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Openreach Delays Some UK Broadband Installs Due to COVID19

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021 (11:00 am) - Score 10,416

A touch of deja vu is in the air this morning after sources informed us that Openreach (BT) are now notifying UK ISPs that, due to the latest national COVID-19 lockdown measures, many new installs for their ultrafast broadband and some other products will have to be delayed to 1st March 2021 onwards.

Readers may recall that Openreach took a similarly difficult decision (here) to limit many of their new broadband and phone provisions (installs), repair jobs and engineer appointments on a “national basis” almost a year ago, during the first March 2020 lockdown, which was eventually lifted in June 2020 (here). None of this impacts tasks that don’t require an engineer to enter your home (e.g. switching between FTTC ISPs).

At the time the move was intended to protect both their engineers and customers from the then still rapidly increasing spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), although the more localised restrictions and mini-lockdowns since then don’t appear to have been nearly as disruptive.. until now.

However, this week saw the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announce a new lockdown in England to tackle the latest surge in COVID-19 cases. A national lockdown in Scotland was also announced just before this, with Wales and Northern Ireland both already in a similar position. As a result, ISPs have been seeking clarity from Openreach over how they would respond and now we know the answer.

Openreach’s Position

In a new statement the national network access provider recognises that the provision of critical national infrastructure is “key to keeping the UK connected” and for that reason their people are classified as “key workers” (it’s the same for all such network providers), which among other things means that they can still build their network and may continue to go into homes and businesses to undertake “essential work“.

However, Openreach has to keep the safety of both their customers and engineers in mind. On top of that they were “exposed to fluctuating resource availability” during the first lockdown. “It is with this in mind that we are taking action, further limiting our engineers’ time in homes and businesses and delaying non-urgent provision work – e.g. some broadband upgrades to ultrafast,” states Openreach in the notice to ISPs.

An Openreach Spokesperson said:

“Given the new national lockdown, and following government guidance, we’re updating our engineer processes to ensure we continue to keep our people and customers safe. As key workers, we’ll continue to conduct work outside the home.

Where we do need to go into homes, we’ll be prioritising urgent provisions and critical repairs for those customers who need a more stable connection and to avoid a total loss of service. This will mean that non-urgent provisions, such as those who already have a superfast broadband service and require us to work inside homes, may be delayed.

We’ll always aim to spend as little time inside homes as possible, whilst working safely with distancing, ventilation and PPE.”

Summary of the Changes

— As before, provision of home copper and superfast broadband products (e.g. FTTC, ADSL) will continue (most of these don’t require engineers to enter your home). Likewise, repairs will also continue, although they may only enter your home if it’s absolutely necessary, such as to resolve a total loss of service. However, unappointed FTTP orders (e.g. greenfield provisioning) will be unaffected by all this.

— New installs for ultrafast broadband products (FTTP, Gfast and SOGfast) will be pushed back to 1st March 2021 onwards, although an escalation process will be introduced to help tackle cases where the end customer has no existing broadband service or is receiving a service of less than 30Mbps (to help support home working and schooling).

— Many existing (inflight) orders will continue, except for those orders where the customer has an existing broadband service with Openreach above 30Mbps (these will also be delayed to 1st March onwards).

— In terms of Ethernet and business connectivity, they will adopt Amber working conditions. Engineers will generally try to avoid entering a property unless truly necessary, although they will make exceptions for essential businesses, particularly if safe access can be assured. Failing that, only external build to the curtilage will continue.

— The operator won’t do internal survey and network build work for FTTP brownfield MDUs (e.g. large apartment blocks), although they will continue to progress other FTTP build activities.

Openreach said that their engineers will continue to carry out a personal risk assessment for every install (asking people if they have COVID-19 symptoms etc.) and maintain the current safety guidelines. The announcement will no doubt cause some frustration to both ISPs and consumers alike, although at the same time most people will understand why it’s necessary.

We will update against once the operator has issued us with their public statement.

UPDATE 12:47pm

We’ve added Openreach’s statement above.

