16th November 2018
UKCTA is a trade association promoting the interests of competitive fixed-line telecommunications companies competing against BT, as well as each other, in the residential and business markets. Its role is to develop and promote the interests of its members to Ofcom and the Government. Details of membership of UKCTA can be found at www.ukcta.com. UKCTA welcomes this opportunity to comment on Openreach’s consultation, Reimagining Ethernet since most of our members consume ethernet services and so have a real interest in improving the nature of the ethernet services and its associated supporting processes.
Since we primarily focus on regulatory policy, we do not propose to respond in detail to the range of operational matters raised in your consultation but rather to highlight a number of wider concerns which we have with your proposals.
We are concerned that in a consultation which was supposed to be focused on ways to improve the product’s supporting processes and procedures you have chosen to raise commercial and regulatory policy matters and in particular that you have proposed linking the two separate issues of Service Level Guarantees and Forecasting. Since 2008 it has been a well established principle of UK telecoms regulation that there should be no linkage between these two areas. This was first set out in Ofcom’s 2008 SLG Direction but has since been confirmed in the Narrowband Market Review 30th November 2017 and in the WLA Market Review 28th March 2018
Narrowband Market Review – 10.7 – “While we recognise the importance of accurate forecasting, we do not believe that linking SLGs to forecasting would be appropriate for any other situation for SLGs WLR, MPF or GEA, apart from in relation to Appointment Availability”.
Wholesale Line Access Review 6.146 – “we do not believe that linking SLGs to forecasting would be appropriate for any other situation for SLGs for WLR, MPF or GEA, since in relation to areas such as repairs or the contract delivery date, forecasting bears little relevance to BT’s ability to respond to changes in demand. “
We are also concerned that the consultation proposes the removal of deemed consent and the introduction of a replacement mechanism which would still allow Openreach to stop the clock thereby limiting your exposure to SLGs. Whilst the proposal to remove deemed consent in favour of a transference of risk and “clock-stop” mechanism may be beneficial for both Openreach and industry, the proposed solution needs to be fleshed out in a great more detail. Until this detail is forthcoming there will always be a concern that we will be replacing Deemed Consent with another similar process under a different name.
UKCTA would also like to see Openreach develop a challenge process to allow CPs to query CCDs. Given CCDs are to be derived from bespoke lead-times on an individual circuit basis (rather than the category based lead-times of today) it is essential that there is an opportunity for UKCTA members to challenge timescales where it is justified. This is essential if we are to ensure CCDs are set appropriately and can be justified in each and every case. UKCTA members anticipate Openreach would make available a detailed build schedule on order progression to provide an understanding of how the CCD has been derived, thus allowing legitimate queries to be raised should anomalies arise along the provisioning journey. While we anticipate the challenge process would be invoked infrequently, it is essential that it exists to ensure the integrity of the overall process.
Our overriding concern is that Openreach has used what was supposed to be an operationally focussed review to propose changes which are fundamentally regulatory and or commercial in nature. In our member companies, as in BT, these areas are handled by distinct groups with the relevant skill sets. It would not be appropriate to seek sign off from the regulatory departments in CPs on operational changes and for the same reason we do not believe it is appropriate for Openreach to table commercial proposals in the way in which has been done here. The correct approach ought to be for Openreach and industry to discuss and agree commercial changes and then to pass the agreed outcome to the relevant groups to document those changes in contract terms and in updated processes and procedures. These two work streams normally proceed in parallel. To proceed as Openreach has proposed is simply putting the cart before the horse and is wholly inappropriate.
We would be happy to discuss any of the above points with you should you feel it would be helpful to do so.