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How Not to Fix an Address Problem – Openreach’s Comical Gaffe

Sunday, January 23rd, 2022 (12:01 am) - Score 5,520
confused uk consumer

Openreach made a somewhat comical gaffe this week after they told an end-user, who lives in a copper “stop sell” area and was trying to order a Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband service, that the best way to resolve a problem with getting his UK address recognised was to “place an order for a telephone service only“.

The network operator is currently knee-deep into the process of slowly moving the UK from analogue phone to IP based voice services. At the same time, they’re also embarking on the gradual transition away from older copper to full fibre (FTTP) broadband lines. As part of this, some areas have already imposed a “stop sell” on copper services to new customers (i.e. past this point you can only take a fibre service, not copper).

Nevertheless, it appears as if at least some parts of Openreach have yet to fully adapt to this change, which last week resulted in one customer’s awkwardly amusing experience when trying to resolve an issue with their address.

The customer in this case, who shall remain anonymous (we’ll call him Bob) and is an end-user of the aptly named broadband provider ‘Internet Services‘, is currently living in one of Openreach’s early “copper stop sell” locations, where FTTP has now become available. Bob moved his phone line to a VoIP solution some years ago and now wanted to order a 1Gbps broadband package.

However, BT Wholesale rejected the ISPs’ first attempt to process this order due to an “unknown” issue, although both BTW and Openreach later claimed that it was because, for some reason Bob’s address “did not exist“, which is despite it having a GOLD Network Address Database (NAD) key (ALK).

NOTE: A Gold NAD key, which is usually enough for an FTTP order, indicates that an address is or has been historically served by Openreach or has a pre-designed association to an Openreach network. The key takes the form of A00000000000.

The ISP then put in a request via BTW for an “ORDI robot” records check, which was rejected because the customer no longer had a copper PSTN line – having moved to VoIP several years ago. “In frustration,” said Virgil Turner from Bob’s ISP, “our client attempted to contact Openreach directly, and to our astonishment received the following email reply.”

Openreach’s Letter to Bob

Hello ****** **********,

Thanks for getting in touch with us about the issues you are having ordering fibre broadband for your premises.

I’m sorry you’re having problems placing an order for broadband service.

I can see that your address is already registered with Royal Mail. This means that your Service Provider just needs to place an order for a telephone service only. If they have any problems placing your order ask them to contact us directly and we’ll be able to assist them.

Once the line is active and the records have been updated on our systems, you should then be able to check for fibre availability via our website below using your postcode: click here and your provider will be able to place an order for broadband on the line.

If you need to contact us further please use the following link, as the email account I’m writing to you from doesn’t accept replies. [link]

Kind regards,

Pranjal Shukla
FTTP new sites infrastructure solutions

Suffice to say, telling somebody like Bob in a “copper stop sell” area, and with a VoIP solution for his phone service, to “place an order for a telephone service only” with their ISP may not be the best advice 🙂 , and perhaps suggests that Openreach still needs to update some of their messaging and processes in order to reflect the rapidly changing market. We did ask Openreach for a comment, but they have yet to provide one.

As a side note, we’ve yet to see any Openreach based ISPs launch a broadband-based IP voice replacement for landline-only phone users via the low bandwidth 0.5Mbps FTTP tier (details). However, it’s possible that an ISP may have launched such a solution and simply didn’t tell us, so we’re happy to be proven wrong. In any case, the transition from copper to fibre remains one that still has a few rough edges.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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21 Responses
  1. Bob says:


  2. HR2Res says:

    That’s one Heller of a story.

  3. Meadmodj says:

    It is not clear in this case what BB product “Bob” is currently using. If FTTC then clearly it is simply the records checked by BTW are incorrect and both OR/BTW should be cross referencing.

    However I can see a scenario where if a person has used an alternative provider (say VM, Altnet or mobile BB) for some years and the copper feed to the property has been removed, reused, or other, it may in some cases not be included in any OR FTTP activity. Therefore it would require a “new” install and at that stage the relevant technology at that location would be considered.

    To be clear here OR has no obligation to provide broadband and the Customers relationship is with the ISP not OR.

    However under the BT obligation for telephony OR would be obliged to provide a service for voice which could be PSTN or VoBB which would draw on additional funding from other budgets (say BT USO). As far as I am aware BT Consumer are the only ISP to offer a Voice only product with an installation charge of around £140 which is often waved if the customer takes BB at the same time.

    OR would not be allowed to explicitly recommend BT as the ISP in any communication although in practice that currently would be the only choice for the customer as other ISPs do not offer Voice Only and would probably not fund the engineering cost of a new line (copper or fibre). Therefore from the OR FTTP build team perspective, the letter could be correct.

  4. Openreach says:

    He could have input telephone number instead of post code here: https://www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband

    1. John says:

      He couldn’t. He doesn’t have an Openreach number. It was migrated to a VOIP provider years ago.
      The Openreach database will not recognise it.

    2. Meadmodj says:

      There is obviously more history here. SOGEA was only introduced around September 2019 although some ISPs previously offered broadband without a PSTN service.

  5. zzing says:

    On a more serious note Mark, it seems that changing an address that’s already served and updating details in Openreach (and other alt nets) is impossible.

    My issue is that my Flat identifier has been wrong or different in just about every database. Changing this is futile.

