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Ofcom moves a step closer to a better migration system for the UK
Thursday 09 February 2012 10:55:45 by Andrew Ferguson

Ofcom is consulting on a series of changes to how moves between telephone and broadband providers can be made to work better in the UK. The consultation runs until 23rd April 2012, and it will be a year or more after that before any changes take place, so if you are changing provider now, carry on as you had planned.

The new proposals for a variety of migration systems only cover services using the Openreach copper network, i.e. ADSL, ADSL2+ and FTTC. Fibre to the Premises, KCom (Karoo) and Virgin Media cable network are outside the scope of the consultation, but will be addressed in a later document. Ideally FTTP should have been included in this consultation, since we will start to see more people wanting to migrate onto that emerging service in the next year or two.

The impression one gets from reading the Ofcom report is that the market has been allowed to dictate what process it will use, rather than sticking to the Code of Practices Ofcom issues. A shocking statistic is that some half a million phone and broadband customers get slammed a year, and many do not get returned to their old provider. Even where a customer wanted to move customers are often asked to do a cease and provide, rather than use a migration process that exists for the move they are making.

Three main options are being considered by Ofcom:

  1. Leave existing processes in place, but tweak to avoid some of the current problems.
  2. Gaining Provider Led systems, variations range from how you currently switch voice providers, through to ones where an independent third party confirms a persons intent to switch.
  3. Losing provider led, similar to the current MAC system, but with rules in place to ensure reactive saves are not possible.

Ofcom appears to be favouring a gaining provider led (GPL) approach, with the consumers intent to move being confirmed by an independent third party. This third party will have to funded by communications providers, and how this is done will be subject to lots of debate for sure. No doubt any costs will be passed onto the consumer, but if this makes for smoother switching and in particular can avoid the weeks without broadband many suffer when moving away from a fully unbundled service (e.g. TalkTalk and Sky) then it will be worth it. The need for a verification process is because of the amount of slamming activity that has gone on in the UK.

So it is business as usual, with consumers getting confused by the myriad of bundles and option with some that are only available in parts of the UK, and sales staff who often don't understand the implications involved in switching onto or away from their service. With another consultation due in Q2/3 of 2012-2013 and a statement on migrations in Q4 2012-2013, any concrete changes to migration processes are a long way away.

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