Examination of witnesses (Questions 200
TUESDAY 19 DECEMBER (MORNING) 2000
SAUNDERS and MR
200. Per customer.
(Mr Saunders) It is in the hundreds of pounds. The
issue is the trade-off between the initial cost of gaining access
to the building, which is an upfront bill cost for that hostel,
the cost of getting your own fibre into it or buying back haul
capacity as it is called from another operator, the ongoing rental
of space within the building, rental for each individual customer,
and there is your own capital cost in terms of the systems you
put into the building and that will vary from operator to operator.
It is orientated towards the number of customers you are currently
or would seek to address.
201. Is there any physical disruption inside
(Mr Saunders) There may be.
202. How many people are going to come and dig
up the road?
(Mr Saunders) There will be fibre from the operators
being built into the exchanges. Hopefully it is everybody's intention
to share this build as much as possible, both to reduce costs
and, hopefully, to minimise disruption.
203. So the road is only going to be dug up
once outside the exchange?
(Mr Saunders) I would not like to guarantee that.
204. The actual customer and consumer who takes
advantage of your service, do they have to have any changes to
their equipment inside their office or house?
(Mr Allan) They get a little box, a little case of
their own and some wires to the exchange. Most of the disruption
is at the exchange end.
205. If I, as a customer, opt for one of your
broadband services, can I take broadband services from more than
one of you at the same time?
(Mr Saunders) Over the same pair of wires, no. Clearly,
if you want to have multiple broadband suppliers over separate
lines that is quite feasible, even in a residential environment.
206. You say, Mr Saunders, having gained access
you would be able to get your kit in, in probably four weeks maximum?
(Mr Saunders) Once we have established a standard
mode of working with BT in terms of gaining access to get the
equipment in, I think that is feasible.
207. What are the obstacles at the moment to
you getting this standard mode of approach? Is it that BT will
not let you in or is it that things have not quite got to that
(Mr Saunders) I think it is the latter. We have not
actually started the trials process yet which will enable us to
identify the logistical difficulties in terms of gaining access
and fitting our equipment in.
208. Ms Machin, you are talking about four months.
(Ms Machin) Initially for the first set of sites.
I think that is probably more realistic a time frame.
209. Can I just say to you that I visited some
exchanges on Friday and I do not know if you have done that yet
but you can do awful lot in four months. I do not think we are
building rockets to go to the moon.
(Ms Machin) It is not just a case of physically installing
equipment. It is the operational systems to ordering the metallic
path facilities that have not been tested and trialled yet. There
will probably be some limitations on the local loops that will
be available from those first sets of exchanges that we can go
into. There is developing the marketing of those services to the
target customer market within the area that you are in. I am just
looking at that from the first day that you have it handed over
to a realistic timescale for being able to offer services freely
to the customer base initially.
210. Would this be more a matter of Energis
being in danger of biting off more than it can chew, that you
are cautioning this because you are a wee bit frightened of it,
that you are getting in over your head?
(Ms Machin) We have spoken to our suppliers of the
equipment and I am quoting to you what they are telling us, that
initially they are looking at round about three to four months
to obtain the equipment. It will take the supplier three months
to obtain the equipment with a further month to install, commission
and provision it for those first sites. This will obviously be
improved with better forecasting and as we roll out the programme.
That is what we are facing.
(Ms Gilthorpe) Can I add a point on behalf of Cable
and Wireless? There are two things, one of which is that we are
already dealing with equipment suppliers to make sure that we
get that part of it done in anticipation of getting into the exchanges
wherever they might be and doing as much as we can up front. The
trial is critical. It is unfortunate that in some circumstances
some of the sites that were going to be trialled have been delayed.
That is a critical phase that we go through in the learning process.
When it comes to rolling out the real service, we are fully expecting
it to take no more than four weeks a site.
211. So we have a spectrum between four months
and four weeks?
(Mr Saunders) I do not think they are inconsistent.
I think it is indicating that there is a learning curve to go
through. Based upon our own experience within our own network
four weeks is easily achievable providing you understand what
you are moving into and there are no problems physically getting
your equipment installed and then connected.
212. What sort of disruption is there to the
service of BT customers during this process? Presumably it is
not totally risk free, is it?
(Mr Saunders) It depends on the types of services
that you are seeking to deploy. Basically you are taking over
an existing line which is already used for delivering BT services
or I will have a new copper pair fitted just to deliver broadband
services. In the case of the former obviously there is going to
be interruption. The BT services will stop and the operator will
be offering their own services. Obviously the aim is to reduce
that window of disruption to the minimum.
213. I am thinking more about somebody who just
happens to use that exchange, who has no interest in your service
at all but just as a result of that work going on. You tell me
that there is no risk of that happening at all?
(Mr Allan) We did it last year, and whilst it was
technical trials it was for the provision of DSL services and
this year we did commercial trials, so it was a relatively risk-free
experience. The risk of disruption of normal service for BT customers
(Mr Saunders) There is a technical standard that has
been agreed between BT and industry which is called the access
network frequency plan, which is aimed at ensuring that there
is no significant disruption to services as a result of the installation
of DSL systems.
214. We did have those assurances when the cable
operators were putting cable down the streets. There are not always
very good plans of exactly where these services are located and
all of us in our constituencies can remember working through other
people's cables. How good is the information about what goes into
these exchanges and where and whether you need to do some digging
up? Are we likely to have some accidental damage?
(Mr Allan) You can never say there will not be any
accidental damage, but you are not actually putting in a physical
infrastructure to a household. The infrastructure is there. All
you are doing is putting black boxes at either end of a copper
wire so it is actually at the exchange end and then you have to
get the wire into the exchange where there is a build requirement.
215. But that is the bit that I am concerned
(Mr Allan) That is the easy bit. The cable companies
in terms of digging up all the roads and streets and putting wires
into people's homes is the tricky bit.
216. Can we be clear about what is physically
involved? If you are putting this additional equipment in, will
it require some cooling in places? Are you going to need to put
in air conditioning that may not be there at the moment or improve
the standard of the air conditioning? Is that going to be a requirement?
(Mr Saunders) Part of the specification of the hostel
collocation that I spoke about earlier is forced air cooling,
not air conditioning, at this stage as part of the standard product.
That is an issue that is being examined by the industry. DSL technology
is quite power hungry so there may be instances where air conditioning
is necessary and that will be identified and written into the
requirements for the hostel facilities or the collocation facilities
that BT is obliged to provide.
217. Are there any cases where you may need
to improve the electrical supply to deal with the additional demand?
(Mr Saunders) Similar, yes, that is the case. Again,
that is part of the process that BT and industry are working through.
218. That could be quite difficult if your local
transformer station is a long way away and you cannot get the
level of power you require.
(Mr Saunders) Again, from our own experience in our
own Hull network we have been through that learning curve and
it is something that the electricity suppliers are quite capable
of dealing with providing you give them
219. In all locations?
(Mr Saunders) I cannot speak for all locations within
the United Kingdom but clearly that has to be dealt with.