OTA2 Update for October 2012

At the end of October the number of unbundled lines stands at 8.63 million. There are 6.25 million WLR lines and the number of telephone numbers using CPS is 2.29 million.

New ‘Backstop’ SLG (Service Level Guarantee) for Appointed Orders

Definition - Appointed provides – approx 25% of all copper provides – where an Openreach engineer is required to attend Customer address.

Unfortunately progress on this initiative has stalled due to a lack of agreement on the ‘variables’ to the SLG agreement.

OTA2 were tasked by Ofcom in April 2011 to facilitate a voluntary SLG regime for Appointed Provision of copper lines. It became clear very early in the process that there were going to be 3 strands of particular contention – the amount of the SLG payment itself, the time period beyond which an SLG would be payable and the requirement to provide a forecast with a defined degree of accuracy. Rather than become held up by lack of agreement on these parameters, we left resolution of these to a separate forum of senior executives from both Openreach and the CP's involved. However we agreed a set of ‘Principles’ that should characterise the SLG structure, these were:

1. Openreach and its customers should assume joint responsibility for delivering good standards of service to end users
2. Delivery times – for LLU and WLR services – should be restored and sustained at normal levels
3. This objective should be supported by appropriate backstop SLAs (such as target time + 2 working days)
4. Openreach and CPs should have appropriate incentives to help achieve the target delivery dates
5. Improved forecasting / order commitment processes will be integral parts of the final SLA/SLG framework
6. CPs should receive SLGs where appointment availability fails to meet agreed SLAs
7. CPs should also have incentives to forecast accurately
8. Openreach should be publishing actual performance against the target SLAs, and will agree format and how this is done with the OTA2
9. Openreach and CPs, supported by the OTA2, should agree on the characteristics of the new SLA/SLG framework no later than 1 September 2011
10. Openreach and CPs, supported by the OTA2, should agree to commence delivery of the new framework from 1 October 2011.

Setting aside the three issues referred to above, progress has been good. The business rules for determining liability by Openreach were agreed under facilitation by OTA2 and the process maps were created to ensure that everyone had a clear understanding of when SLGs would be due. There is a systemised, automatic, regime in place that determines the value of SLG payments due and CP's receive the funds automatically approximately 90 after the delivery of the lines involved (subject to having signed a commercial agreement with Openreach).

In terms of forecasting, some CP's were providing forecasts to Openreach before but each one was on a different basis – for example one CP forecast orders placed, whilst another forecast lines completed which made it impossible for Openreach to consolidate into a sensible demand profile on their resources. We now have a single methodology for the forecasts and both Openreach and CP's are seeing real benefits.

As part of the exercise of determining the SLG structure and process it became clear that there were many failures where appointments should not have been required in the first place. As a result OTA2 proposed a number of improvement work streams with the aim of significantly reducing the requirement to have an Openreach engineer attend.

Around 12 additional key tasks were identified to improve efficient use of Openreach resource and to enhance the customer experience. Five of these tasks have been completed and in some cases evolved to secondary issues. A particular focus has been on the number of cancelled appointments made and these have reduced significantly over the last few months (30% for some CP’s, equating to several thousand per month) and we have now turned our attention to ‘missed appointments’ and those circumstances where the customer changes their mind on the visit. Also we have flushed out poor practice in the use of a process of forced provides where an appointment is booked even where this is not necessary. In some cases CP’s were using this 100% of the time for new provides. All of these initiatives have taken significant poor practice out of the delivery cycle that would have exacerbated the current service delays.

Service Levels

  • Copper - The record rainfalls experienced throughout the summer and early autumn have driven repair volumes to a level which has severely stretched Openreach’s resources.. Understandably, a higher priority is attached to tackling repair jobs and to getting the overall repair workstack down to a more manageable level. As a consequence, Openreach are having to re-direct a portion of their provisioning capacity to undertake repair activity and this has had a heavy negative impact on Copper Provisioning performance during this period.
  • Copper Lead to Cash (L2C-Provisioning) - Average lead-time for appointed provisions in the last week of September had increased to 22.4 days (versus 14 day SLA).

    Openreach advise that they have a comprehensive recovery plan in place to tackle the fault levels, and continue to keep customers updated in the meantime via their web-site and specially arranged industry briefing sessions.

Our KPI charts show current performance levels.

