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UPDATE2 ISP Anger at BT Openreach’s “detrimental” FTTC Broadband Change

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 (8:25 am) - Score 5,074
openreach bt fttc broadband modem

The outspoken boss of broadband provider AAISP (Andrews and Arnold), Adrian Kennard, has criticised BTOpenreach for making a “very very detrimental change” to the terms of their Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) service. In particular Openreach intends to stop supporting the VDSL modem they provide, which the ISP fears could make it harder and more costly to get faults fixed.

In order to understand the new terms it’s necessary to be familiar with Openreach’s new Self Install (PCP-Only / Wires Only) FTTC product, which was first introduced nearly one year ago but only recently received its official commercial introduction (here) and is now being used by most of the markets largest broadband ISPs (except Virgin Media of course as they don’t use BT’s platform).

The new PCP-Only product, which costs £49 +vat, is cheaper than a traditional Managed Install (£92 +vat) because it allows consumers to have FTTC “fibre broadband” services installed and without needing an Openreach engineer to enter their homes. One other aspect of this is that ISPs now have the option of supplying their own VDSL equipped broadband router, instead of using Openreach’s separate VDSL modem (included with the cost of a managed install). Both types of install are still available for ISPs to order and offer.

One advantage of paying extra and taking a Managed Install is that, under the current terms, Openreach takes responsibility for their VDSL modem. “If it is not working, they fix it. It adds to the install cost over normal ADSL, but is well worth it if you have a fault,” said Adrian Kennard. But AAISP claims that Openreach are now making a “very detrimental” change to the service they provide.

Adrian Kennard, MD of Andrews and Arnold, said:

They are changing the service to wires only where they will not “support” the modem they provided. This is a massive change. This puts us in the realms of [Special Fault Investigation] charges like ADSL lines, and having to provide modems to customers. This is a massive backwards step.

But it is not even a simple case of a new “wires only” service being the only one on offer. They will sell the “with modem” service until late next year but within a few months they stop “supporting” the supplied modem even on a service with a 12 month min term.

How the heck can that work? If the service fails because of the modem then who fixes it? If they sold the modem then Sale of Goods Act would expect it to work more than three months even. And what of all of the existing services?

Kennard claims there is a clause in their agreement with Openreach that covers changes to the terms and it allegedly does not allow them to make unilateral changes, particularly if they are considered detrimental to the service. On that basis the ISP intends to formally reject the proposed T&C changes, which Kennard describes as a “fiasco“.

The issue is important for consumers too because obviously those of you that still use an Openreach VDSL modem for FTTC, which currently represents a significant proportion of those on the service, may find it more difficult to secure a replacement or could face a hefty charge if Openreach’s own kit starts to fail.

Admittedly Openreach can’t support such hardware forever, but stopping support without a fair sunset period and while it’s still possible to take a Managed Install isn’t exactly going to win hearts and minds. ISPreview.co.uk has already contacted Openreach for a comment and we are awaiting their response.

UPDATE 11:17am

The issue reported above seems to be resonating with other ISPs because two more have just emailed in to agree with Adrian’s position.

UPDATE 1:15pm

We’re slowly learning from other ISPs that there is a secondary problem with Openreach’s approach, which is with regards to the difficulty of getting a modem/router of their own approved by Openreach for use with PCP-Only. So far only the largest ISPs seem to be having much luck and no device manufacturer themselves have managed to get their kit through.

Apparently there has been an influx of suppliers trying to get their CPEs tested and approved, which has added further delays into the process (we’re talking several months). On top of that any new firmware update then requires the modem/router to be put through the same process again before it can be approved, which adds to the delays.

Privately we’re told that BT admits the standards are too high, although it’s not clear if they plan to do anything about that. We’re still waiting for a comment from BTOpenreach.

UPDATE 1:21pm

Another ISP, Evolving Networks, has just chimed in to add their comment.

Nic Elliott, Evolving Networks Technical Director, said:

Ever since FTTC was launched in the UK, Evolving Networks have been investigating ways of getting more access to the information on each FTTC circuit, in order to monitor and manage them for our customers effectively. We already do this through our monitoring and analytics platform eView Live for all ADSL services, so that problems with sync rate and SNR margin can be identified automatically, and then fixed.

This level of proactive management and visibility of the frequency spread on each line has been invaluable to us when fixing underlying circuit faults on our bonded internet connections.

With the situation as it is now with Openreach and CPE approval, even though we are testing a well-known brand of modem it looks like we won’t be able to get a device approved for at least a year, maybe more.

Albeit the presence of an Openreach supplied modem means that the FTTC service is currently fully managed to the port on the device, it’s days are numbered, and no one but the largest ISPs will have the money and resources to supply their own devices, putting them at a significant advantage to small and medium sized ISPs.

We’re going to continue working with BT on testing, but we already have customers using our new modems after having replaced the supplied ECI or Huawei device, in order to integrate fully into our eView Live platform. If the CPE Enablement process continues as it is and withdrawal of support of the supplied devices goes ahead as planned, then we will be forced to roll out our devices regardless of the BT standard, in order to be able to fully support our customers.”

UPDATE 3rd October 2014

The official response from BT is given below.

A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

At their request, our CP customers now have the option to provide their own integrated modem and router into their customers’ homes and businesses, rather than relying on a separate Openreach modem. As a result, Openreach has been consulting with CPs on plans to withdraw the Openreach modem via industry forums throughout the summer.

We’re currently reviewing the feedback from that consultation process, as we want to find a mutually agreeable timetable for withdrawal of the modems. However no decisions have been made yet. We are committed to working with our customers on this strategy, and to finding a plan that meets their needs and the needs of their customers, well into the future.

Meanwhile, BT Wholesale has not changed its Terms and Conditions, and it has no plans to at this stage.”

Openreach also touched on the issue of approved modem testing, which is currently being affected by significant delays and the good news is that they’re going to address this issue. “We have developed a dedicated test facility for these devices to make sure they’re compatible with the Openreach network and don’t inadvertently cause harm to other lines. Due to the success of the project, we’re now looking to increase the capacity of this test facility and aim to have an update on that by December,” said the spokesperson.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar david

    wouldn’t worry because fttc is aload of rubbish anyway not worth the hassel as bt cowboys haven’t a clue how it works .

    • Avatar GNewton

      Unfortunately, there are loads of VDSL lines in the UK, because of the lack of fibre broadband. Hence appropriate VDSL modems need to be supported by the ISPs.

    • Avatar adslmax

      I agree and further worse case some FTTC distance are much longer, DLM involved, and dreadful crosstalk.

  2. Avatar No Clue

    Does not shock me at all another cost cutting, fund raising, scam the customer act by Openreach.

  3. Avatar adslmax

    My FTTC start off in February 2014 was max rate of 113,000k and now down to 93,000k

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