Ofcom Moot New Broadband ISP Switching Process for KC and Virgin Media
By Mark Jackson, ISPreview UK | July 17th, 2014
The UK communications regulator has launched another mini consultation (Call for Input) on the long road to introducing their new broadband and phone switching process, which once live could now be expanded to more fixed-line operators than just those operating off BT’s national copper telecoms network (e.g. KC and Virgin Media’s cable network).
At present most of the current systems (e.g. ‘Migration Authorisation Codes’, ‘Notification of Transfer’ or ‘Cease and Re-provide’) only apply to BTOpenreach’s network (including LLU providers) and require your existing ISP to be an active participant in the process (e.g. by supplying you with a special migration code), which has been known to cause problems (e.g. ISPs delaying the codes or customer support becoming unresponsive etc.).
Instead Ofcom has developed a “simpler and more reliable” Gaining Provider-Led (GPL) solution (here and here), which is due to be finalised by June 2015 and puts the power in the hands of your new (gaining / GPL) ISP instead of the old (losing /LPL) one. But there are still problems with doing this (e.g. the need for stricter verification to avoid users being switched without their consent), which have caused years of delay as ISPs battle over the technical details and potential costs.
The regulator has now set out the next steps and issued a related Call for Input (set to close on 12th September 2014), which among other things seeks feedback from ISPs about how the new process might impact the “consumer experience of switching and on competition“. In addition, it also proposes that KC (the incumbent telecoms operator for Hull) might also need to adopt a similar harmonised GPL switching process (another consultation will be launched to tackle this, with a decision expected by the end of 2014). In fact it could even end up being extended to Virgin Media’s cable platform and mobile operators.
Ofcoms Call for Input (Extract)
We are now moving to the next stage in our work on switching. This will extend our assessment of the consumer experience of switching and the impact of switching processes on competition to networks and services beyond Openreach. We intend to consider consumer switching in the following three areas:
i) Voice and broadband services switched over the KCOM copper network. We think that the consumer harm we identified for similar switching processes used on the Openreach network may also apply here, given the similar nature of the networks and services concerned. These harms include the drawbacks of the LPL MAC process and the existence of multiple processes.
ii) Bundles of fixed voice, broadband and Pay TV services switched between providers using the Openreach, Virgin cable and Sky satellite networks.
iii) Voice and data services switched between mobile network operators, including mobile number porting.
The regulator notes that they do not currently intend to go beyond the above considerations, which means that the new GPL switching process won’t be extended to voice and broadband services delivered using Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP/H), Satellite, WiFi or Fixed Wireless Access links. This makes sense due to the extremely limited coverage and take-up of such platforms.
Never the less we can perceive significant difficulties with moving customers between BT and Virgin Media’s infrastructure, which are almost completely separate platforms, and as a result we wouldn’t be surprise if this aspect is left to follow at a later date (assuming Ofcom decides to pursue it). Otherwise the June 2015 introduction might well face yet more delays.
Meanwhile the regulator intends to launch another consultation on the inclusion of KC this summer, with a public statement on that being published by the end of 2015. Meanwhile the rest of their Call for Inputs will run for much longer and a final update on that isn’t expected until the “first half of 2015“.