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Unbundling soldiers on despite logistical hiccups

The number of unbundled phone lines is steadily rising, but the LLU process is still suffering problems
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Written by David Meyer, Freelance reporter on

The number of unbundled telephone lines in the UK is nearing three-quarters of a million, but the process is still experiencing problems, according to Peter Black, who is overseeing the process.

In his latest monthly update, telecoms adjudicator Black put the number of successfully unbundled lines at 735,000.

Local loop unbundling (LLU) is the process whereby competitors to BT are able to install their own equipment in BT's exchanges. This means they don't have to buy wholesale telecoms services from BT, and can potentially offer a wider range of services.

However, Black noted "ongoing concern that the Right First Time delivery of Business As Usual (BAU) unbundled lines [also known as "singleton" lines to differentiate from bulk migrations] continues to deviate from planned quality levels", adding that "significant improvement has so far failed to materialise".

Bulk migrations were also down due to "specific systems, process and infrastructure problems", although throughput was "expected to increase significantly" from the start of September.

Black told ZDNet UK that "some factors" in these rollout issues lay with the operators themselves, but much also rested with Openreach, the BT offshoot that recently split from the incumbent in an attempt to ensure a fair telecoms market.

Blaming the August "holidays effect" in part, Black said on Monday that "you couldn't fault the commitment of Openreach's senior management team" but the scale of LLU meant the problem was "bigger than anybody thought it would be".

A spokesperson for Openreach told ZDNet UK that "full recovery plans" were in place to address these issues. She suggested that the problems were caused by the increased popularity of LLU and said Openreach was "working with the industry to address them".

She also said Openreach was "on target again" after Black identified certain "supply problems and logistics problems" with backhaul at co-mingling locations, where BT's rivals are allowed to place their equipment in the same part of the local exchange as BT.

The telecoms adjudicator has long warned that operational problems with the delivery of LLU could make it difficult for BT's rivals to plan and launch new services.

"Although there are more hiccups than I would have liked, we're still keeping the momentum going," he said on Monday.

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