End in sight for telecoms SLA saga?

3 Oct 2005

The end is in sight for a matter of growing contention between licensed telecoms operators and incumbent operator Eircom over service-level agreements (SLAs) in single billing and wholesale line rental, Eircom has stated.

In recent weeks, siliconrepublic.com discovered that independent licensed telecom providers were furious over a situation whereby they had to accept a similar SLA to that offered by Eircom to residential retail customers.

A SLA is an informal contract between a carrier and a customer that defines the terms of the carrier’s responsibility to the customer and the type and extent of remuneration if those responsibilities are not met. SLAs ensure effective delivery and support. Key elements include provisioning time, performance, security and availability.

However, according to carriers we spoke to, the SLA on offer to telcos from Eircom does not state the time within which Eircom will repair a line if it goes down. Carriers such as Energis – one of the third largest telecom operators in Ireland – say this is harming its ability to provide SLAs to business customers who need such assurance.

Brendan Moran of telecoms brokerage MinuteBuyer described the importance of SLAs to business customers. “I cannot underline the importance of an SLA in wholesale line rental to the business market. If I was a restaurant owner and I relied on processing credit card payments for customers wishing to pay for meals, my provider needs to assure me that there would be no downtime if a line goes down. The ultimate nightmare would mean waiting 20 to 25 days for the line to be repaired. Imagine being a restaurant and being unable to process credit card payments.

“At this point in time in Ireland there is no SLA between independent licensed provider of the telecoms services and Eircom that states Eircom will resolve the line problem within a specified period. That has to change if telecoms competition is to exist in Ireland,” Moran said.

Conal Henry, chief executive of Energis in Ireland, said his company in recent weeks embarked on a wholesale line rental strategy enabling consumers to put their entire line rental and ancillary services on to a single bill. With the line-rental market estimated to be worth 423m per annum, Energis plans to take a 5pc market share over the next three years. The company also introduced a wholesale line-rental product for its business customers.

“The SLA issue is a massive issue for us and is one of the many intricacies of the marketplace today,” Henry told siliconrepublic.com. “If Eircom cannot commit to us how quickly they can fix a line and that line goes down, the customer’s perception is it is our fault.”

A spokesman for Eircom confirmed that the single billing and wholesale line rental SLA does not cover fault repair times. However, he said the company has taken on board the industry’s concerns and through its work with the telecoms industry’s Forum on Single Billing and Line Rental will be issuing a new SLA over the coming month.

“We’ve proposed an updated SLA to the industry forum that agrees to industry standards,” the spokesman explained. “The new SLA will include detailed metrics online repair. It is going through the final stages of industry approval and we will commence its implementation immediately.”

The spokesman added the company has embarked on a single repairs process that does not differentiate between wholesale and retail customers. “It does not prioritise whether you are retail or wholesale. That should allay industry concerns about whether preference will be given to one or the other. In addition to this there is a fully automated fault reporting system for the single billing and wholesale line rental product, which means operators can test the lines themselves and this will help in the management of their customers.

“There is activity on the SLA front and we are certainly going to allow for the implementation of a specific SLA for the wholesale product,” the Eircom spokesman said.

By John Kennedy