Openreach prepares to crack down on whereabouts failures

BT's networks arm Openreach is seemingly running out of patience with altnets not letting it know when they go poking around in its ducts and poles.

Nick Wood

July 1, 2024

2 Min Read

According to a Telegraph report (paywall), the UK incumbent will begin writing this week to fibre builders that are not fulfilling their obligations relating to so-called 'whereabouts' compliance.

Apparently, they will be given three months to bring their compliance rate up to 90% percent. Any that miss this deadline will have to submit a plan for how they intend to improve their performance.

If any altnets still haven't gotten their act together by the end of the year, the report claims they could be denied further access to Openreach's ducts and poles.

The issue of whereabouts compliance emerged at the beginning of this year, when the Telegraph reported that altnets routinely fail to inform Openreach when they access its infrastructure during the course of their network deployments.

Without proper compliance, it becomes harder to keep tabs on any potential damage inflicted on Openreach's infrastructure. Without adequate data, it could also be much more challenging to remedy any network outages.

Throughout this saga, Openreach has stopped short of imposing sanctions, insisting instead that it wants to work collaboratively with fibre builders to come up with alternative approaches that will lead to improved compliance rates.

Indeed, one altnet, CityFibre, took issue with Openreach's method of recording instances of non-compliance.

According to CityFibre, an altnet will routinely install more than one piece of equipment on a single visit to Openreach's physical infrastructure. However, the discrepancy between the number of visits and the amount of equipment installed can present as non-compliance, and is often logged as such.

Openreach initially gave altnets until February to get their collective act together, but the deadline was later pushed back to 1 April to allow time to come up with some better procedures.

April is fast becoming a distant memory, and while there may well have been some undisclosed breakthrough resulting in improved whereabouts monitoring, judging by this latest report, Openreach is still pushing on with plans to punish non-compliance.

It suggests that this collaborative effort might not have panned out in the way that everyone hoped.

Tim Creswick, CEO of business fibre provider Vorboss, is very keen on whereabouts compliance – going so far as to use it as one of his company's selling points.

As such, he has been particularly vocal on the subject, and had this to say about the latest developments: "Access to Openreach ducts and poles has revolutionised Internet access for businesses and consumers in the UK, creating new networks and new retail providers, and driving competition. It shouldn't have taken this long to start enforcing rules – it's being treated like a free ride by some altnets and their contractors, and that jeopardises every provider and their customers," he said.

"The overuse of third-party contractors is a major contributor to this lack of compliance, which is why we've always used our own in-house trained teams," he continued. "This change will rightly challenge those that aren't delivering a high quality product, and get the attention of investors."

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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