What is ‘normal’ anyway?

I’m not a fan of the term ‘new normal’, but whether we like it or not we’re now firmly in one. Whilst the basics of network delivery and field engineering haven’t changed, the manner in which they’re carried out has, drastically. This blog post outlines what this new normal looks like, how it differs from the traditional normal, and the impact that is having on the delivery of Janet network infrastructure.

First and foremost almost all field restrictions have now been lifted, the remaining exceptions being:

  • Openreach still has a few products in MBORC (Matters Beyond Our Reasonable Control) status, typically the ones we buy most of.
  • Openreach also has the small backlog of 3000 services delivered to the curtilage that they’re now working through completing;
  • We’re still seeing approximately 50% of customers sites not yet back open for business, to facilitate network changes at least.

Subcontractors (who aren’t Openreach) never really stopped working, they just slowed down due to restrictions in access customer sites, Openreach exchanges, and other network locations. That has largely come to an end now though and we’re seeing the majority of project activities ramp back up again.

Openreach themselves didn’t ever stop either, they just quite rightly prioritised delivery of CNI (Critical National Infrastructure). We still saw signs of life in that some services that didn’t touch customer sites were completed during the lockdown, but our delivery expectations were firmly set via the global context unfolding around us. What we’re seeing now is a targeted ‘back to normal’ effort by Openreach where they’re starting to clear the backlog and process new orders, but the remaining MBORC status means we still can’t rely on standard lead times quite yet. That said, hopefully it won’t be long before we really are back to normal in this area.

Janet engineers are back working in the field, armed with PPE and risk assessments we’re busy installing, configuring and commissioning services all across the country. This covers the full breadth of projects – customer fulfilment, core upgrades, and access build. As you can imagine we’ve subjected ourselves to much more stringent processes around location and duration of work, method of transport, etc, etc, but the headline is work is being done, infrastructure is being installed and services are being provisioned.

Customers are getting back into their institutions, and are actively making network changes (evidenced by the flow of sites now migrating across to our new South access network). Roughly 50% aren’t there yet in terms of access to site, but the ones that are have given us plenty to be getting on with; and for the rest we keep in close contact so that we plan and schedule work as soon as we’re able to.

In terms of the overall impact all of this is having on delivery of Janet network infrastructure, thankfully not a huge amount. Far more precautions are being taken, and far more processes and restrictions apply, but the network hasn’t changed, and not has the requirement to keep building, upgrading and delivering.

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