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BT Openreach and UK ISP TalkTalk in Dispute over Unbundled Jumpers

Thursday, Jul 18th, 2013 (2:52 pm) - Score 2,960

Yes it could be a story linked directly to your home laundry basket but it’s not. TalkTalk has today called in Ofcom to help settle a dispute with BTOpenreach, which has refused to supply a single jumpered solution with their fully unbundled (LLU / MPF) broadband and phone lines that could potentially save UK ISPs tens of millions.

Admittedly this needs some explanation, which is difficult without encumbering our readers with reams of jargon. Suffice to say that this dispute centres on part of the cost for wiring up telephone exchanges to support fully unbundled (MPF) lines, which is the process that affords near total control of the phone line to an ISP.

Sky Broadband, TalkTalk and a number of other ISPs are big fans of fully unbundled lines because, in the longer term, they allow for cheaper phone and broadband services. Currently Openreach offers double jumpering MPF lines that consume “2 jumpers on the MDF, 3 tie cables and 1 TAM” and by contrast a single jumpered method might only consume 1 jumper, 1 tie cable and 1 TAM.

The single jumpered solution would allegedly be a lot cheaper for ISPs to work with and indeed BT’s own Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) product already uses it. Naturally TalkTalk felt that MPF lines should get the same benefit and in May 2012 it duly submitted a Statement of Requirements (“SOR”) to Openreach for just such a solution (in fact we think they’ve tried to do this twice).

Sadly Openreach rejected the request and warned that the development and adoption of a single jumper solution could raise costs for ISPs like Sky or TalkTalk and is thus unlikely to gain wide support. But the ISPs contest this and note that Openreach’s past cost estimates were extremely wide (i.e. anything from a few tens of millions to over £100m).

Ofcoms Statement on the Dispute

TalkTalk asserts that the development of single jumped MPF would deliver significant cost saving that could in turn be passed on to consumers by way of lower prices. [The ISP also] considers that Openreach’s failure to provide the product is a breach of Openreach’s obligations to provide Network Access on reasonable request and to provide Local Loop Unbundling on fair and reasonable request and on fair and reasonable terms.

Ofcom considers that there is a dispute between the parties within the meaning of s185(1A) of the Communications Act 2003. Ofcom considers that the dispute meets the relevant statutory criteria and it is appropriate for Ofcom to handle it according to section 186 of the Act, and accordingly, Ofcom has accepted the dispute for resolution.

A spokesperson for TalkTalk told ISPreview.co.uk today that current MPF lines involve a “more expensive wiring arrangement in the exchange than is necessary” (i.e. double jumpering because here are two ‘jumpers’ across BT’s main distribution frame) and it firmly believes that single jumpering would be a “lower cost alternative” that could save “ISPs and consumers potentially £10s millions and will ensure competition is more effective“.

An Openreach Spokeswoman told ISPreview.co.uk:

We think this is the wrong decision. However, we are firmly of the view that Openreach has been, and remains, fully compliant with all its regulatory obligations in respect of Single Jumper MPF. We will work with Ofcom and others as appropriate.”

Ofcom has said that any interested or relevant parties should notify them by 1st August 2013. As usual no timeframe has been set for settling the dispute and some of these have been known to drag on for quite a while.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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