Leave a Comment
47 Responses
  1. ABroadbandswitcher says:

    I wonder how this will affect people switching between Openreach ISPs

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      See the update above.

    2. Mags says:

      What does it mean if you’ve already got an FTTP connection and are moving to a new ISP? I presume that isn’t impacted given you don’t need an engineer visit.

    3. John says:

      Correct Mags

  2. LT says:

    Hopefully the escalation process works. They are going to start running FTTP into my street next week. Having languished at the end of a mile of aluminium cable for years I was looking forward to finally being able to get shot of that. As I fall well under the 30Mbps threshold I should be able to still get an engineer fingers crossed.

    1. Roger says:

      The ground work in my area carried on during the first lockdown, so this should be the same, I would think.

    2. John says:

      The ground work carried on pretty much everywhere during the 1st lockdown.
      That work will continue during this lockdown.

      It’s getting the final bit installed after ordering that is the issue.

    3. Aled says:

      What do they have to update in the street to provide FTTP?

      We are in a FTTC area (Brentford/Isleworth/Hounslow), but I was wondering what the specific change is to allow FTTP? They seem to be mainly running the copper on telephone posts along the street, down along the housing and in. Would they need to dig up the road and replace the cabinets?

      Or do I have to wait until someone accidentally crashes a van into the cabinet, so they replace with new?

      I could do with a punchy upgrade from 55mb to 200+.

    4. John says:

      If someone crashed in to the cabinet then they would replace the cabinet like for like.
      It takes months and months to roll out FTTP to every address on a cabinet.
      It takes days to replace a damaged cabinet.
      FTTP wouldn’t be an option for a damaged cabinet.

      If your current copper feed comes by pole then FTTP will almost certainly come by pole also.

      They only need to dig to repair blocks ducts or full ducts or in areas where lines are directly buried.

      The cabinet plays no role in the vast majority of FTTP rollouts.
      The fibre will come from an Aggregation Node that’s underground, that already serves your FTTC cabinet.

    5. Phil cole-wilde says:

      30mb ? That’s enough to live on. I get 10mb – count yourself lucky -jeez

  3. Jamie Simms says:

    Hopefully they will be able to redeploy the engineers to get out and do more FTTP preparation work installing spline cabling and unblocking ducts .

    Last lockdown was a bit of joke for engineers our local closed leisure centre car park had 3 or 4 OR vans there each day from 10:00 until 15:00 they just sat on their vans or standing around chatting some even got their stools out to be comfortable .

    1. Gavin says:

      I was wondering if this will help with FTTP works too. I think during the last lockdown the pace of FTTP passing increased slightly. So hopefully the same will happen.

    2. Pezza says:

      As I don’t have much hope of getting FTTP, being on an Open Reach FTTC and no other providers currently interested in my area, I also hope it may allow engineers to work in 5G installations, although obviously from different companies to Open Reach, unless they have to connect the cells to the backbone I’m guessing?

    3. John says:

      Your observations of engineers standing around for the majority of their shift during the 1st lockdown is the opposite of my experience.

      Amazing how all those lazy OpenReach engineers actually increased the pace of the rollout during lockdown.

  4. Pezza says:

    Seems sensible enough, they are just understandably reducing any need to enter peoples homes. This will affect some for new connections, but overall I’d imagine that number will be small.

  5. Sam says:

    So switching from one Fttc isp to another fttc isp wont be affected. I supposed to be moving from ee to bt Tuesday?

    1. Martin Pitt - Aquiss says:

      Yup, transfers are fine and will continue as no engineer is required.

  6. Tom says:

    I’m hoping my FTTP install at the start of Feb will go ahead because my appointment was already confirmed, and reading about the 1st lockdown people with appointments generally still went ahead and it was new orders that wouldn’t be dealt with until a later period.

    I currently get about 39 Mbps via FTTC so I wouldn’t be a priority in that regard.

    1. John says:

      Going by the above it should be postponed.
      Your should prepare for it to be postponed.

      As you said many in flight orders progressed last lockdown but the advise and is very different this time round.

