Pay-TV and broadband giant Sky has slammed the performance of BT’s Openreach division, saying it regularly misses hundreds of appointments each month and leaves thousands more customers with incomplete jobs.
The accusations are contained in Sky’s submission into an Ofcom review of the UK’s communications sector.
Openreach is responsible for maintaining the UK’s largest phone and broadband network which is used by most of the country’s biggest ISPs to sell services to their customers.
It is ring-fenced from the rest of BT’s operations, including its BT Retail division which competes with Sky, TalkTalk and other phone and broadband providers, with Ofcom regulating the prices it can charge.
However many of BT’s rivals, including Sky, believe the firm should be forced to sell Openreach.
Earlier this year Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch said Openreach suffered from a “conflict of interest as a subsidiary of BT” and suggested its forced sale could be “at the heart of creating a sustainable industry; one that provides the capacity and incentive to invest whilst also harnessing the power of multiple competing retailers to drive higher take up and lower prices for customers.”
Today the firm published what it claimed was sufficient evidence of Openreach’s “service failure” to justify an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority.
Sky, which accounts for around a third of broadband users on the Openreach network, claims:
- More than 90% of new line installations, which require an Openreach engineer to attend, take 10 calendar days or longer. Almost one in ten installations takes longer than 30 days.
- Openreach changes the agreed installation date for Sky customers on average around 36,000 times a month.
- Openreach misses over 500 appointments each month to install new lines for Sky customers and fails to complete a further 4,000 jobs per month.
- Fault rates across Openreach’s network increased by 50% between 2009 and 2012, the last year for which reliable data is publicly available.
- Openreach’s performance in fixing faults is consistently below the targets set out in agreements with service providers.
Sky also highlights research by independent consultancy Frontier Economics which “shows years of declining investment in maintaining the copper network” and suggests that investment “fell by around a third over the last decade” when investment in fibre broadband is excluded.
Mai Fyfield, Sky’s Chief Strategy Officer, said:“We are drawing attention to the problems in broadband because they are important to the economy as a whole.
“They affect competition between providers and have a direct impact on consumers and small businesses, resulting in inconvenience, dissatisfaction and loss of productivity. “
She added: “A reference to the CMA would allow these vital issues to be examined with increased speed and thoroughness by a body with the powers to take whatever action should be deemed necessary.
“Given the rapid changes taking place in the sector, we believe this should happen as soon as possible.”
Last year Ofcom ordered Openreach to speed up the time taken for carrying out new installations and completing repairs, with 80% of fault repairs needed to be completed within 2 working days and new installations carried out within 12 working days.
Those targets, which were published in May 2014, came just days after the firm announced plans to recruit 1,600 additional engineers and committed to publishing more performance data online.
Responding to Sky’s submission, a BT spokesperson said: “The forthcoming Ofcom review is an important piece of work so it is disappointing that Sky are engaging in selective spin rather than constructive dialogue.
“They claim that Openreach investment is down yet it is up. They can only substantiate their claim by ignoring the billions of pounds we have pumped into fibre broadband. They also make claims about customer service whilst failing to acknowledge that Openreach has passed all sixty of the service targets it was set by Ofcom.
“We acknowledge there is more to do on customer service but breaking up BT is not the answer. It would lead to huge uncertainty and fundamentally undermine the case for future investment dragging the UK backwards at the very time it needs important investment in its infrastructure.”