Getting to Grips with One Touch Switching

By Dave Davies and Roger Peden

At present, the experience of end customers that switch provider of broadband and telephony services is inconsistent. If the gaining provider and losing provider are both on Openreach, then the process only requires contact with the gaining provider (hence ‘Gaining Provider Led’). However, if the switch requires a change of network – for example, from BT to Virgin Media, or to an AltNet – then it is the end customer’s responsibility to co-ordinate the switch with both losing and gaining parties.

In 2020, Ofcom stated its intention to implement changes to the General Conditions to make the switching process consistent irrespective of underlying technology. Following consultations with industry on the approach to be taken, Ofcom in February confirmed “One Touch Switching” as the process to be adopted, with a target launch of April 2023.

The One Touch Switching Company (TOTSCO) was established earlier this year to facilitate the implementation of this process, and to procure and run the switching hub which is central to the OTS process. The selection of the hub provider will be by RFP, a process which is underway, but the vendor is yet to be confirmed. Interested parties can register for membership on the TOTSCO site, where details of the processes and interface can be found.

The process specifications cover in detail the expected interactions between gaining and losing providers, via the central hub. It also describes changes to accelerate number portability transactions, so that ports can happen in line with switches and not be delayed by their current four-day minimum lead time.

The site also contains technical requirements of the hub itself – although it is not essential for CPs to be aware of these, it is interesting to understand the design approach being taken, particularly the conscious choices that would allow future extension of the platform for other inter-operator use cases, such as number portability.

With less than five months remaining to the proposed launch date, and with the hub vendor yet to be even selected, some CPs are voicing concerns that this date is not achievable, and indeed TOTSCO themselves note on their website that they consider it “unlikely that OTS will be fully ready on this date, as not only does the Hub development need to be completed, but providers will have to modify their own processes and extensive end-to-end testing will be required. TOTSCo has raised these issues with Ofcom.” 

This will cause some frustration in Ofcom considering these changes have been under discussion for quite some time; but industry could argue that thirteen months for detailed process design, hub procurement, and a rollout process that would impact all consumer CPs was always an aggressive timescale.

Nonetheless there will undoubtedly be pressure to deliver these changes as soon as practically possible, so all consumer CPs[1] should now be preparing for the changes to systems and processes required to implement OTS.

While forced change is often unwelcome, forward-thinking CPs will take this opportunity to undertake a wider review of the customer journey. In doing so, these CPs will enhance the end-to-end customer experience and improve their market positioning.

Cartesian Can Help

Cartesian has the practical experience to help CPs through this significant transition. We have a successful track record in the delivery of change programmes for CPs, both large and small. Our expertise spans architecture, process design, technical design, delivery management through to testing and release. Our clients know and trust us for our experience in telco processes, technical delivery, and system transformation. In customer switching, our credentials include a solution for number porting that supports some of the largest UK CPs.

To learn more, contact Cartesian.

[1] Although Ofcom has only mandated changes to switching of consumer products, within CPs there may be a large system and process overlap between consumer single line products and simple business products; hence voluntary adoption of OTS for business products is a topic of industry discussion.