TCF seeks feedback on UFB draft standards

Carriers' Forum issues standards, seeks public comment

The Telecommunications Carriers’ Forum is seeking public feedback on its Draft Standards for the government’s proposed Ultra Fast Broadband proposal.

The 101-page document sets out expectations for access providers (that is the Local Fibre Company) and access seekers (ISPs and wholesale providers) around standards such as service levels and how the provisioning of services should be carried out inside a ‘Central Office’ — the description given to what is called a telephone exchange in the existing copper network.

Members of the working party involved in creating the draft standards are from the following organisations: Chorus, Crown Fibre Holdings, Enable Networks, FX Networks, InternetNZ, Kordia, New Zealand Regional Fibre Group (NZRFG), Northpower, Telecom, TelstraClear, Vector and Vodafone. Representatives from the Commerce Commission and the Ministry of Economic Development attended as observers.

TCF chief executive David Stone says that although the agency tasked with enacting the UFB, Crown Fibre Holdings (CFH), has yet to determine who will partner the government in the network, it’s important to get the standards agreed to early in the process so that “they know what it is they are getting into”.

There appear to be two major two sticking points in the draft document.

Telecom objects to the suggestion that access seekers can undertake work — such as installing equipment, racks and cables — within their “Central Office footprint”. Under arrangements determined in the copper network Telecom, or Chorus, are generally responsible for this work.

Stone says Telecom is used to a “command and control” approach to managing exchanges but the draft code that will govern Central Offices is designed around a “penalty based system”. That is, the same rules will apply to all — access providers and access seekers – and there are penalties put in place for those that don’t comply. Exactly what these penalties are is likely to be determined during commercial negotiations, Stone says.

The other disputed area is around service levels. Vodafone, as a potential access seeker, considers they aren’t tough enough. “These service levels are significantly worse than our current commercial offerings,” it’s noted in the document. “Vodafone is concerned that if these service levels become default values, products will be developed based on these values which will be unusable in the market place and distort the real cost of delivering an acceptable level of service to customers.”

The TCF is holding two public workshops on the draft standards in conjunction with Crown Fibre Holdings — in Wellington on Friday 27 August and on Monday 30 August in Auckland. Stone expects these to be attended by ISPs, and organisations such as Connected Health and REANNZ. He says the workshops are designed for those interested in the “minutiae” of fibre networks. Public submissions close at 5pm on 17 September 2010. Meanwhile, the CFH is expected to make an announcement as to its preferred partner, or partners, in October.

Further information about the Draft Standards can be found on the TCF website.

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