Telecom approaches key separation date

Telecom prepares systems for January 1 and requests variations for 2011

One of three key operational separation dates is fast approaching for Telecom, with Gen-i and Telecom Retail about to start consuming services on the same basis as other providers.

Three key milestones are part of the operational separation undertakings Telecom has agreed to. The first was "separation day", in March 2008. The second, December 31 2009, now looms. The third, at the end of 2011, will see full equivalence of inputs in place.

Today, Telecom announced it had asked for some variations on its undertakings from Communications Minister Steven Joyce. It says these are to allow time for new IT systems to be planned and scoped that will operate effectively in the new environment created by the government's $1.5 billion ultra fast broadband plan.

“Our 2010 undertakings delivery programme is already extremely challenging and we are under enormous pressure to meet the current dates. The result is there is no room for Telecom, or its customers, to pause and understand UFB in order to build the necessary flexibility into our system designs," Telecom wholesale CEO Matt Crockett said in a statement released earlier today.

“Nothing in our request for a variation changes Telecom’s bedrock commitment to delivering our equivalence milestones, at the heart of the Undertakings, on time and in full. There will be no backsliding."

From January 2010, all new retail connections will be over wholesale unbundled bitstream services, but some legacy customers will remain on older products, Crockett explained to Computerworld today.

By the end of next year, 100 percent of connections will be on the new wholesale products.

Telecom is investing "tens of thousands of dollars" in its internal systems to meet the separation requirements, he says. These include allowing retail customers access to the same kinds of systems Telecom Retail enjoys, he says, right down to being able to access customer service functionality such as service company schedules while customers are on the phone.

By the end of 2011 all broadband services need to be on identical systems and that means changing those systems right down to their "bowels", he says.

Crockett says the variations sought today, to allow existing systems to be used for a longer period of time, do not seek to change any of the requirements for equivalence.

Telecom Wholesale has asked the minister to "re-focus" the June 2010 and December 2010 wholesale milestones so that equivalence can be delivered on either new or existing systems. It has also asked to defer the existing June 2010 and December 2010 milestones that require Telecom to deliver this equivalence on predominantly new systems by 12 months.

The request, he says, is to allow time for Telecom to study the implications of the government's broadband plan.

For instance, Wholesale will be consuming Chorus's network services, but may also want to consume services from one or more of the 33 Local Fibre Companies envisaged in the government's planned network rollout. Systems that can cope with that can help accelerate the adoption of the new networks, Crockett says.

Allowing the variation request would also minimise disruption to wholesale customers, he says.

Crockett says Telecom Wholesale took the industry through its request for variations yesterday and also presented it to user association TUANZ this morning.

"People think it's a reasonable and prudent thing to do on the face of it but want time to understand the implications," he says.

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