The good news for Carphone Warehouse is that they appear to be ramping up the number of customers connected to their unbundled service quickly now, rising from 20,000 at the end of Q2, to 60,000 unbundled customers as of 31st October 2006. The press release detailing this and more is at www.cpwplc.com.
The company currently has 370 exchanges unbundled, and is still going for its target of 1,000 exchanges by May 2007. With over 420,000 broadband customers in total, Carphone Warehouse is probably paying more to BT than it had originally planned at this stage of its roll-out, which goes some way to explaining the pre-tax £4.7m loss recorded so far this year, the same period last year had the company making a £32.5m profit.
Our forums are starting to reflect a rise in the number of unbundled customers, alas that has also brought with it the teething problems that LLU often has. The September report on LLU performance by Openreach who switch the phone line from the BT kit to the unbundled operators kit showed that the fault rates were still too high. The upshot of this is that customers are complaining of difficulty getting through to the Talk Talk LLU support lines. An additional headache is that as people switch from largely stable fixed speed services to the rate adaptive up to 8Mbps services they can find stability drops, this is not confined to Talk Talk but can affect any of the rate adaptive services. This is where good quality support from a provider is needed to recognise the steps that can be taken to improve stability again, e.g. increasing the target noise margin to sacrifice some speed to make things more stable.
One area that causes support problems is the £29.99 optional Talk Talk modem, currently Talk Talk are supplying a Huawei Smart AX MT882 which has a USB and Ethernet port. Previously the company has supplied a SpeedTouch 330 and a Sagem f@st 800. The problem arises as those people who do not order the modem find out that support will not help with any connection problems, since they want the diagnostic codes from the supplied hardware. This means the optional modem is perhaps not as optional as the marketing would lead you to believe. One particular irony is that Talk Talk has a separate broadband shop which sells some ADSL hardware, which is not on the supported list, but people are referred to a third party helpline where we understand they check you have set up the device correctly before referring you back to Talk Talk support again. One solution to the hardware issue is to use sites like EBay to source a cheap SpeedTouch 330.
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