    2. Tom says:

      For now all I’m going to do is prepare for it to go ahead on time, because that is all I can prepare for unless I am contacted and told otherwise.

      The Openreach statement just states “may be delayed”, and although I’m a new install I’m not brand new install as this appointment has been confirmed for nearly 3 weeks, so it all depends on how you read the ISP notice above.

  7. Scottie says:

    Think everyone needs to remember- this is an action Openreach or any other provider would hate to make. No provision means lost revenues, but safety of you the customer and the poor engineer who needs to enter your home ( whilst their family worry sick about that ) hoping to god they don’t pick up something on their travels is paramount!
    If you have broadband today and can survive a few more months they give them a break and try and avoid being too selfish.

  8. Stewart B says:

    After living where I am for the last 30 months, in December last year I was able to order FTTP.

    The timeline was:
    23rd March 2020 – Openreach website changed to “[FTTP] is coming to your area soon.”

    That got delayed again and again until, in November, the contractors started deploying the fibre optic cables in my street.

    Orders for FTTP for us went live on 9th December. Earliest date they could give me was 7th January 2021.

    I received a text from BT this morning confirming the appointment. After reading this article I phoned them and they confirmed it was still going ahead.

    I’m in Northern Ireland so hopefully our Executive continues to dither for another 24 hours ☺️

    1. Paul K says:

      My install is on Monday (N.I. too). Just hoping it remains.

    2. Stewart B says:

      If you like I can come back here tomorrow and update whether or not the installation went ahead?

    3. Paul K says:

      Stewart, please that would be good. See if you can find out if they will be continuing with many more here. They have done my first external work (not on my house) from the order i placed on 30th December. Hopefully that means my install is already started. Thanks.

    4. Paul K says:

      edit, order was placed on 17th Dec, External work was done on 30th.

    5. Stewart B says:

      Will do, Paul. Engineer appointment is between 1300 and 1800, I’ll ask about installations next week if he arrives and update you either way.

    6. DC says:

      Yes please let us know. Thank you

    7. Stewart B says:

      Well, this has been a disappointing day. Got a text and email from BT this morning saying the engineer would be out today, including a phone number for contact.

      I phoned the engineer to see if they could firm up a time, he said he was stuck at another job that would likely take him all day and he informed his manager. Didn’t hear anything for a few hours, phoned the engineer again and he tells me that, if I don’t get below a certain download speed already, all they can do is work external to the property.

      I can apparently expect a phone call or email sometime to rearrange for March, since I’m currently getting what BT consider “superfast” speeds (35Mbps download in my case).

      So it looks like ISP Review was more up to date than some of the staff at BT until today. Can’t lie, bit gutted

    8. Paul K says:

      Oh no. I’m gutted for you and not hopeful for Monday.

    9. Stewart B says:

      Cheers Paul, I’ll try to stay strong. For science.

    10. Stewart B says:

      No one will probably see this but Openreach called me on Saturday 30th January and said they’d be out on Tuesday to complete work external to the property.

      They phoned again on Monday 1st February to say they were planning on completing the full install. I’m now in FTTP and it feels… Epic!

  9. david robson says:

    Schoolchildren and adults are being asked to work from home. Where several members of a family are home working/schooling they need a stable high speed uplink and downlink.

    Tradespeople are working in homes to fix and install boilers etc as a matter of course with care so why do openreach think that their essential service can be delayed for 2 months?

    A disgraceful abuse of a monopoly position if that is the case.

    1. The Facts says:

      ‘monopoly’ for less than 50%

    2. Peach says:

      Read the article, anything below 30mbps looks like the installs will continue

  10. Duncan Chen says:

    I have gfast booked in for next Tues, switching from BT to Talktalk. If the switch doesnt go ahead because no engineer, will BT cut my connection as they have been informed that the 12th is the switch date? I cannot be left with no internet.

  11. WonkoTheSaneUK says:

    I can confirm that outdoor work for FTTP installs is still proceeding normally.

    My town is undergoing this work right now and engineers are all over town clearing blocked ducts & pole bases, before the fibre is “blown in” to them.

