the ‘Tags’ problem will have diminished to an acceptable level and will be managed by ‘business as usual’ support channels thereafter.

The Migrations Programme Board (MPB) will continue to develop the ‘Best Practice Guide for Broadband Migrations & Home moves’. The current version of the guide is now available via the Openreach web-site http://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/products/migrations/migrations.do

Migrations - forward look: Through the Migrations Programme Board, the OTA will continue to work with Industry stakeholders to develop the Best Practice Guide and to monitor industry’s adoption/compliance. Further process development is needed to ensure End Users can seamlessly migrate their services between LLU, 21C and NGA platforms once they are deployed.
OTA will continue to enlist Ofcom enforcement (GC 22) support as necessary to ensure ALL stakeholders stay focused.

Service Levels - Our KPI charts have been updated to include the current ‘stair-case’ targets which Openreach have signed-up to. Service Levels were generally stable throughout the month although MPF repair performance continues to lag SMPF and is falling short of the agreed staircase target. Openreach have explained that four key ‘right first time’ initiatives are due to ‘kick-in’ from October and are confident that performance will quickly improve.

EMP Performance Issues

There is evidence of a gradual deterioration in availability performance in recent months. Openreach have explained that the underlying issue is partly due to ‘people-issues’ and partly ‘release complexity’. The latter issue is part of the wider issue mentioned above (under EMP). It would also appear that there have been a number of post-deployment issues since the R900 upgrade causing significant pain for all CPs and, inevitably, their End Users.

OTA2 will continue to focus on:

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

 

Rod Smith