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BT's quarterly newsletter for analysts, consultants and investors - Newsbyte talks to Clive Selley

Newsbyte talks to ... Clive Selley

Clive SelleyClive Selley is CEO, Openreach

The feature article in Issue 40 of Newsbyte was dedicated to Openreach’s commitment to deliver ‘better service, broader coverage and faster speeds’. Three months on, we asked Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, to give us an update on how things are going...

Clive, can you give us an update on your strategy of better service, broader coverage and faster speeds please?

I’d like to start with service. This has been my number one priority since I became CEO in February, and that’s unlikely to change because people’s expectations of good service only move in one direction – higher. The changes I’ve been implementing are making us stronger and better equipped to deal with our complex and sometimes unpredictable operating environment.

I want to reinforce our commitment to better service by becoming even more transparent and accountable for our performance. That’s why we’ve launched a new dashboard on our website. It reveals more performance data than we’ve ever published before and provides a quarterly view of our performance on residential and business products.

The dashboard includes targets we’ve set ourselves, some of which are more stretching than Ofcom’s. For example in the residential space, we’re including fibre, together with copper, for installation and repair measures, which is beyond the regulator’s requirements.

How are you performing compared to Ofcom’s minimum service levels?

Last year, we committed to meet and exceed the minimum service levels set by Ofcom. We did that, and we’re on track to meet or exceed the higher standards set for this year.

And on missed appointments?

I said in May, that I would halve the missed appointments that Openreach is responsible for within a year. Thanks to operational changes in the field and our systems and processes, those missed appointments are already down by a third, and we’re confident of hitting the 2.5% target this year.

Turning to Ethernet, you set yourself goals to increase the number of circuits delivered and speed up delivery times, how’s that going?

This is a tough ambition to achieve. We’re working to fix a historic tail of complicated, overdue circuits, while, at the same time, increasing the volume of new orders that we deliver. We’ve set ourselves a tough target to increase Ethernet deliveries by 20% this year, and we recognise that’s going to be a real challenge.

On delivery times, Ofcom’s new targets expect us to connect business customers within 46 days. Again, that’s going to be a real challenge but we can see that the trends are improving and we’re meeting the adjusted target that exists in the first year of the new regulated measures.

I can’t emphasise enough how important fixing Ethernet delivery is for us. We’re putting more resources into it – both financial and human. We’re investing an additional £30m in our processes, systems and tools in the field, and in reskilling the engineering force. It’ll take time for the changes to embed operationally, and to start to deliver the improvements we’re aiming for, but be in no doubt, I’m determined to improve our Ethernet story.

OK, turning to the second pillar of your strategy, can you give us an update on coverage?

Yes, the dashboard includes key measures to do with broadband coverage and speed.

On superfast, we’ve already passed well over 25m premises and we’re still passing 20,000 a week. Our rollout underpins the government’s target of 95% superfast coverage across Britain by end of 2017. Alongside this, in the next year, we plan to deploy much more fibre to the premises (FTTP) infrastructure. Our FTTP network is already the UK’s largest, covering over 322,000 premises, and we aim to accelerate that rollout next year, and to reach 2m homes and businesses by the end of 2020.

We have a range of FTTP initiatives in the pipeline. For businesses, we’re piloting FTTP services to bridge the gap between consumer products and point-to-point Ethernet services. We’re also running technical trials to improve deployment techniques and speeds, including to multi-dwelling units and rural locations. And we’ve taken the decision to build FTTP infrastructure, free of charge, for new housing developments of 30 or more homes from November. Previously it was available to developments of 100+ homes. To be clear on the significance of that: This means 9 out of 10 of new homes built in Britain and registered with Openreach will be eligible for FTTP by default from November this year.

What about providing higher speeds to hard-to-reach areas?

We’ve been running trials of an exciting technology called long-reach VDSL. The results have been very encouraging. It’s radically improved speeds to homes as far as two miles from a street cabinet. In our trial in Isfield (East Sussex) for example, customers have seen an average increase in download speeds of 13Mbps.

The next step is to test the technology on a larger scale and in a wider range of locations. So in January we’re planning to go to full field trials in five locations.

And on encouraging alternative network build?

Other companies have been able to access our ducts and poles to build their own fibre networks since 2011 but we’ve radically overhauled the service to make the survey and build processes more efficient. We launched a proof of concept trial in July, with five CPs participating, and feedback has been positive so far.

We’ve also been working to enhance the digital mapping functionality we can share with other CPs. By next year, they’ll have access to the same data that we have – giving a view of the equipment already in place in a particular location.

And finally, can you give us an update on delivering faster speeds?

Yes, as you know, we’ve set out our vision to move the nation from superfast to ultrafast speeds. This time last year, we said we’d deliver ultrafast connections to 10m homes and businesses by the end of 2020, and to the majority by the end of 2025. We’re already planning to go further. We now aim to connect 12m premises by the end of 2020 using two fibre solutions – and FTTP.

I’ve already talked about our FTTP ambitions, taking ultrafast speeds to 2m homes and businesses, the other 10m will benefit from our rollout.

Our initial trials in Huntingdon, Gosforth and Swansea are progressing very well. Speeds achieved are in line with our expectations and we’ve had good feedback from CPs and their end customers.

We’ve developed the standards, agreed the product and service specifications, and confirmed our two strategic kit suppliers – Huawei and Nokia. We’re now moving forward to a full pilot – passing 25,000 premises in Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire, and Gillingham in Kent. We aim to connect the first customers in November.

We’ll also be extending our pilots to a further 12 locations, making available to around 140,000 customers across all 17 locations. The trials in the new areas will be underway by the end of March next year.

All told, together with FTTP, the extension of the pilots will take our overall ultrafast footprint to half a million premises by the end of March next year.

So plenty of progress then?

Definitely. We’ve been working hard to deliver a step-change in customer experience. And we’ll be publicly accountable for our performance. We’ll continue to work to deliver the better service, broader coverage and faster speeds that will help Britain remain a leading digital economy.

Clive, thanks very much for your time.

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