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All I want is a phone line

The government is keen to see constructors embrace the latest and best technology and is advocating the use of Building Information Management on public sector projects.

The industry wants to respond but there is one big stumbling block along the way. Getting a temporary line for a construction site can be a nightmare.

On average it takes 60 to 70 days to provide a line to a site office at a time when companies using 4G and satellite technology lack capacity to handle the volume of data they require.

UKCG is working to address the issue. The aim is to have a phone line in a site office on day one of the project. If only it was that straightforward.

BT has been keen to help, Ofcom (the regulator) understands the problem yet so far we have only seen marginal improvements in performance.  This is a complex problem that – despite our collective procurement power - UKCG is finding a challenge to unravel.

For a start, this is not a simple customer/supplier relationship. 

Your IT division places the order with your communications provider.  The communications provider (even if it’s BT Retail or BT Global) then places an order with BT’s Openreach for the physical cabling to be provided from the local exchange to the site. 

Finally your own operations people deal with Openreach engineers on site.  So there’s ample opportunity for misunderstandings and things to go wrong.

Also, frequently there is no spare cable plant in the vicinity of the site so the Openreach work often involves major cabling operations.

With the support of the new Openreach CEO, UKCG members and the telecoms industry have been working on ways to improve the service and shorten timescales. We are by no means there yet but there are a number of things that we can do to help. 

This is what we have learned so far:

  • Ensure your communications provider orders the right product from Openreach.  It is called ‘Short Duration Lines for Site Offices’; 
  • Use ‘site distribution points’ (SDPs) when your office is not yet on site.   For simple phone and/or and broadband service, Openreach will terminate their cable in a weather proof cabinet that you provide in a fixed position.  You are responsible for any cabling beyond that point but it avoids Openreach waiting for your cabin to arrive.  
  • Quote ‘site office’ at the top of the address and job notes.  It helps an Openreach robotic distinguish these jobs. 
  • Quote two contacts on the order, one office based and one site based.  Openreach surveyors often say they get no answer from the construction company contact point.   
  • The survey meeting between your onsite rep and the Openreach surveyor is key.  Make sure your rep is well briefed.
  • Many Communications Providers allow pre-authorisation of excess charges, up to a specified limit of course!  Time is often lost waiting for charges to be approved; and 
  • When it gets really tough Openreach offers a project management service for complex provision of their lines.

UKCG has not cracked the issue yet but we are determined to remove this basic stumbling block.

Rachel Done is deputy director of UKCG

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