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Action demanded over BT unbundling problems

Quality control problems are hampering local loop unbundling, and the telecoms adjudicator wants to see improvements made quickly
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

BT is failing to hit quality targets for the unbundling of its local telecoms network, the Office of the Telecommunications Adjudicator (OTA) has revealed.

In his latest monthly update, published on Friday, telecoms adjudicator Peter Black noted that, while the rate of unbundling was progressing well — 850,000 lines unbundled and counting — only 78 percent of lines are being succesfully delivered. The target for "right first time" delivery is 98 percent.

Local loop unbundling (LLU) is the process whereby competitors to BT are able to install their own equipment in BT's exchanges. This lets the operators manage their own lines and potentially offer a wider range of broadband services than can be bought wholesale from BT.

Openreach, BT's network operating arm, had promised to improve its delivery quality by September, and Black noted in his update that this had clearly been missed. He's now demanding action within three months.

"As I am sceptical of the assurances I have received over many months I have specifically requested a Performance Improvement Paper that will set out all the Improvement & Ongoing Stability Plans that will cover Plan & Build, Backhaul Delivery, BAU Unbundled Loop Delivery, EMP and Assurance (Repair) Performance," wrote Black on Friday.

Voicing fears that "unless concerted action is taken swiftly the LLU market will be put at a disadvantage", Black added that he required a "clear Staircase of Improvement Targets, each point on the staircase defined by Time and the Actions to be taken and the Resultant Improvement in Quality to be delivered".

A spokesperson for Openreach assured ZDNet UK that it was "committed to getting the performance for LLU on track" and was "working flat out to improve the issues" raised by the OTA. However, no specific details were available as to the cause of the problems.

On the positive side, Black also noted that problems with backhaul ("last-mile" connectivity) at co-mingling locations appeared to be improving. This issue was raised in his last update.

Openreach has an incentive to unbundle as many lines as possible, as it will be free to vary its pricing for different operators when a target of 1.5 million lines is reached, or half-way through 2007 — whichever comes first.

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