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New UK Broadband ISP Switching System to be Delayed AGAIN

Wednesday, Dec 13th, 2023 (3:43 pm) - Score 6,280
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The industry-led One Touch Switching Company (TOTSCo), which is responsible for implementing Ofcom’s already heavily delayed One Touch Switch (OTS) system for broadband ISPs and consumers who want to change provider, has today warned that their revised plan to introduce it from 14th March 2024 is “no longer achievable“.

Back in 2021 Ofcom set a deadline of 3rd April 2023 for UK ISPs to implement OTS, which expands the existing Gaining Provider Led (GPL) migration system (i.e. you contact your new provider and the switch is handled automatically) to work across lots of other networks (the old one was mostly focused on Openreach based providers) and to action switches within just 1 day “where technically possible“, instead of 10.

However, that deadline came and went (here), which is something we’ve covered extensively several times before (here, here and here). Needless to say, the delays were, in our opinion, a collective mix of both industry and regulator failings. Ofcom may like to place the bulk of blame for all this at the industry’s feet, although in our view there was a lack of regulatory leadership too between 2021 and 2022 (i.e. like expecting cats to herd themselves). But we’re not going to repeat our previous articles today.

The first sign of good news came in August 2023, when TOTSCo said that it was “essential for all parties to focus their planning on a common [launch] date” and, to that effect, they set a “planned go-live date” of Thursday 14th March 2024 (here). At the time TOTSCo said they believed that this date struck an achievable balance between ISPs who feel that the date should be earlier, and those who will need to re-plan to achieve it.

The bad news today is that TOTSCo are now warning that the March 2024 date is “no longer achievable” and we can only imagine the sound as Ofcom hits the roof.

TOTSCo Statement

Since announcing the planned One Touch Switch (OTS) go-live date of 14 March 2024, industry engagement has increased significantly with over 130 users having now onboarded to the TOTSCo hub.

However, fewer than 20 users have connected to the hub to start integration testing. In addition, experience shows that establishing this connection can take some time, highlighting the need for all users to start their testing journeys as early as possible.

Last week, some larger CPs informed us that there is now insufficient time to complete industry-wide testing and trials before the planned go-live date. Regrettably therefore, we must acknowledge that the 14 March 2024 target is no longer achievable.

We feel that it is imperative to work to a plan date. We will work with industry to determine a revised date, which we will communicate along with a comprehensive set of frequently asked questions as soon as possible.

We shot a quick query off to Ofcom and, needless to say, they’re not very happy and appear to single out the biggest broadband providers (although there are hundreds of other ISPs and networks in this market). A spokesperson for the regulator told ISPreview: “This further delay is wholly unacceptable. We are demanding answers from BT, [Sky Broadband], TalkTalk and Virgin Media O2 and will not hesitate to use the full force of our enforcement powers on behalf of customers who have been waiting far too long for a simpler way of switching.”

The strong threat of enforcement action is likely to help concentrate minds, although it may not be enough to change the technical realities involved and the need for extensive testing to take place. The big question now is how much longer will we have to wait before OTS is finally introduced, but we probably won’t have to wait too long for an answer.

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Mark-Jackson
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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Comments
21 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Craig says:

    https://www.linkedin.com/posts/craigbrass_could-the-purpose-of-one-touch-switching-activity-7048980023101284352-spmG is as true today as when I wrote it earlier this year.

    Require online cancellations for all providers and instant cancellation (including prepaid refunds) for those out of contract.

    Much simpler for providers to implement on their own systems. And more importantly meaning the smaller operators can comply using a simple form they manually process without massive costs of OTS integration.

    If / when this does get launched I fear I may be proved right about it failing during operation due to old services being cancelled before new services working and customers being left without internet. See above link for what I mean.

    1. Avatar photo Andrew says:

      That won’t happen though…. do you know how difficult the ISP’s make it to leave, it’s near impossible. You can upgrade your package online, but downgrading is not possible unless you call in

    2. Avatar photo Craig says:

      @Andrew if a simple cancellation page was in the general conditions they would have no choice. Plus based on how complicated implementing one touch switching has become, I think most providers of all sizes would prefer this approach…

  2. Avatar photo OTS enthusiast says:

    Ofcom’s hands off approach 2 years ago is at the root of this. Sky and BT in particular have been chucking loads of resource and money at the combined industry effort to get this up and running. The problem has been persuading people to test the system which has been built. Until people think there will be consequences for not getting this up and running nothing will change.

    1. Avatar photo Jack says:

      Most broadband suppliers are very small and don’t have the expertise, manpower or budgets to integrate with TOTSCO’s hub. It’s an incredibly complex procedure. They will rely on third party solutions (TOTSCO call them Managed Access Providers (MAPS)) to do it for them, especially as most of their CRM providers will have let them down by failing to integrate.

