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Ofcom Keep Close Tabs on TOTSCo’s Progress with Broadband Switching

Saturday, May 4th, 2024 (1:03 am) - Score 2,240
switching man broadband isp uk

The telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has formally served a statutory information request to check up on UK ISPs and progress in the One Touch Switching Company (TOTSCo), which is responsible for implementing the regulator’s heavily delayed One Touch Switch (OTS) migration system for faster consumer broadband ISP switching.

The new approach expands the existing Gaining Provider Led (GPL) migration system to work across alternative networks (the old system was mostly only focused on Openreach based providers) and to action switches within just 1 day instead of 10 days “where technically possible“. But that has required masses of internet providers to work together, and the development process has been a bit rocky.

NOTE: TOTSCo states that the ISPs currently participating in their system reflect a combined market-share of 97%.

TOTSCo are currently aiming for the new OTS system to go live on 12th September 2024 (here), which is over a year past its original launch date of April 2023. Ofcom have naturally made no secret of their frustration with the delays and previously singled out BT, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk and Virgin Media (VMO2) for not being able to complete the necessary testing and trials in a timely fashion (here).

Suffice to say that it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that the regulator has now served a statutory information request upon TOTSCo, which requires them to provide specified information pursuant to section 135 of the Communications Act 2003.

The exact details of this notice are confidential, but it is known that it “requires TOTSCo to provide Ofcom with information on the progress of [OTS] implementation, including measures of individual and aggregate [Communication Provider] activity in both the test and live hub environments” (i.e. roughly, how much progress is being made and who is playing catch-up).

The CEO of TOTSCo, Paul Bradbury, briefly acknowledged that the notice had been received during Friday’s blog post (here), while also highlighting a “significant milestone” after their “Industry Trial participants … successfully executed the first end-to-end One Touch Switches in the live environment. This achievement marks a crucial step forward in validating the OTS process as we prepare for go-live on 12 September.”

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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
12 Responses
  1. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

    How exactly can a switch be technically possible if ISPs insist that we use their routers?

    If I place an order in the morning and they manage to actually process this promptly, this still leaves me without a router to access their services unless I jump through hoops.

    Nobody wants a next day switch. What people want is the ability to arrange a switch in advance, much like you would when moving your mortgage to another lender.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Generally speaking, most ISPs should already be allowing you to select a switching date for the service to go live when you order, which will normally be in the future (especially as many new orders today will be first FTTP provisions). If your chose provider doesn’t, then just give them a call to sort it (this is usually an easy thing to do).

      The new OTS system reflects the process that occurs to facilitate that – dictated by your chosen switching date, so your downtime is minimised, and it’s worth remembering that you can often also use third-party routers with a lot of providers.

    2. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      One word. To keep you in the dark.

      Okay not exactly one word, however you get the point.

      It’s also for ISPs to make sure nothing “goes wrong” at the customers’ end which could be down to their own equipment instead of the ISPs when they give you that router.

    3. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      I’m not convinced.

      One day switching to me is what you get when switching mobile provider. What you describe is just the outgoing and incoming ISPs agreeing a date, which as you say is already in place on the OR network.

      If that is all that this is about, why is this being seen as some big change in the industry? It would be anything but. All it would be is a kick up the backside of altnets that font really facilitate this kind of thing.

      If you’re going from one network to another, a sensible person would be happy with overlapping service, so again this one day switch becomes irrelevant.

    4. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      Not one day switching, but one touch switching, it is already done if you are using a provider on the Open reach network and want to go to another one on the Openreach network.
      Certainly for ADSL and FTTC, you just get in contact with the ISP you want to move to and they will do the rest. I presume it is the same for FTTP.
      The difference with this new thing is that you can change from one network to another, so from Openreach to Virgin the same way.

      When I changed from Plusnet to Zzoomm, I had to have Zzoomm installed first before I cancelled Plusnet. With the new system in theory I would just be able to tell Zzoomm that I want to go with them and they would take care of canceling Plusnet.

      To be honest, I would not trust it, so even if it was up and running when I changed, I would have still had Zzoomm installed first. sure it cost me extra as i had to pay for another month of plusnet, but worth it.

  2. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    In the dial-up era it was possible to have accounts with several on-line services. You just selected the service you wanted and the modem would connect you. It’s a shame we can’t do this with broadband.

  3. Avatar photo Confused says:

    Is it not a little overcomplicated to create a new third party to run this, and then start raising s135s to tell them performance isn’t good enough?

    And that third party will have more challenges than Ofcom to drive change.

    What stopped Ofcom owning this from the start and driving the change more directly with service providers?

    1. Avatar photo Broadbandillian says:

      Describing totsco as a third party seems a bit inaccurate. Broadband companies created the entity themselves, sit on the board and it is only accountable to them.

  4. Avatar photo Gareth Davies says:

    This is another example of how regulation and Openreach combined have failed the UK Telecommunications industry.

    Five years ago I was Head of Product for Broadband Connectivity for a major retail ISP and we KNEW at this point that the OTS process would run late. There was insufficient industry alignment AND insufficient Regulatory pressure to make it happen.

    Overlaid on this, quite simply, Openreach had the football and were being particularly reticent about sharing it. They were under significant pressure to ramp up FTTP deployments despite not having a fully automated API for the order and management journeys in place.

    Because of the Openreach 112 volume deals, and the significant manual operations needed to achieve some of the Ultrafast targets (G.Fast or FTTP needed to meet that metric…..and G.Fast penetration limited, so manual FTTP was the way), ISP’s couldn’t invest time in the OTS capability without detracting from their 112 goals.

    The fundamental issue is that every ISP has archaic systems, linked to provider archaic systems…..until a regulatory mandate forces systems and architectures, we end up with a least cost implementation that suits the incumbent’s, not the consumer.

    Ofcom played around with ODI rather than forcing it through….which may have at the very least forced ISP’s to adopt more coherent data architectures.

  5. Avatar photo Polariss says:

    Sky are actively trialling OTS now. They wont fix the issue of not being to move from G.Fast to FTTP/C. The team behind that wants 700k at least (Legacy OSS/BSS systems) so the Sky solution is to stop selling G.Fast instead which is a shame really.

  6. Avatar photo techbloke says:

    Tis is all good in theory but there are some instances already when an ISP will completely ignore an active FTTP circuit if you try to order online.
    For example, I’m looking to return an ISP I left last year and have an active Openreach FTTP circuit (which was activated by them in 2018)
    Tec prices offered on their site are based on a new provision of a CityFibre FTTP circuit which I don’t want as I’ll be left with dead hardware in my hallway.
    If I ring them up, I’ll be charged more for wanting to stick with the existing circuit because it’s cheaper for them to use CityFibre.

    Hardly one touch or hassle free.

  7. Avatar photo John Francis Nolan says:

    I had the pleasure of participating in the debate (not the solution) as an observer of the TOTSco working group and note, I’m no longer in the ISP Business, I hasten to add. A difficult exercise and like all things in life, some compromise will always be necessary and time will tell whether it will be successful. Sorry to bang the drum, but we i.e. FMN looked at this challenge long before Ofcom got involved and incorporated our thinking into our Lightpaths on Demand study and see https://bit.ly/2V0XakI

    Note the date of the study i.e. fourteen years later, we haven’t progressed that far, I’m afraid?

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