    Legally, the Land Registry is the master database, while Royal Mail PAF is the master of postcodes. Yet it’s the council that is the most important database to change. I have got Royal Mail and the council changed to be consistent with the LR, and this was actually no problem and done over 2 years ago.

    I was still frustrated to see that any ISP whether using Openreach or not still has the wrong address. It turns out they use yet another database operated by Ordnance Survey, called GeoPlace, which provide the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN). GeoPlace rely on council address data and despite updating my address with the council it turned out the council failed to notify GeoPlace until I queried it. GeoPlace is now corrected but the fact is neither the council nor GeoPlace are ‘master databases’. The fault lies with the DCMS mandating the use of GeoPlace and not the main Royal Mail or Land Registry data.

    Alt nets and Openreach are supposed to use GeoPlace data. Yet none of them have updated their databases because the UPRN hasn’t changed, and therefore it is:

    1. A lie for ISPs to state that Royal Mail is the database to change
    2. There is absolutely no process for changing addresses in DCMS or ISP data
    3. Getting my ISP to do this requires re-ordering and paying to install a new line.

    Really rather shambolic.

    1. Meadmodj says:

      Explains why they all have 16 properties in my road instead of 15. The non-existent one has been used for fraudulent activity in the past and has found its way into the database without Council Tax etc resulting in outstanding debt being registered to others. Addresses are important.

      However OR should know where their D side is and which ones are being used.

    2. Meadmodj says:

      Applies to VM too.

    3. zzing says:

      @Meadmodj – if GeoPlace has that address marked with a UPRN on https://www.findmyaddress.co.uk/, and it’s not actually an address, then you should advise https://www.geoplace.co.uk/contact – they’ll check with the council and ensure the database is up to date.

    4. MilesT says:

      And then there is the issue of “informal” addresses being officially registered in geoplace and elsewhere, to enable homeless people to be registered with GP and similar serviced. Or a generic regional or “national” homeless address.

      A number of key IT systems in that space require a valid postcode to complete registration.

      Another workaround is to register with the postcode of GP surgery, town hall or similar, which impacts statistical data quality in ways that are difficult to account for as there is a lack of uniformity.

  6. Jonny says:

    Gamma can supply the 0.5Mbps FTTP service, they use BT Wholesale.

  7. spurple says:

    Openreach has my address wrongly (wrong postcode) in their database despite it being correct on Royal Mail, and when I contacted them 2 years ago to correct it, I got a response which I couldn’t understand and follow-ups went unreplied.

    Luckily (or not in some people’s view), i have a faster service from virgin media who know my correct address so this hasn’t posed a problem for me

  8. ChrisD says:

    Firstly, where does the article mention that Bob contacted a call centre in India? Secondly, assuming you’re basing your comment on an interaction you once had with a call centre in India that didn’t go your way, is no reason to tar all call centres in an entire subcontinent with your xenophobic views. That’s the problem with Damien’s…. their comments are always racist.

  9. Steve says:

    The bigger problem here I feel isn’t the voice line provisioning, but actually a lack of coherent joined up outcome focusses. To use an example, my broadband with Virgin has been fine apart from the price so I’ve recently left. Due to various issues, it took over two dozen different contacts, most of the contacts happened with offshore based agents who failed to understand the issues and kept transferring me about. There was a lack of ownership and am inability to resolve problems.

    I worked for BT before Openreach was a division. The company started massive offshoring of key services in the early 2000s and it became such a problem they reversed many of the decisions, bringing back UK based call centres and staff.

    Offshore work isn’t necessarily a huge problem in itself if processes are robust and ownership is a driver; however, in the run to save money it feels examples like this perfectly demonstrate disjointed provision causes problems. These problems aren’t limited to telecoms. Recently I had an IT issue with a major brands whose customer service team was in India, repair team in Brazil and escalation team in Germany. It took probably 25 separate touch points before my issue was addressed and I’m still waiting a resolution.

    Going back to BT, given their profit margin it is pretty upsetting to know they have such poor processes, there is a feel of faint exploitation of their market and definite exploitation of staff based overseas.

  10. William Grimsley says:

    I remember when our address disappeared off the Openreach database just before FTTP went live! Thankfully, Openreach managed to sort it just in time, but it does make me wonder how many times this happens!

  11. Stu731@$$ says:

    Im having exactly the same issue, im on Royal mail, but I don’t appear on any of the address registers, when searching for alternate packages from other vendors, even though all my neighbors do!. WV6 area. I also had exactly the same response from open reach when I tried to sort it out. City fibre have just rolled out in our area and my current provider is VM.

  12. Guy Cashmore says:

    I had similar problems with the OR address database when trying to get a valid CFP quote, OR included two extra properties in the quote that have not existed for decades, getting them removed so the CFP funding application was valid delayed our scheme by many months.

  13. AdamG says:

    Try porting 40+ phone numbers from PSTN to BTIPex VoIP – Addresses really matter. A number port failed with Catherine’s in the address, removed the apostrophe and it went straight through!

    1. Lee says:

      How’s that quality of process going to scale up to 16 million residential numbers by 2025?

  14. Desmond says:

    Garbage in: garbage out. I used to use the online BT directory & Phonedisc enquiries a lot for work and there were multiple permutations such as A.B.C. / ABC / A.B.C / Aye Bee See and so forth. If the data are not input correctly it creates loads of problems.

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