Sky has called on Ofcom to launch a full investigation into BT’s Openreach division on the grounds that it has consistently failed to deliver an adequate standard of service.
The pay-TV company cited a “history of underinvestment” by BT in its infrastructure division, which operates and manages the UK’s telecoms networks and leases line space to rival operators.
In a formal submission to Ofcom, Sky said Openreach’s underinvestment in the “last-mile” had resulted in “a range of service quality problems including an excessive number of network faults, failure to meet targets for repairing faults, long waits to have new lines installed, appointments that are missed and jobs that are not completed”.
According to Sky, BT misses 500 appointments to install new lines for Sky customers every month and fails to complete a further 4,000 jobs on a monthly basis.
The company also alleged that nine out of 10 new line installations by Openreach take 10 days or longer, with one in 10 taking longer than 30 days. On top of this, Sky said Openreach changes the agreed installation date for its customers 36,000 times a month on average.
Meanwhile, fault rates on the Openreach network increased by 50 percent between 2009 and 2012, Sky claimed, and BT’s performance in fixing faults remained “consistently below” targets set out in agreements with service providers.
The company has now asked the UK regulator to request a full inquiry by the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) into the allegations.
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.
“The UK needs to get the basics right in broadband as well as develop the networks and services of the future.”
According to Fyfield, Ofcom should “move quickly” to ask CMA to undertake a full competition inquiry.
“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,” Fyfield said.
Alongside its own submission, Sky cited findings from independent consultancy Frontier Economics, which concluded that capex on Openreach has fallen by roughly a third over the past 10 years.
However, BT argued that its infrastructure unit had met targets set by Ofcom and accused Sky of scaremongering.
In March, the regulator announced plans to conduct a strategic review of the UK’s digital communications market, which will largely focus on the state of the country’s network infrastructure.
The first phase of the review is expected to conclude this summer.
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.”
In March, Sky and TalkTalk called on Ofcom to separate BT from Openreach, on the grounds that the current market structure was “not fit for purpose”.
While BT acknowledged that there was “more to do on customer service”, it claimed that breaking up the operator “is not the answer”.
The spokesperson said: “[Breaking up BT] 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.”