      Unfortunately most of the MAPs are still spinning up their solutions or have only just begun to prep them for resale so there is basically no possible route for hundreds of providers to become compliant by March. It’s not that everyone has been sitting on their hands, but that Ofcom are forcing a change with no understanding of the requirements to meet it or the implications – and no willingness to listen when presented with the scale of the endeavour.

      Multiple suppliers are not going to be able to meet the costs of becoming compliant and will cease trading. Others will pass on the rather large developement costs – costs that have absolutely no potential for ROI – to customers.

      It it, in short, an omnishambles of Ofcom’s making.

    2. Avatar photo Craig says:

      @Jack I integrated 8 providers following acquisitions where I worked. 3 with ~1000 customers still used spreadsheets to manage customers. It’s why in 2021 when OTA (office of telecoms adjudicator) was running process I said a small providers portal for providers with less than 10k customers developed with hub. Allow these providers a minimum monthly upload of their data to reply automatically thus allowing small providers a simple way to comply without it being too costly for them. They could keep using their spreadsheets then if they liked!

  3. Avatar photo Kris Lord says:

    The whole system just seems a pointless waste of time and money.

    If im swapping to an alternate network I order that, wait until it’s installed and cancel my current service. Job done.

    Creating easy migration routes when they are technically not a migration is the underlying cause of this mess.

    They should have just enforced fast switching when going Openreach to Openreach or between cityfibre ISPs.

    1. Avatar photo 125us says:

      That won’t work in areas of high demand. The same lineplant has to be used in each case.

    2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      That is what I did when I went from Openreach FTTC network to Zzoomm. if I ever changed back, I would do the same thing again.

      Not that I am planning to now, can’t be bothered to go through the hassle of having another FTTP network installed.

  4. Avatar photo Dave says:

    So I have Cityfibre & Openreach with different ISP’s, what happens if I want to change my ISP on my Openreach connection and the new ISP can provide over either, who makes the choice? The new ISP would probably go down the cheapest route ie Cityfibre, and therefore the wrong line gets messed up.

    1. Avatar photo Craig says:

      That would be a commercial decision for the ISP and nothing to do with OTS. They would submit the requests based on which wholesaler they have chosen.

    2. Avatar photo Dave says:

      That may well be the case but that doesn’t stop it all going wrong for people with two lines over different networks. Im sure a phone call would sort things out I guess.

    3. Avatar photo Craig says:

      Oh sorry Dave I misread your post. This will be down to implementation by the losing and gaining provider but the ISP I was working for implementing this basically didn’t match unless there was one unique match so in this case it would fail. As both are under same account and have same account number.

  5. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

    No need to merely imagine the sound of Ofcom hitting the roof. Just get yourself an out of date and very soggy lettuce, throw it up. Your manky lettuce colliding with the ceiling will result in the same ineffectual noises as we’ll get from Ofcom, it will also produce the same unproductive outcomes for telecoms consumers as further Ofcom involvement.

    1. Avatar photo Ben says:

      Totally agree. OFCOM as aren’t saying what action they will take, and I’m pretty sure it will be a strongly worded letter at the most. Nobody takes them seriously anymore.

    2. Avatar photo ISP User says:

      Couldn’t agree more with Ben…letters words nothing more. It is going to be the same until Ofcom actually decide to govern on any of these points (one touch switching, Use of “Fibre” in Advertising, midcontract price rising). The language they use sounds to the voter that they are governing dig one inch below and they are the softest regulator out there.

  6. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    I’ve seen hens with more teeth than ofcom. Total waste of space.

  7. Avatar photo Jack says:

    One Touch Switch = Ofcom’s Rwanda Policy. They need to have a good rethink and walk it back. There are too many services, resellers, wholesalers and networks for it to work. Which, by the way, is exactly the environment Ofcom have been promoting for decades. It’s a bit rich for them to look in despair at what they have wrought and tell the thousands of stakeholders involved to sort it out themselves. OTS is unworkable and unacheivable without complete industry standardisation and automation which could take years and, frankly, will be impossible for many smaller providers. A huge, pointless, and very expensive distraction that needs to end.

    1. Avatar photo Craig says:

      The Rwanda policy is likely slightly more workable and think the flights will start before One Touch Switching gets going…

  8. Avatar photo Fred says:

    I mean it took them a decade to actually rule that if you were calling something fibre then it had to be 100% fibre, I have no faith they will ever deliver this

  9. Avatar photo sam church says:

    Just sums up the whole telecoms industry.

Comments are closed

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