  12. Ablash says:

    Great to hear that OR are looking after their staff, I work for Virgin Media and I’m forced to go into homes for non essential work like adding a 3rd TV box or relocating equipment. Will be applying for a job as soon as one comes avalible!

  13. Genuine Telecoms Worker says:

    I think it’s great that all UK Telecoms companies are balancing the safety of us technicians and our customers. I work with Virgin and we have had loads of messages and briefings from day one of this pandemic that any entry to any house is at our own discretion via a risk assessment of the situation. I also get the chance to precall my customers before I arrive to start that risk assessment. I also believe all Virgin customers get a text message a day or two before to check no one in the house has any virus symptoms. We also get all the right type of safety kit to use too. Unlike some other posters this is Factual across the entire virgin tech workforce as we are all an in-house workforce who now work directly for Virgin, they actually brought all of us onboard at the start of the pandemic and I’m so grateful that happened! I’d hate to have been still contracting through the past year….well done Virgin Media for doing that.
    I’m just so pleased to be in a job that is untouched by this worldwide virus and that I see makes such a difference to my friends and family who are locked down. So hats off to all Telecoms workers and other key workers…..lets keep it real and stay positive.

  14. Doug says:

    Hi – We are taking over new shop premises, the store was gutted by previous tennants – I have found a damaged DP box but no sign of any phone sockets (it was gutted down to the brickwork !! – Do you think i have any chance of getting an FTTP install in the near future ? – or even an FTTC ??? – If anyone has any inside info on how these jobs are now being scheduled in lockdown ?? – Thanks (Both FTTP & FTTC technically possible according to postcode checkers etc)

  15. Paul says:

    I have just tried to upgrade to fibre as we have just had it confirmed it is available.My wife is a secondary school teacher and my son is schooling from home. As you can imagine, at 5mb/s it is a struggle. I have upgraded today and been told that it will be connected towards the middle of APRIL? That contradicts the statement above, and there is no way of contacting anybody directly to question this.

  16. David says:

    Hello, I don’t have any broadband and in a poor mobile data area but have managed up to now, till its now time for home schooling online. So signed up to Sky yesterday and they said i will get online in the middle of April!
    Its min 50 mn superfast I bought.
    Any advice please all?
    I will phone up but good to know the reasons for my case are clear. No b.b now and starting home school online and my work. Not ultrafast fibre. Across the road from the green bt box.
    No coronavirus or flu like symptoms.

  17. Keith says:

    Interesting that Virgin Media have written to customer’s giving the option of breaking their contract early in response to price rises, providing they do so before Feb 26th. When I contacted ISPs about moving to a G-FAST connection (no FTTP here yet), a mandatory engineer visit would mean an installation in early April. VMs offer now seems less attractive – coincidence?

  18. Allan says:

    I have an appt booked since December For Feb 12. I have FTTC but the speeds are far from ‘super fast’ talking 18mbps. Even the openreach estimate is under 30. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. I would say the openreach guys worked bloody hard round outs last lockdown putting all the ducting and FTTP in. Took them weeks! They most certainly were not just sitting in their vans!

  19. Stokie says:

    Has there been any update on when they will start doing in home installs again, the article Mentions March 1st – have they Openreach restarted in home installs now? The OR engineers pulled a fibre cable from the street chamber to outside my front door last week but, as it stands, it’s 9 weeks until they are due to do the internal provisioning. (All the Infastructure in the street is live so it’s just the internals I am waiting on)

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      I’ve seen a few FTTP installs occurring, but there will of course be a backlog of orders that need clearing before things return to normal. But I haven’t had any indication of further pauses on the relevant areas of work, so can’t be sure.

    2. James B says:

      Mark Jackson, can you try to find out? I called last week and was basically told ‘we won’t know till the day whether it can go ahead or not (for a week today)’. I have 75mb just now but have been waiting since November to get FTTP put in. External work was done 6 weeks ago. Surely people that have been waiting for months should be prioritised for rebooking at least.

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