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Industry has argued against it since it was first mooted in 2014, but from 16th March BT Openreach will no longer be supplying a modem on fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) installations (including upgrades from ADSL/2+). While Openreach say that this industry-wide change will simplify provision by dispensing with the need to book an engineer appointment, in reality we think the advantages and disadvantages will be more widely felt. As a wholesale supplier, we are wary of the impact on both resellers and consumers – especially in terms of the potential for confusion and misunderstandings.

Two new installation options will be available in place of the withdrawn product, both of which require the consumer to supply and connect their own Openreach-approved modem/routing device.

Option 1 is a standard installation and will see an engineer complete a ‘wires only’ connection at the PCP (primary connection point, aka the cabinet) and will not visit the consumer’s premises. This means that the NTE5 faceplate will not be changed and the consumer will need to fit VDSL filters to all extensions in order to complete the installation.

Option 2 – a ‘managed’ installation – is available at an additional cost. With this service an engineer will visit the consumer premises to uplift any wiring and fit a service specific faceplate – they may also connect the modem/routing device if it’s available at the point of connection.

Pros Cons
Wires only installation
  • Lower cost FTTC installation
  • No requirement for an engineer visit at end-user premises, so no issues arranging appointments
  • An engineer will not be able to diagnose problems at the end-user premises on connection
  • Using microfilters rather than a service specific faceplate could impact achievable upstream and downstream speeds
  • End users will have to connect a modem/router themselves
Installation with engineer visit to uplift wiring and fit faceplate
  • Connecting to master socket via engineer fitted service specific faceplate ensures speeds are the best they can be for that connection
  • Microfilters are not required
  • Engineer can diagnose problems on-site
  • Engineer can connect modem/routing device if supplied in advance
  • Requirement to arrange engineer visit to end-user premises
  • Higher cost of installation than previously (where passed onto consumer)
  • If modem/router not available on site on the day of the engineer visit, the engineer could walk away

Given that consumers  generally view “the Internet” as a commodity (something that we wholeheartedly refute) that they can access in the same way as running water or electricity, some education will be required to ensure that service choices are fully understood. In particular, understanding the impact that microfilters will have on achievable speeds, what will happen on the day of installation including what the consumer him/herself will be responsible for and what to do in the event of a failed installation. This is especially important given the propensity for a failed installation to leave the consumer feeling let-down – a feeling that will easily become compounded if issues are difficult to diagnose and lead to a lengthy resolution.

From a reseller’s point of view, the simple virtue of having no engineer on site to diagnose problems could very easily result in increased calls to their technical and customer support departments and potentially cause a spike in complaints both to the reseller and, at worst, their ADR. In a recent simple poll survey on our partner portal, 64% of the 74 respondents raised this concern, labelling the changes as detrimental to their customers. While 74 respondents is just a small sample, it’s interesting to note their fears, the biggest being that problems diagnosing issues with wiring would increase technical support queries and have a negative impact on customer satisfaction.

A further point of concern for us comes with the key phrase “BT approved and Openreach compatible modem/routing device”. What this actually means is that any device supplied needs to support VDSL2+ technology and have passed Openreach’s Modem Conformance Test (MCT). While Entanet partners are able to identify approved devices through our partner portal (synergi), consumers are largely clueless about this requirement and indeed what constitutes an approved device. And here once again, the onus falls on the reseller to educate consumers on what could happen if they choose to use a device that supports VDSL2+ but that hasn’t passed the MCT. Should a problem occur that requires BTs involvement to achieve a resolution, they will easily identify unapproved equipment through loopback testing. If unauthorised equipment is detected, BT can:

  • Request that the device is disconnected
  • Limit or disconnect the FTTC service
  • Refuse to fix problems
  • Levy charges for either an abortive visit as well as any special faults investigation charge.

We recommend that our reseller partners abide by the requirement to supply an approved device (and clause 11.3 of our own terms and conditions!).

Have your say!

Are you prepared for the change? Have you planned any marketing communications to new customers about their options and what they must / must not do? Are you putting in place a strategy to replace Openreach VDSL modems currently used by existing customers? Will you be advising customers to select the wires-only or managed installation? Let us know by taking part in our new synergi poll or by leaving a comment below.

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One Response to “The impact of Openreach’s FTTC install changes”

  1. Is there no forum for ISP customers of Openreach to resolve such issues as what modems and modem/routers have been approved? As far as the onus being on ISPs & resellers to communicate and educate their customers with the technical requirements of a VDSL installation, it seems all part and parcel of “owning” the customer relationship. What I think is a valid complaint is that OR haven’t assembled an easily understood set of documents on best practices which can be used in an ISP/resellers information pack.

    As far as the reported drawback of having to use microfilters on a wire only service, that’s merely the method of least resistance and, personally, one I wouldn’t recommend except for very simple cases, and would always recommend optimising internal wiring. Whilst I recognise that somebody running a small business is probably ill-equipped to do the required work, it’s well within the capability of anybody who can install a simple Ethernet cable. All the supplies needed to do this are readily available (things like filter plates, CW1308 wiring, VDSL extension kits and so on). This surely falls into the realm of IT service support and anybody who can put in a phone extension ought to be able to do it. What is lacking (and I think OR have been rather lamentable in this regard) is a manual on best practice for internal phone wiring for xDSL services. The principles are actually very simple (like using twisted pair wiring, having only one unfiltered path to the router/modem and making sure there are no bridged taps.

    Long ago I went through this process on my wiring set-up. It’s not difficult, but for some reason nobody seems to have collated it all into an information pack (there are useful on-line websites, but they aren’t authoritative).

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