Collaborating with Openreach to help clear Britain’s Ethernet installation backlog

Collaborating with Openreach to help clear Britain’s Ethernet installation backlog

Dan Richardson, Chief Operating Officer

Dan Richardson, Chief Operating Officer

Previously, I detailed how TalkTalk Business is helping Openreach improve the speed of Ethernet provisioning across Britain. An important part of this involves looking at how TalkTalk Business is working with Openreach to reduce the Ethernet installation backlog. Currently, Openreach has a large number of orders that are over 100 days old. This means some customers have not been able to get connected to a high speed Ethernet connection for three, six, twelve months or longer.

As we all know, new Ethernet orders are broken down into categories to give an indication of how difficult the process will be for Openreach to install that circuit. On one end of the scale, Category 1 indicates the ducts and fibre are already present at a site so the connection process will be simple. On the other end of the scale, Categories 3 and 4 indicate neither ducts nor fibre are present, therefore the work that Openreach needs to do to get those orders connected will be complex and take much longer.

Due to their complexity and the need for civil engineering, Category 2, 3 and 4 installs typically experience lengthy delays. This can be for reasons outside Openreach’s control, such as the need to obtain permission from a council or land owner to work on their land.

Regardless of the need for civil engineering work, as an industry, we simply should not accept that complex orders take this long. Together with Openreach, TalkTalk Business has taken a structured approach to identify the specific root causes of these delays, trialling targeted solutions to overcome them. Those that were successful have then been adopted as new operational processes for future orders.  

Our joint work with Openreach is helping us to achieve our target this financial year of a 50 per cent reduction in the number of TalkTalk Business orders that are over 100 days old, ensuring that British businesses get the fast internet access they need.

What specific steps are we taking to reduce the Ethernet installation backlog?
  • We have dedicated teams with ring fenced people in TalkTalk Business and Openreach to address the three main causes of delays; civils, wayleaves and traffic management – Civil work involves obtaining council permission to dig up public land in order to install, maintain or repair equipment, whilst wayleaves are a similar legal agreement to undertake work on third party land. Traffic management also needs council permission and is relevant for any works that will impact traffic or pedestrian flow and require measures such as the installation of traffic cones or lights.

    These are some of the biggest and most complex causes of delays, which can be seen in both city centres and rural land, so being more efficient with them is crucial to our success in clearing the Ethernet backlog.  That’s why we’ve set up a ring-fenced team of experts solely dedicated to securing the rights and permissions for these works, helping to speed up the installation process.

  • ‘Over, under, around and through’ – The process of digging up roads in the traditional sense in order to lay ducts and fibre can significantly extend the delivery time of new Ethernet connections. To overcome this challenge we have been working with Openreach on a process called ‘Over, under, around and through’. This process essentially explores if there are alternative, less disruptive ways of laying ducts and fibre to a premise such as micro-trenching and soft verge digging, as well as using telegraph poles for overhead cabling to avoid having to dig up the road at all. Where these approaches are available they can significantly reduce the timeframe for installs.

  • Deep-dive into individual complex orders – Some Ethernet installations require not only engineer time, but also need more complicated works done in order to get the necessary cables to the property. In these cases, we work with Openreach to understand every aspect of the order, addressing issues early on so we can get these customers connected as quickly as possible.

  • Regular conversations – TalkTalk Business has increased its daily direct contact with Openreach to discuss the status of open orders and make sure that they remain focused on orders that are over 100 days old.

We are committed to getting as many businesses up and running with an Ethernet connection as possible and both companies are proud of the strides we have already made together. The practices we have implemented have been beneficial to not only our customers, but the industry as a whole, helping British businesses stay relevant and competitive.

Stay tuned for the next blog post in this series, in which I’ll explain how we are working with Openreach to make TalkTalk Business not just the quickest, but also the easiest Ethernet provider to do business with.