OTA2 Update for October 2016

At the end of October 2016, the number of unbundled lines stands at 9.85 million. There are 4.57 million WLR lines and the number of telephone numbers using CPS is 1.89 million

The following is an update on the principle areas of project activity being led by OTA2.

SLA/SLG Work streams

Copper/NGA
Whilst negotiations on the 3rd tranche of SLA/SLG had formally completed in May, one proposal regarding an SLG on Repeat Faults extended beyond the 6-month window. In part, this was a reflection of the analysis required and the need to ensure consistency with other Openreach policies such as TRC. Negotiations have concluded and the final SLG will be implemented from 1 January 2017. No further Copper/NGA proposals are anticipated at this time.

Ethernet EAD
Following a dialogue between Openreach, CPs and OTA2 it has been agreed to split the original EAD negotiations into two parts. The first part, to discuss the SLG measures, started on 16 September 2016. There are three elements under discussion; the removal of Openreach deemed consent, whether there are any legitimate circumstances where Openreach can seek CP agreement to a CCD change and the concept of the SLG ensuring a circuit is “usable” i.e. working, fully documented and delivered to the correct location.  Good progress has been made on all aspects except for changing the CCD. Whilst CPs accept Openreach can approach bi-laterally to seek a CCD date change they are highly reluctant to agree a formalised process given their experience on Deemed Consent.

The second part of the negotiation will cover the quantum and will start in January 2017, subject to reasonable progress on the measures. Both elements will run for up to 6 months under the governance of the BCMR.  

Service Management Forum (SMF)

CPs have raised concerns over the service challenges of the last 3 months. The extended ‘first available date’ (FAD) and repair times, albeit just within or beyond SLA, have led to an increase in end customer enquiries and subsequent follow up calls putting pressure on the CP first line call centres. Given this level of performance over the summer/autumn period reassurance is being sought regarding the winter plan and Openreach’s capacity to manage any major weather disturbances. Openreach recognise that recent months have been difficult and beyond what they expected; putting it down to number of coincident events. Lightning storms in mid-September resulted in MBORC’s. Repair performance had been poor pre storms and the planned change by CPs on service levels put pressure in rural areas. In addition, demand for new GEA services increased. This was all against reduced staffing levels over the summer. Openreach are reviewing their modelling of lightning and its impact on cabinets and customer electronics. As ever the issue of workstack size dominates Openreach’s response whereas the measure of concern to end customers is time to repair and time to appoint.

Openreach KPI Assurance

Following an approach to the OTA2 from Ofcom, the OTA2 and EAO (Equivalence of Access Office) set about a joint initiative to validate KPI reporting and the benefits delivered.

The objectives were four-fold:

  • to have a common EAO/OTA2 focus on those KPI’s which matter most to industry;
  • to provide assurance over data accuracy of the KPI’s in scope;
  • to provide trusted analysis and conclusions on what the KPI’s demonstrate; and
  • to have a single ‘one-truth’ dashboard that all parties use and where debate could be about actions to improve KPI trends rather than debate over the KPI’s themselves.

However it was felt that this new approach needed to be proven by way of a trial before advancing into a full-blown programme.

The KPI chosen for the trial and pre-agreed between Openreach, Ofcom, BT, the EAO and OTA2 was the Openreach ‘Missed Appointments’ KPI.  A Missed Appointment is where Openreach misses a scheduled appointment with the customer of a CP.

This trial has recently been completed and the results will be shared with Industry in due course.

CFPCG (Copper & Fibre Products Commercial Group)

A significant amount of time is spent reviewing the development of new products and initiatives such as SOGEA, G.fast, LRVDSL, FTTP and SOFast. FTTC is also attracting new SOR’s with the bearer products of LLU and WLR focussing on how to improve in-life performance.
SOGEA is well advanced and after discussion between the OTA2 and Openreach agreement has been reached regarding an acceptable way forward which allows CPs to upgrade existing customers without the need to consume the full 10 day migration period. CPs will need to consume a registration process to ensure that the risk of erroneous lines transfers is avoided. Concerns around what is known as “day 2 test” (the removal of the copper back to the exchange for testing) still exist. Openreach are still investigating how these can be addressed.

LRVDSL (Long Range VDSL) is proving to be complicated as any trial involves contacting resellers served by the wholesale community. Not all resellers are currently able to adopt FTTC so potentially risk losing customers. Discussions are ongoing in trying to resolve these reseller/CP issues.

G.Fast initial trials with 550 customers across Huntingdon, Gosforth and Swansea had demonstrated reliable high speeds, with an average headline rates of 300Mbps. The product/ service specifications had been agreed ready for full pilot at c.25k premises: Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire and Gillingham, Kent. This is due to start in January 2017.  For the pilot two speed tiers will be offered: up to 160/30Mbps and up to 330/50Mbps. Pilot pricing, terms and conditions to be confirmed in the coming weeks.   

Finally, Openreach have relaunched their joint initiatives with CPs to trial and explore how to improve fault resolution where the line test reports ok (LTOK). The expectation is that joint work on diagnostics and data exchange will improve customer experience and give a better indication of the location of problem. It is still not clear whether CPs would prefer to develop their own capabilities or rely more on Openreach.

Ethernet Service

Ethernet service delivery remains challenging with protracted lead times and service uncertainty still affecting CPs plans.

The reported category lead times are somewhat distorted by the effect of closing out some very old orders which have been sat in the ‘tail’. In addition there are ongoing challenges within the planning function, leading to protracted delays in the planning stage. This is causing CPs major difficulties with planning their own work and managing customer expectations.

