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KCOM Prepares to Migrate from PSTN Phone to VoIP Services in Hull

Friday, May 11th, 2018 (9:53 am) - Score 2,050
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East Yorkshire focused ISP KCOM, which serves Hull, has long talked about becoming one of the first cities in the UK to switch-off their ageing copper telephone service (here). As part of that they’ve contracted Amdocs to provide automated software management of their network components.

At present KCOM anticipates that their £85m and FTTP dominated “full fibre” broadband network (with a tiny bit of slower FTTC / VDSL2) should cover 100% of their area by March 2019 (i.e. around 200,000 homes and businesses). Suffice to say that this will put them into a prime position for retiring their old Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) phone services and adopting a more IP centric future.

Today we got just a little hint of what this might mean after Amdocs was contracted to upgrade their service delivery platform and enhance KCOM’s new next generation network infrastructure. Among other things this will enable the operator to deliver new Network Function Virtualization (NFV) based services to its customers.

Highlights of the Amdocs Deal

· Amdocs’ orchestration platform will support KCOM’s zero-touch customer service portal, giving it the capability to select:

— Bandwidth on-demand

— Time-bound bandwidth

— SD-WAN services

· Amdocs automated software management will ensure KCOM’s voice service is delivered through online portals.

· As KCOM migrates residential customers from PSTN to VoIP, Amdocs will help manage and automate this process.

The last one is perhaps of most interest. Amdocs clarified that “KCOM will also be migrating its [PSTN] residential customers to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Softswitch as part of this project, where the service delivery platform from Amdocs will be able to manage and automate any fulfilment steps without affecting the voice service received by residential customers.”

Sean Royce, KCOM’s Executive Vice President for Technology, said:

“We want to improve the services we deliver to our customers and the experience we offer them. We’re starting with our voice services so need a platform that can deliver this phase and then be deployed more widely across our business as the basis for other services. By working with Amdocs, we are gaining a partner that shares KCOM’s ambitions and can grow with us.”

Sadly no timescale is given but with their FTTP network being expected to complete next year then it’s probably not very far off.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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16 Responses
  1. Paul Jenkinson

    This migration sounds great but it will be interesting to see how they propose to manage it. VoIP handsets are currently not easily available and are not plug and play. If they restrict handset availability to their own offerings there may be customer resistance. As a KCOM customer myself I will look forward to this with interest.

    • MikeW

      I’d assume ATAs instead of VoIP handsets.

    • Mike

      Doesn’t Vonage make a box you just plug into your router via ethernet and then you just plug your regular phone into the box?

      Should be relatively straight forward to emulate PSTN/equivalent over internet.

    • Phil

      Mike and Paul – VM’s superhub 3 has 2 phone sockets to plug a bog standard phone into, I would expect KCOM will release some similar CPE.

      Also as Mike W said, ATA’s are super cheap – I’m running a Grandstream 802 which cost me £30 after converting over to Sipgate to avoid extortionate line rental and call charges.

    • occasionally factual

      No need to for KCOM to hand out ATA’s.
      Just use the same ONT/battery backup/phone socket as BT do and put a cable from the ONT to the new phone socket. And direct the current phone signal to the ONT (BT call it Fibre Voice Access or “FVA”)

    • MikeW

      Nice idea. But KCOM now have more subscribers on their fibre products than on ADSL… and they haven’t been supplying battery backup as part of that.

      I’m also pretty sure that their ONTs haven’t included ATA ports as yet. I’ll have to check…

  2. Linda birks

    What does this mean for the customers

    • 125us

      Phones will plug into the back of the broadband router instead of a phone socket, though it’s also possible to keep he old sockets working. The router looks like a telephone exchange to the phones and provides the tones and voltages and so on needed to make a phone work. People who don’t have broadband will need it – perhaps with a router that only offers phone service, no WiFi or general Internet access.

      It might be more complicated for customers with business voice connections like ISDN-30. Not all customer owned private exchanges can use SIP or connections over Ethernet.

    • Meadmodj

      Line corded telephones are powered by the telephone exchange. If there is a power outage the phone still works. If we move to broadband only then the ISP modem/router and the phones will need to be powered via a power backup (UPS) or similar during any power outage.
      ADSL and Full Fibre lines will be resilient to prolonged power outage as long as the ISP connectivity remains powered and the UPS is functioning at home. How long will depend on your UPS capability. FTTC and VM VIVID will be vunerable to prolonged power outage of more than several days (as will Mobile).
      Rare but it can happen and even without power outage broadband service is not anywhere near 100% regardless of the technology. Particularly important to those in remote areas or isolated homes. Not perhaps applicable here to KCOM/Hull but BT will also be migrating its PSTN to VoIP.

    • MikeW

      As FTTP takes over most of KCOM’s broadband services, and allows IP telephony via ATA to those customers, it is plausible that KCOM’s ADSL2+ DSLAMs could be repurposed as MSANs … and take on telephony duty for the customers who stay on ADSL, or who just want a voice service. For such customers, the copper carries voice in the same way as today, so nothing changes in the house.

      I guess it is even plausible that KCOM intend to use MSANs for every voice line, including homes with FTTP. But that would mean buying equipment, not just repurposing their old DSLAMs.

      This MSAN+Softswitch solution is, after, all, what BT intended to do with voice on 21CN originally.

      The power backup is a valid point. BT have been using battery backup boxes with FTTP – a box with a stack of AA rechargables rather than lead-acid.
      http://bt.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/36953/~/fibre-home-phone-service%3A-questions-about-the-battery-back-up-unit

      IIRC, when BT’s FTTP service is on battery power, it only services the telephony ports, not the internet access data port.

    • Meadmodj

      @MikeW

      Thanks. I assume different approaches may be taken in different locations and this will not change everywhere. However I assumed that both BT and KCOM would take the opportunity to remove all dependency on the E side to free up duct capacity for further fibre and remove the last bastion of the MDF (freeing up the building asset) withdrawing most equipment back to more centralised locations.
      Therefore Ofcom need to ensure resilience for emergencies and consumers understand the difference.

    • MikeW

      @meadmoj
      KCOM might indeed be able to free up the E-side.

      BT, on the other hand, will continue to use the E-side as part of the end-to-end path for the test equipment.

  3. CarlT

    You guys sure this isn’t, initially, about retiring the old school PSTN switches and replacing with IP everything?

    Doesn’t have to result in any change to customers, they can go into an MSAN. The MPF services from Sky, etc, are VoIP.

    • Meadmodj

      You may be right initially but BT is sitting on a lot of exchange space with a little bit of equipment in the corner. Would they simply replace one bit of kit for another or move to a poisition where they can release or redevelop the smaller property assets?. If I were them I would be looking for a universal voice service for mobile and fixed.

    • CarlT

      So moving to this is not replacing kit with other new kit, the MSANs that provide ADSL will be fine.

      It’s an initial step, that’s all. Once Ofcom allow retirement of copper they can proceed with next stage.

    • MikeW

      @Meadmoj
      Err… This article is about Kcom, with maybe 8 exchange buildings. Not BT, with 5500.

      @Carl
      You’re right – the intention for KCOM would be to get rid of System X (that won’t have a big manufacturer backing it). BT would have the same aim, though they can use gradual reduction in demand to self-supply with spares. They’d perhaps have similar aims for System Y too (though Ericsson still exists).

      However…
      When I went looking, it appears that KCOM has already migrated from System X to Marconi XCD5000 softswitches. I wonder whether they now need to replace the Marconi kit?

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