OTA2 Update for February 2018

At the end of February 2018, the number of unbundled lines stands at 9.87 million. There are 4.45 million WLR lines and the number of telephone numbers using CPS is 1.82 million.

In an effort to provide more insight on key areas, this month’s reports focuses on the challenge of improving fault resolution for broadband. Each month a different topic will be chosen for review.

Next steps to improve fault resolution for broadband

The biggest problem engineers face when dealing with a reported broadband fault is in determining the cause, particularly when test results seem to show no faults, despite the customer confirming that they have a problem.

For some years the challenge of establishing exactly where a broadband issue exists within the complex supply chain has frustrated all parties. Much of the problem is in the way products and services are assembled to provide a broadband service i.e. WLR+SMPF, MPF, WLR+FTTC and so on.

Traditionally fault finding has either gravitated to a bearer (WLR or MPF) issue - namely does the line conform with the SIN 349 standard, or to a service component for either ADSL or VDSL.

Where a hard, physical, network fault can be identified then the level of success in finding and resolving faults is high. Unfortunately, finding physical faults can be difficult as problems can be intermittent or affected by external conditions or issues within the home. These harder to identify faults can limit the options available to a CP, leading them to report problems where none can be found (CDTA - Conscious decision to appointment) or leading to them raising an SFI (special fault investigation) request.

CDTA is a blunt instrument for broadband as no information is passed to Openreach to help identify the problem, so the Openreach engineer tests the line and inevitably gets the same result as the CP - no fault found.

Given this challenge engineers are often asked to find conditions that may affect the broadband performance without any insight as to why the customer believes they have a problem in the first place. The result is often a bad customer experience or in the worst cases a series of repeat reports that never finds the problem.

Over time CPs and Openreach have explored different approaches to these problems, ranging from redefining network standards, through to investigating different ways of packaging various products and services. None of these initiatives have successfully alleviated the problem to date.

However, over the last few months there has been a recognition that, in order to make a difference, an alternative approach is needed to both identify the nature of the issue and better inform the engineers of the actual customer experience.

This new approach requires CPs and Openreach to exchange and share data that emanates from either the CP owned DSLAM or the Openreach owned DSLAM. This data then needs to be processed to provide view of speed and stability that can be consumed by the targeted engineer which should demonstrate the customer reported issue.

The idea is that this collaborative approach should both reduce the number of speculative visits that often results in no improvement, and better inform an engineer where a difference can be made.

To this end an SOR (Statement of Requirement) has been raised by industry to encourage data sharing for both ADSL and VDSL. Openreach have also proposed an enhanced engineering trial in North Manchester to prove the ideas put forward. This collaborative approach hopes to demonstrate that issues can be identified beyond the restrictions of the current practices. However, a number of tough challenges still exist - first is the industrialisation of how data gets exchanged, also minimum standards need to be agreed and a robust exchange mechanism needs to be set up. In order to allow all this to happen, better information needs to determined at the first point of contact with the customer by CPs.

This is a significant amount of work but if successful should result in a major improvement in finding broadband issues that cannot be readily found through existing test methods.

OTA2 will continue to focus on:

  • ELF Reduction Programme
  • SLG reviews
  • 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
  • KPI Assurance
  • Best Practice Guides for Industry


Rod Smith