Broadband News

Sky tells Ofcom - Openreach does not deliver quality of service

Openreach was created nine and half years ago and very quickly ran into problems with the lack of engineering staff and while requirement has picked up the numbers the start of the FTTC and FTTP roll-outs in 2009 and BDUK work in late 2012 and onwards is clearly stretching resources.

So today we have Sky publishing their submission to the Ofcom Strategic Review of Digital Communications, last week saw the BT Group talking of an end to analogue phone by 2025 as it set out some of its own ambitions, i.e. removal of the yoke that is the copper USO for telephone.

"BT’s Openreach division does not deliver 21st century quality of service. Openreach owns and is responsible for maintaining the UK’s critical ‘last mile’ copper network – the ubiquitous network of lines into peoples’ homes, and to small businesses. The quality of service delivered to consumers by Openreach falls far short of an acceptable standard, including: an excessive number of faults, failure to meet targets for repairing faults, long waits to have new lines installed, constantly missing appointments and, when appointments are met, often not completing jobs."

Extract from Sky submission to Ofcom Strategic Review of Digital Communications

Sky also states that fault fixing is consistently under the agreed targets they have with service providers and with one third of the UK broadband market that uses Openreach infrastructure Sky should be well aware of any failings. With Sky entering the infrastructure market with a FTTP trial in Swadlincote and the CityFibre joint venture it will be interesting to see how running independent infrastructure works out. Sky estimates that missed appointments by Openreach result in potentially 18,000 days of work lost to the UK economy per year.

The big problem with the last Ofcom strategic review was that the focus was on the copper world and equivalence of input, which has happened. Sky sit firmly in the camp that wants to see Openreach made fully independent stating that "common thread to those problems is BT’s ownership of Openreach". While we can see the appeal of a fully independent Openreach it might not be the heaven everyone expects, without significant investment in both new staff and infrastructure it is unlikely that problems with fault handling will vanish.

Resolving the worries over 'wooden dollars' (a Sky phrase describing the way Openreach and BT can sell fibre) is interesting, it is not clear whether Sky want lower pricing from Openreach or BT Retail to be forced to have higher margins. If Openreach was trying to stand totally on its own then reduced prices seem unlikely, if anything to pay for extra staff to ensure the problems with fault and install times diminish prices may have to go up.

If Openreach is split away from the BT Group, then Virgin Media will become the largest vertically integrated network provider and retailer in the UK.

We believe the conundrum that needs resolving is how does Ofcom create a competitor to Openreach in the half of the UK where they no major alt-net competition exists and squaring this with the on-going rush to roll out more fibre based broadband. An independent Openreach may solve some worries for Sky and others, but probably will do little for the individual member of the public.


Agree with Sky's comments that quality of service - in terms of making and keeping appointments - could be massively improved.

Agree with Andrew that I don't necessarily see that hiving Openreach off would create better quality or cheaper prices.

I too wonder what the consequence would be, leaving VM as the only integrated supplier - especially as they are extending footprint from half to two-thirds. If Openreach merits being separated, does VM merit wholesale requirements? Or even a separation there too?

  • WWWombat
  • over 5 years ago

I don't think Sky would shed many tears if VM were forced to sell a wholesale product :)

  • AndrueC
  • over 5 years ago

It's not just the number of boots, but from my limited experience BT's admin has always been poor and under-resourced (apart from billing). What do you expect with constant pressure on the front end and costs? (Banks and Government have a similar difficulty). Of course internet commentators can just reel off whatever comes off the top of their head on the day. Just find the magic wand (or word, "ownership") to change everything. In real life it needs more than that. And the eternal question: why should the rest of us pay more to satisfy the eternal moaners, who will never be satisfied anyway?

  • mervl
  • over 5 years ago

Sky may carp about BT but I doubt they are planning to develop a nationwide alternative telecomms infrastructure themselves.

  • PhilCoates
  • over 5 years ago

BT Openreach failure rate this year so far: 62.5%. This is based on failure to meet own dates, faulty lines (fail on fit), absence of lines despite saying they have been installed.

  • drummerjohn
  • over 5 years ago

Just another example of how regulation/tax is holding an industry back.

  • otester
  • over 5 years ago

Drummerjohn - are your figures based on a sample of your own experiences? The figures Openreach publish to us and Ofcom suggest differently at a national level

  • Gadget
  • over 5 years ago

Just another attempt by Sky to take a bigger share of the media market?

  • steamingdave
  • over 5 years ago

It is very obvious from speed-drop related complaints on this sites forums since FTTC was introduced, that initially considerable efforts were made by Openreach to bring lines back up to previous performance levels when sudden drops occurred, (allowing for interleaving and cross-talk effects), and that over the last couple of years this has ceased to be the case. (cont ...)

  • uniquename
  • over 5 years ago


What we have instead is that the BTW estimator figures, presumably drawn from Openreach data,
that used to track actual line speed after a delay of weeks or months now react downwards within a few days. Typically before any complaint about the speed gets as far as BTW.
Result - speed drops nearly always end up still within estimate - sod off user!

  • uniquename
  • over 5 years ago

Such a cliché move by Sky, a monolithic dinosaur, a ticking time bomb.
Market leaders deliver, the rest complain about their competition.

OR’s service isn’t perfect, but look at the size & amount of architectural change that is currently in-play. Are the solutions glaringly obvious?

BT are stealing the sport, covering mobile & leveraging investments into their infrastructure iteratively showing improvements whilst managing shareholder risk.

Sky is 5-10 years from being nowhere unless they get some skin in the game, no sympathy! BT beating Sky to market for UHD is the beginning of the end.

  • mabibby
  • over 5 years ago

@mabibby . Not sure why you think it's a clichéd move by Sky?
They've simply said what several other ISPs have complained about less publicly in the past. Check out some of Andrews & Arnold's MD's posts about BT, for example. The quality and timeliness of BTO's work is almost legendary (and not for the right reasons).

You're also confusing BT Retail with BT Openreach & BT Wholesale - it's only the former which can be any competition to Sky's TV business.

  • rscott
  • over 5 years ago

Gadget1 - yes. I work for a business that places hundreds of orders every year with BT. I started tracking every order 2 years ago. Last year we had a fraction over 50% failure rate. This year has been the worst year so far in my experience let alone looking at stats. No idea how BT got those stats but they aren't real world.

  • drummerjohn
  • over 5 years ago

With BT being vertically integrated there has to be a conflict of interests, Separation removes that conflict. It does not mean Openreach has to be sold off it could be just split into a separate wholly owned BT company

With the conflict of interest removed it makes Openreach keen to gain new customers onto its network rather than at present where BT do their best to keep the completion out

BT have so far for example managed to make access to the BT ducting so expensive not one ISP has taken it up

  • Bob_s2
  • over 5 years ago

So Bob, specifically what extra do you want to see for your "separation"? There is already separate financial reporting, separate headquarters, separate systems and separate staff?

  • Gadget
  • over 5 years ago

@mabibby: "Market leaders deliver, the rest complain about their competition."

You mean like the award-winning Sky Sports channels, wholly built from the ground up and whose OB units are the envy of Europe?

Yeah, that's right. Sky are dead in the water. Just look at Virgin's latest adverts in the press. What channel are they advertising? Sky Sports. Nuff said.

BT are stealing. That's why Sky filed the complaint. At least you got one part of your daft statement correct.

  • xb0xguru
  • over 5 years ago

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