Plan & Build

OTA2 continue to host quarterly ‘Plan & Build’ industry meetings and feedback from all stakeholders (including Openreach) remains positive.

The headline improvement initiatives achieved (or in flight) are as follows:-

i) Performance Metrics - A comprehensive performance reporting pack has been developed and signed-off by CPs as giving an accurate and valid account of Openreach Plan & Build performance spanning all elements of the end to end process and is proving to be of significant value to the group.

ii) Reduced Cycle times (i.e. Mean time to provide) – In close collaboration with OTA2, BT Operate & CPs over the last 6-9 months, Openreach have been progressing a wide range of internal initiatives (e.g. proactive site surveys & parallel builds) which, coupled with the recent introduction of their new ‘flexible comingling product’, has enabled Openreach to make good headway in achieving their target of a lead time reduction of 20 days.

iii) Improved Engagement with industry – The multilateral nature of the new Plan & Build Industry Forum (chaired by OTA2) has led to a step improvement in engagement between Openreach and CPs, with both parties beginning to share a ‘common view’ of what the major issues are and remedies needed to fix them.

Ethernet Services

As previously reported the EST (Ethernet Systems Transformation) programme went live in January for the Ethernet Access Direct EAD. The system currently has issues for both the Portal and B2B users. Openreach are engaging with the CPs to determine where the deficiencies are but as yet there is no clear roadmap of recovery.

Ethernet service delivery is causing major concern with the extension of lead times; the prime example is category 2 orders which make up 60% of the volume and have experienced much slower lead times over the last year. Deemed Consent (where Openreach deem that they have permission from the CP to stop an orders progress) is being applied to 60%+ of orders with an average order experiencing 4 deemed consent applications. We have recently escalated this issue to the Openreach senior team to try to address the information and process failings.

The delivery of new product requests (SORs) is also an area of concern. The SOR system and its reporting has been overhauled and is now good. However, the actual delivery of CP SORs is still very difficult with little actual movement being seen on the requests which have the most benefit to the CPs. Items such as a High Density handoff product which would save significant space and power needs for all have been effectively sidelined with no real progress.

Number Porting (Fixed Line)

OTA2 continue to work with industry to drive a wide range of badly needed process improvements.

A particular focus has been to ’encourage’ the mass volume CPs to establish all the necessary bilateral arrangements (including commercial agreements and order handling arrangements) to ensure consumers wishing to switch from one supplier to another, may also take their fixed line numbers with them, with minimal disruption to service

More recently the level of interest from the smaller CP community has increased significantly as they see the forum as an ideal way of comparing their experiences with others and can influence the design of our improvements initiatives going forward.

As Chair of the Number Port Process & Commercial Group, OTA2 are well positioned to direct the industry stakeholder community to focus on the most important issues and to drive the execution of badly needed improvements to the number porting processes.

The task is particularly challenging as the stakeholder community consists of very different CPs with very different self-interests. Where necessary, OTA2 provides an important conduit to/from the relevant Ofcom sections involved in Number Porting matters. (e.g. CPs seeking clarification of GC18)

Business Market Service Improvement Programme

Following representations by a number of CPs to Ofcom over the summer that Openreach was not addressing the needs of business focused CPs and their customers, leading to unacceptable levels of service for this group of CPs, a programme of work was initiated between Business CPs and Openreach to review what improvements might be achieved for copper based products (WLR, ISDN, MPF and SMPF). CP interest and engagement has been good although progress against the agreed work streams has initially been slower than would have been hoped. These are starting to gain traction.

Strategic Review of Consumer Switching

OTA2 will continue to provide ad-hoc support to the Ofcom team as and when requested.

OTA2 Industry Meetings

OTA2 has published the schedule of industry meetings for 2012. These are available via the ‘CP Info’ tab on this website.

OTA2 will continue to focus on:

  • New ‘backstop’ SLG for appointed orders
  • Address Data Matching Integrity issues
  • WLR/LLU Process development
  • Connectivity Services Process Development
  • Ethernet strategic Product review
  • Strategic Review of Consumer Switching
  • Erroneous Fixed Line Transfers activity
  • Fixed line porting - Improvements
  • Service levels (LLU/WLR/Ethernet)
  • Minimum Security Standards
  • PIA - Passive Infrastructure Access
  • VULA – Virtual Unbundled Line Access
  • Plan & Build Performance Issues
  • Plan & Build – new SLA/SLG scheme

Rod Smith