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Entanet Unconvinced by BT’s Plan to Scrap Traditional Phone Services

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 (2:06 am) - Score 551

Entanet, which supplies broadband and telecoms services to a number of UK ISPs and businesses, says they’re “not convinced” by BT’s hope of being able to replace their old traditional phone services, including a relaxation of related regulation, with a new pure IP based network within the next 10 years.

The comments follow last week’s remark by BT’s Director of Regulatory Affairs, Mark Shurmer, who called on Ofcom to support a “sunset” clause for their existing phone services (here). “We believe obsolete regulation should be rolled back, rather than clinging on until the last user dies,” said Shurmer.

At present Ofcom requires BT to provide a traditional phone service to customers upon request. But voice calls are becoming increasingly mobile or IP based and people are steadily moving towards only using their fixed lines for broadband, thus the need for traditional voice services is being eroded.

But Entanet points out that not even BT can be sure of where the market will be in ten years’ time, although it’s an easy bet that IP (Internet Protocol based) technology will be significantly more common than it is today.

Paul Heritage-Redpath, Entanet’s Product Manager, said:

Whether by choice or through lack of technical understanding and even economics, some customers using legacy infrastructure will not wish to move to an IP based connection. For them, having to spend more money to have an Internet connection in order to make and receive calls is unlikely to be popular.

With that in mind, even in 10 years’ time, we could still suffer from not-spots or at least poor speeds in some areas. Would this affect the quality or even ability to take advantage of this new voice infrastructure, given the sensitivity of VoIP traffic to jitter and packet loss and the challenges of delivering reliable broadband over long lines? If that’s the case, their suggested further investment into broadband will surely be an essential requirement!

What about the effect on the emergency services? Ofcom already requires that VoIP service providers make available the means for customers to register the physical address of their telephone numbers, although it’s not known how many customers actually do. Therefore the risk of emergency service operators being unable to respond quickly is high. What measures would be required to effectively save lives?

Whilst we understand BT’s intentions to move to a newer technology and applaud its plans for investment into future proof networks and infrastructure, we’re not convinced that it will be plausible to fully remove the existing PSTN infrastructure within the next 10 years and we are doubtful that Ofcom will agree to relax its regulatory obligations.”

It’s important to stress that BT aren’t talking about scrapping the physical lines that run into your home, which carry both voice and broadband services. Instead this is more a reflection of the underlying voice calling services and related regulation. Ofcom are due to post the first proposals of their current strategic review by the end of this year.

Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Avatar Alex says:

    Perhaps if the number of houses with phone service had been dropping over the years, it would’ve been more convincing that it’s a dying service which should be replaced or deregulated.

    However we’re currently stuck in a market where you’re pretty much forced to have a phone service, and ISPs are continuing to put price increases on the landline rental.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      Though, as ever, you need to take care distinguishing what proportion of the line rental is destined for rental of the voice service, and what proportion is for rental of the actual, you know, line.

  2. Avatar tonyp says:

    Having a POTS telephone with the local LV 20ma current loop supplying power does mean that emergency services are available even when the domestic AC power is not there. OK that won’t help when the phone line is severed or destroyed in some way but reliance on IP technology for everything is IMHO a bit risky for vulnerable folk. Mobiles are fine for calling emergency services but only while their charge lasts in a power outage.

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