NBN Co aims to solve the activation blame game

Five minute activation times pinned for service provisioning

If all goes to plan with the National Broadband Network, internet service providers may no longer be able to use the age-old excuse of "It's Telstra's fault!" for activation delays. According to NBN Co’s industry integration manager, an uncomplicated activation should take no longer than five minutes.

Presenting to an industry information forum this week, Martin Pittard said “logical provisions” of NBN services to end users should not extend beyond five minutes under the wholesaler’s goal.

“Where there’s infrastructure at the end-user’s premise and all we’re doing is changing attributes on the network — there’s no physical workforce required — our goal is to turn up or activate that service in five minutes or less,” he said.

Five minutes would be a significantly shorter activation time than those currently experienced under Telstra. Industry experts told Computerworld Australia that Telstra could take as little as a day to move between ports on a Telstra-operated DSLAM, but could take between three and 10 days for a new Telstra Wholesale ADSL port service. Unconditioned Local Loop Services, often used by third party ISPs for naked DSL services, could take Telstra between 14 and 21 days to connect a user.

Activation delays have been well documented elsewhere, with iiNet telling a staffer at Computerworld Australia’s sister publication, ARN, that naked DSL services in particular were often painful for third parties.

A Telstra Wholesale spokesperson did not respond to requests for official activation periods at time of writing.

The most direct comparison under the NBN would likely be a new wholesale port, in which case the end-user has already approved installation of a network terminating unit and subcontractors have attached the fibre, leaving only the retail service provider to request a product or service on behalf of the end-user.

Providers would go through a clearly defined six-step process in which it would confirm the user’s details, the premise would be assigned a unique ‘NBN Location ID’ and the wholesaler would work through the steps of ordering and provisioning a product. The process could be achieved at low volumes through NBN Co’s Web-based service portal or an ebXML-based business-to-business (B2B) gateway connecting the operational and business support systems of both NBN Co and the provider.

NBN Co has already slated the use of IBM’s DataPower XB60 for its B2B gateway, which will be implemented as part of its $200 million contract with IBM to implement the vast majority of its OSS and BSS systems.

Pittard was keen to stress full disclosure from NBN Co to the service provider in the event of problems with a service provision, with continued updates on any extra information needed from the customer or problems on NBN Co’s end. Most NBN Co problems would ultimately be resolved through the use of service classes during provisioning, alerting both the RSP and wholesaler where end-users did not have the required infrastructure or required a second network terminating unit.

The wholesaler has also flagged potential use of direct contact with the customer for any installation requirements. In these cases, NBN Co would gather end-user contact information including a mobile number from the provider in order to provide a 24-hour warning to customers for any on-premise activation. This contact data would be purged from NBN Co data repositories once installation was complete, and would be requested again from the provider if required. NBN Co service activation technical manager, Anthony Links, maintained providers would continue to own the customer relationship despite NBN Co’s contact.

Sandpit interfaces progress

NBN Co has established sandpits for both the B2B gateway and Web-based service portal, allowing providers to trial integration with internal support systems up to one-and-a-half months ahead of full deployment. The full deployment of the service portal, which has been developed in-house by NBN Co, would be made available by September, ahead of the B2B gateway in the first quarter of next year.

Pittard said the B2B draft specifications could now be considered mature and ready for investigation by providers, following industry consultation during February and March. As a result of the discussions and five written submissions received on the specifications paper, the wholesaler had made changes to appointment schemes, late cancellation charges, how access seekers ordered products from NBN Co and further detail on message definition under the B2B specifications. Negotiations continue on how transfers and address reconciliation would be dealt with for access seekers during migration onto the fibre network.

Pittard warned the specifications were still subject to change but affirmed finalisation of the Telstra-NBN Co deal would not result in significant changes to implementation.

The wholesaler would support integration between the service portal and full B2B gateway, allowing providers to effectively ramp up their deployment of NBN systems. Role-based security would ensure providers were only capable of seeing the information relating to their privilege level on the service portal, while an administrative capability would allow providers to assign privilege roles to their own employees.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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