Providers of broadband connectivity need to be prepared for the new switching process affecting BT’s Openreach copper network from 20th June this year, Huw Saunders, Director of Network Infrastructure at Ofcom spoke to Comms Business about the new rules.
In August 2013, Ofcom announced a decision to ensure consistent switching processes for all voice and broadband switches on BT’s Openreach copper network.
From 20th June, a single ‘gaining provider led’ (GPL) model will apply when a customer changes provider, using the Notice of Transfer (NoT) process already in use for voice services. Under this new system, customers need only contact their new provider to manage the transfer process on their behalf.
Ofcom research shows that, in cases where the customer has to contact their existing company to request a change, the resulting process can be more difficult for consumers to follow and more costly.
The changes affect all providers of telecommunications services that offer fixed voice or broadband services on the Openreach copper network utilising MPF, SMPF, WLR and FTTC products. This includes wholesalers, resellers and retailers.
In terms of what changes, the current ‘losing provider led’ (LPL) process, which relies on the consumer or business obtaining a ‘migration authorisation code’ (MAC), will be withdrawn. This removes the need for an end user who wishes to switch, to contact their losing provider to obtain a MAC. Since switches of broadband using SMPF and FTTC products currently involve a MAC process, it is these that will be most affected by its removal.
In its place, any provider offering broadband services via the Openreach access network will need to have established the necessary capability to generate NoT-based switching orders (ie. place orders where it is a gaining provider). Losing Providers will be able to cancel a transfer order on behalf of a customer who did not provide consent to switch, using the Cancel Other functionality. When selling their services, providers shall ensure that no slamming occurs.
Under plans to implement the changes, any retailer that has a direct relationship with an end user will require a valid Reseller ID (RID) in order to submit orders for new business and participate in switching processes.
In addition, all switches for fixed voice products that currently use the NoT process, will have some relatively minor changes, including the harmonisation of ‘cancel other’ reason codes.
According to Andie Walton, Head of Marketing at Zen, the company started work over six months ago to get their resellers ‘Switching fit’.
“As a champion of anything which makes life easier, we’ve been working closely with the industry and Ofcom to understand the impact these changes will have on partners and their customers. Ofcom regulations around switching affect both voice and broadband products but as voice is far more mature in its processes and already adheres to the majority of regulations, these changes are predominantly on broadband (DSL & FTTC but not FTTP).
Whilst we absolutely support the vision of a single harmonised process, it’s easy to get lost in the bureaucracy. We’ve taken a very partner-centric approach, kept it simple and focussed on distilling key messages for our partners amidst ‘information-overload’. The project has been given high priority within Zen with a dedicated team to ensure the changes are as painless as possible for partners and to avoid any last minute stampedes as the Summer deadline draws closer.
Meanwhile, Henry West, Head of Channel at Eclipse told us, “Our partners haven’t expressed much concern about the change, perhaps because it really only brings the broadband service into line with the PSTN lines it runs on. The new rules will make it easier for resellers to win new business but it’ll also be easier to lose business if your service quality isn’t up to scratch.
Eclipse’s partners are increasingly selling multiple services to businesses, so it’s less likely that their customers will walk away from one service as it may disrupt another. It is important that resellers educate their customers to that fact; they should always be thinking about how to engage and retain customers.”
Chris Pateman from FCS believes all switching, across all platforms, should be gaining-provider led. So of course welcomes Ofcom’s decision to move to GPL switching across the copper network.
“When we talk to members and potential members about the changes, it’s clear the information is not being fed sufficiently well down the value chain.
There’s a real risk that at the point of cut-over, there will be consumer-facing retailers and resellers who have not obtained a RID. And they will suddenly find themselves stymied by the new system.
Channel providers should have been fully briefed by their upstream providers on the procedural changes coming in and the impact it will have on them. If you have not heard anything about it yet – ask now!”
Darren Farnden, Head of Marketing at Entanet, commented on the changes on his blog. “The new system is already causing confusion and issues for providers…. Without this RID new orders cannot be accepted and despite our best efforts this is already causing some issues and confusion amongst resellers that delayed in applying for their RID. Many have been assigned a temporary dummy code to use until a real code can be assigned- surely this makes a nonsense of the whole system which, by definition, requires ‘identification of the reseller’? As you can imagine this is causing providers a real headache!”
“It appears little thought (or consultation) has been given to the multi-tiered wholesale model which is widely adopted across the industry and affects many providers including Entanet. We have resellers with resellers of their own and whilst Ofcom have consulted with the biggest providers (BT Wholesale for example) they have not interacted with companies like ourselves or our wholesale customers who also have a large wholesale bases.”
There is a bit disagreement in the Channel regarding whether these changes are going to be beneficial for all parties concerned. Many welcome anything that simplifies the process but Farnden disagrees the soon to be scrapped MAC process threw up that many issues to begin with. Whatever the outcome the message is clear, get yourself informed now on how these changes affect you… we will be revisiting this topic in due course to see how service providers are getting on. And finally… how can a process that took five days be replaced by one that takes ten days be better?