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Openreach Delay SOGEA Broadband and Prep FTTC Price Cut

Monday, December 23rd, 2019 (2:32 pm) - Score 7,352

Openreach (BT) has delayed the launch of their Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA / SOGFast) product, which enables UK people to buy a standalone FTTC (VDSL2 or G.fast) broadband ISP line without the analogue voice (phone), due to a concern over failure rates. The 40Mbps FTTC tier is also due another price cut.

At present most consumers on Openreach’s national copper based network must buy their phone service alongside line rental and then broadband is optionally added on top (most ISPs seamlessly bundle the two together by default). However SOGEA enables providers to sell a physical line just for broadband (i.e. not everybody needs a fixed voice line today), with voice thus moving to an Internet Protocol (IP) / VoIP based solution as an optional product.

A number of ISPs, such as Sky Broadband, already have SOGEA based products as part of an Early Market Deployment (EMD). The nationwide roll-out of “full fibre” (FTTP) networks will eventually also make analogue phone services extinct (old analogue phone services to be withdrawn in 2025) and so solutions like SOGEA are often seen as a necessary stepping stone on a longer term migration path.

NOTE: SOGEA does NOT make broadband-only connections significantly cheaper vs broadband & phone bundles because you still need the same copper line. Only a tiny amount of the delivery cost sits with the voice side that goes over the top of this.

Under the current plan SOGEA was due to get its full commercial launch (end of the EMD period) on 31st January 2020 but Openreach has today confirmed that they’ve recently “seen a rising trend in Early Life Failures” (e.g. if a fault occurs within the first 30 days). By the sounds of it one of the issues may have been ineffective consumer education about the change to VoIP, which has different pros and cons (e.g. the phone must be plugged into an ATA box or router, not any old wall socket).

Openreach Statement

After investigating the causes of this rise, we have decided to hold the launch, to give us time to collaborate with CPs and help reduce the ELF rate.

We believe that through collaboration with CPs we will be able to swiftly reduce the ELF rate to sustainable levels by:

— Making improvements in point of sale validation by CPs – ensuring that all end customers are fully aware that their voice service is changing to VoIP (or digital), that they understand the different characteristics of the new service and how to get the best use from it.

— Ensuring that end customers understand the changes in home setup – particularly around the removal of extension wiring and the need to plug their phone into the hub.

— Improving the first-line fault reception such that CP agents can correctly identify CP voice issues and resolve those rather than raising costly LTOK faults resulting in unnecessary superfast visit assure charges.

We will reassess the product performance and the ELF rate over the next month with the aim to notify the launch of SOGEA in January 2020, subject to making improvements.

Thankfully the delay is not huge and the tentative plan right now is to launch SOGEA on 1st March 2020. Openreach has separately announced an update to their existing special offer on new SOGEA installs, which between 1st February 2020 and 31st July 2020 will see the price of a Standard Managed installation set at £92 +vat (Standard price £105) and a Premium install at £112 (Standard price £125).

Speaking of discounts, Openreach has now notified of another wholesale price reduction to their 40Mbps (10Mbps upload) Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) service tier, which in accordance with Ofcom’s regulation will drop the annual rental from £61.51 to £59.97 (doesn’t include any of the costs that ISPs have to add on top for network, VAT, profit, features etc.). We don’t expect ISPs to pass such a small saving on to consumers.

Finally, Openreach has also today announced the 31st January 2020 launch of their new 1Gbps Street Access product, which delivers Ethernet data connectivity to street furniture (lampposts, CCTV poles etc.) and could be useful for various things (boosting WiFi hotspots, 4G / 5G mobile, connectivity for smart kiosks etc.).

Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Avatar Jonny

    What happened to the various voice reinjection master sockets that were being proposed at some point?

    • They’re one of the Faceplate options on the NTE5C master socket. But houses often also have lots of extensions, which can’t fit such a faceplate.

    • Avatar Rob

      CP’s aren’t ordering the VRI product but also aren’t being clear with end users about the pro’s and con’s of SOGEA.

  2. Avatar Kevin M

    Is that really the problem? I dot think so. Looking at the chatter in the market. I think it is more to do with Engineers in the network robbing pairs to satisfy subsequent provision and repair orders and putting an electrical line test on a SOGEA pair – seeing no activity on the SOGEA pair, they then re-terminate it for another service taking the SOGEA customer out of service.

    • Avatar kekkle

      This happened when I had an MPF connection on the now defunct Digital Region network in Sheffield. As it was broadband only an engineer that was provisioning another customer at the DSLAM assumed my pair was free to use as the phone line wasn’t in use and disconnected me to connect up another house.

    • Avatar Specc

      Its an issue.

      I think robbing is a bit harsh, its poor education and need to change the way of working. Tbh they’re daft not putting ant conditions on the circuits, if only for an interim period. Absolutely no wonder they’re going missing especially as they’re relatively rare. If you unplug the modem there’s almost no way to tell its an actual working service.

    • Avatar William

      Being a ex openreach engineer myself, we are told not just to test for battery when searching for a new pair up the pole or in the cabinet, but to hook up our test equipment and use the service detect option that tests for digital services as well as pstn/battery. It’s the contractors like Kelly’s a s quinns, that dont have test equipment like a jdsu who mistakenly use a digital line as they cant test for any digital service on that pair. If the database says pair x is spare up the pole or in a cabinet when the job is raised, they use it!

  3. Avatar Anthony

    William just raised an issue saying that he is ex Bt and that it is Kelly’s and Quinn’s fault most of the time! Which is a load of rubbish! As a Quinn’s engineer I can say that Bt open reach engineers never make mistakes do they? Or they never rob pairs to make their jobs easier do they? They just like to pass the blame

    • Avatar sharpied79

      Sorry Anthony, I agree with William and I’m neither a BT or Quinn or Kelly’s engineer (or ex for that matter)

      Had a number of issues with new line installs recently and always with a Quinn or Kelly engineer, Openreach had to come in after to fix their mess.

      At least the Openreach guys turn up with a JDSU/HST 3000 (or similar) tester and actually know how to use them to diagnose and fix a fault, with Quinn or Kelly engineers you are lucky if they even turn up with a Krone punch down tool and because they have targets of a ridiculous amount of jobs to complete in one day, they do the least amount possible to “bodge” in the line and service and bugger off without even bothering to test or check with the customer.

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