The ‘tail’ reduction programme has plateaued at just over 15,000 circuits within the tail. While the overall age of the tail has reduced Openreach need to arrest the number of orders exceeding 100 days entering the stack. At present, as fast as Openreach clear old orders they are being replaced by new ones.

Openreach are working hard to address its operational problems with in excess of 20 internal programmes running to improve the level of control and reshape fundamental processes and procedures. The move to regional working is perhaps the most significant of these and has in part been responsible for some of the planning challenges, with staff deficiencies in terms of numbers and skills causing some regional impacts.

The Openreach senior management team recognises these issues and challenges; they are driving the organisation hard against a timeline to be able to hit the BCMR minimum service level standards. It is safe to say that the service delivery machine that they took over was more fundamentally broken than anyone thought and its recovery is taking longer than expected.

OTA2 remain supportive of the approach to recovery but recognise that the CP community are being caught in the middle between their suppliers need to recover its operation and the demands of their customers who need certainty for their business requirements.

Dark Fibre

Following on from the Draft Reference Offer publication in September the industry working groups have continued to develop the full product offering. In terms of the engagement with the interested CP community, the exercise has been good, with Openreach trying to meet the CPs requirements for transparency. There are, inevitably, a relatively small number of issues on which the two sides will not agree.

  • Minimum term of 36 months
  • Forecasting linked to SLG payments
  • The SLA for repair of the fibres at 18 hours
  • The price of an abortive visit charge at £650
  • Openreach refusal to consider waiving and term cancellation fees for circuits under their term, migrating from the active product onto DFA

OTA2 will, for the purpose of wider understanding, raise the list of ‘failure to agree’ items at the OTA2 Executive and inform the BCMR team within Ofcom. Ultimately, it will be for CPs to determine if they wish to formally object to the product proposals.

Passive Infrastructure Access

PIA is steadily emerging from being a niche concept product into a more fully formed offering. There is an on-going proof of concept trial looking to debug the underlying processes, which is beginning to deliver some of the CP asks. It is also highlighting some new challenges, such as CPs getting access to accredited skilled resource.

Openreach are developing mapping capability to enable CPs to view network records electronically and ultimately build their order requirements from the network plan, we anticipate that this capability will begin to come on line in the summer. Looking forwards there are a number of areas which CP are highlighting as requiring review and action.

  • Accreditation, ensuring that any requirements are not just a barrier to entry but support network integrity.
  • Access to suitable training organisations to enable easy skills development.
  • The pricing structure and ensuring that there are no perverse incentives to developing inefficient network designs.
  • End user connectivity and efficient transfer of customer connections between competing physical infrastructures, both overhead and underground.

Number Porting

Number Port ‘Executive Steering Group’

Background

The processes required to enable fixed-line ‘number porting’ across the UK were designed many years ago to cater for a relatively simple world which was dominated by a small number of very large CPs delivering simple TDM (time division multiplex) based voice services.

Today we have a more complex world dominated by the same TDM CPs and an ever increasing number of ‘next gen’ CPs selling Hosted VOIP-based services to both Residential and Business markets.

This has served to expose significant weaknesses in the way numbers are ported between CPs, with negative consequences for both End Users (e.g. deteriorating lead-times) and their CPs (e.g. increasing cost of failure).

Unfortunately, whilst the current Industry group strives to improve today’s number porting performance, there is now a growing realisation around the table that simply continuing to apply ‘tactical’ enhancements to an operating model which hasn’t fundamentally changed since day 1 (20 years ago), will fail to deliver the real  transformation needed  to cope with just today’s demands let alone tomorrow’s.

The Opportunity

With the spread of ‘Next Gen’ IP Network capabilities, coupled with the impending retirement of ageing TDM-infrastructure, we need to map out a strategy which leverages the inherent enabling qualities of IP and allows us to transform the way number porting is implemented across the UK. This will allow us to deliver a much improved customer experience with significantly reduced cost of failure.

The Plan

A new Number Port ‘Executive Steering Group’ which met for the first time on 22 September 2016 has now been established. The primary objective of this new group is to provide the strategic support, direction and sponsorship which will be needed to positively transform the industry-wide number port operating model.

The meeting participants represent a good cross-section of the industry Stakeholder community and the appetite to transform the way fixed line number porting is carried out across the UK was clearly evident at the first meeting.

The initial task of this group is to develop a shared view/vision of a target operating model which could be established within the next 3-5years.

Once we have a shared view of the target operating model, the next, more difficult, task will be to secure industry-wide commitment to develop & implement a strategy which gets us there.

Service Levels

Copper & Fibre Provision

Openreach FAD (First Available Date) performance nationally, has been averaging 7.5-9.5 working days for Copper and NGA Fibre, during the week ending 24 September 2016 (vs backstop SLA of 12 working days).

Copper Repair

LLU and WLR ‘on time repair’ performance has remained flat, achieving 76% and 71% respectively, for week ending 19 August 2016.

OTA2 will continue to focus on:

  • OTA2 Tasks on Communication.
  • ELF Reduction Programme
  • Address Data Matching Integrity issues
  • WLR/LLU Process Development
  • Ethernet Process Development
  • Ethernet Strategic Systems Review
  • Consumer Switching Industry Improvement Programme
  • Urgent Service Restoration Process
  • Fixed Line Number Porting - Improvements
  • Service Levels (LLU/WLR/Ethernet)
  • Infrastructure Service improvement programme

 


Rod Smith