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Openreach Formally Launch “Naked Broadband” via SOGEA

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020 (11:30 am) - Score 7,608
nte5c mastersock bt openreach

Openreach (BT) has notified us that the full commercial launch of their new “stand-alone broadband” product for UK ISPs – Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA) – has officially started, which they said “marks the beginning of the end” for the old analogue telephone network (known to most as the “landline” phone service).

We’ve been reporting on SOGEA for the past few years and so our regular readers should now be familiar with it, but for those who aren’t we’ll do a little recap. At present most consumers on Openreach’s national copper based network must buy their phone service alongside analogue line rental and then broadband is optionally added on top (most ISPs today will seamlessly bundle these two together by default).

By comparison SOGEA changes this approach by enabling internet providers to sell a physical line just for broadband (i.e. not everybody needs a fixed voice line today), with the voice service thus moving to a VoIP based solution as an optional product from your ISP.

The adoption of SOGEA is thus an important stepping stone toward the plan to switch-off the old Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and adopt an “All IP” (Internet Protocol) network by 2025. Likewise this will help with the transition for FTTP “full fibre” networks, which have no choice but to use an IP based voice solution as optical fibre cannot carry analogue electrical signals (they carry laser light).

NOTE: SOGEA does NOT make broadband-only connections significantly cheaper vs broadband & phone bundles because you still need the same copper line. Only a tiny amount of the delivery cost sits with the voice side, which goes over the top of this.

According to Openreach, around 15 million UK homes and businesses will need to be switched away from traditional analogue voice services (equating to about 50,000 lines a week until late 2025), which also includes an array of other services that use analogue signals (e.g. everything from security alarms to bus stops, cash machines, elevators, traffic lights and even sluice gates in rivers and canals).

The task is huge but inescapable. For example, there are an estimated 500,000 legacy PSTN-only point of sale machines, and in 2017 there were c.1bn transactions, worth c. £30bn carried over one of these devices. Likewise there are currently up to 1 million telehealth devices in the UK (health pendants / warden controlled systems) which are PSTN-based systems.

A number of UK ISPs, such as Sky Broadband, already have SOGEA based products as part of an Early Market Deployment (EMD) launch, which means the provider has had to accept that Openreach could still make changes to the service before its full commercial launch. Today the EMD phase has officially ended and SOGEA’s commercial launch begins.

The catch with a VoIP based approach is that you often have to plug your existing analogue or DECT phone handset into the back of a broadband router (assuming it has the necessary phone ports) or Analogue Terminal Adapter (ATA), rather than the wall (master) socket, which means your service could be disrupted by power and broadband outages.

Likewise Ofcom still needs to improve phone number portability in order to make it easier for those who wish to port their phone number to a dedicated VoIP provider, as opposed to moving it as part of a broadband ISP switch (check out our guide for more – Swapping to Broadband VoIP from a UK Copper Home Phone Line).

At this point we should clarify that the PSTN switch-off is NOT the same as the physical removal or retirement of the copper line network, which will take many years longer to complete and is dependent upon the gradual expansion of gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband networks.

On top of that it’s worth noting that SOGEA generally refers to Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) based broadband services, while the G.fast version is called SOGFAST (still makes me chuckle) and the variant for ADSL2+ lines is known as SOADSL. Meanwhile voice-only customers in areas with no “fibre” (FTTC/P/G.fast) alternative will eventually be offered a special Single Order Transitional Access Product (SOTAP).

Openreach are currently also running two testbed trials – in Salisbury (Wiltshire) and Mildenhall (Suffolk) – giving ISPs and special service providers the chance to test new products and work out how they can migrate people safely and smoothly (details here and here).

Leave a Comment
19 Responses
  1. Avatar Robin says:

    What is the difference between SOADSL and SOTAP? Does SOTAP service lines where even ADSL is unavailable and if so then how?

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Details here:

      https://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/products/llu/sotap/sotap.do

      https://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/products/llu/sotap/downloads/sotap.pdf

      I believe ISPs wishing to consume SOTAP would need a Point of Presence in an exchange based on LLU infrastructure or buy via a wholesaler who is offering the product (ADSL support plays a role).

    2. Avatar NE555 says:

      I guess the question is rather: how does SOTAP differ from MPF? (not SMPF)

    3. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      @NE555. I assumed SOTAP was very similar to MPF other than it simply facilitates where the Voice is currently via WLR and Broadband is via existing SMPF, the voice path can be transferred (short term) to a CP on SMPF if that’s what they want. May only apply in certain situations with certain CPs.

      SOTAP as in the name is a transitional product whereas MPF (existing discrete CP equipment voice and or broadband) could technically stay a little longer with OR only involved in providing the pair beyond WLR closure. However invariably it will succumb to VoIP/VoBB initiatives and eventually rising LLU line/accommodation costs as a larger proportion of the legacy costs are apportioned to it.

    4. Avatar CarlT says:

      SOADSL and SOTAP are the same thing.

    5. Avatar CarlT says:

      SOTAP differs from MPF in that it’s a transitional product where no physical engineering work is needed. The end result is much the same as MPF however the physical line keeps jumpers in the same configuration as SMPF. The voice side of the connection instead of going to WLR kit goes to nothing useful, the ADSL remains on the same path.

  2. Avatar fed-up-sky-customer says:

    Currently the links you supply for sky are not working and just result in error 500 meaning they’ve been deleted.

    ~I’ve been wanting naked xDSL/Fiber ever since coming back from a 3 year stay in South Africa, Bizarrely even though the prices in South Africa are very high they give the customer so many choices it makes me wonder why …Probably to squeeze as much profit from us customer as possible.

  3. Avatar Meadmodj says:

    Will all ISPs utilise an OR Engineering visit. It was my understanding that some ISPs were to treat it as self install. If so I can’t yet see third party supply of the SOGEA VRI Faceplate. Has the specific faceplate been abandoned ?

  4. Avatar AndyC says:

    So if there is no dial tone how will they stop the engineer’s mistakeing a sogea line for a unused pair?

    1. Avatar MartinConf says:

      Lines being wrongly cut down as a result of no dial tone will occur

    2. Avatar Jonny says:

      The tests for finding an unused pair will include checking for a data service on the line. If engineers are still not testing for data services then that’s a training/quality issue that needs to be addressed.

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Battery.

    4. Avatar Andrew Clayton says:

      AAISP put a recorded message on such lines…

    5. Avatar John says:

      At the moment they do.
      They can’t with SOGEA.

    6. Avatar MikeP says:

      @Jonny

      Recent experience suggests it remains a major quality/training issue.
      A couple of years ago, @work had one pair of a 4-wire ISDN30 connection stolen (even worse, it was in the building riser where Openreach shouldn’t even have been going…). Fortunately, distance was low enough for it to be changed to 2-wire.
      A few months later, @home, had the (3.5Km long) pair stolen (Kelly were blamed…). Took the OR guy day and half to get a new pair traced back. And that had dialtone on it.

  5. Avatar Jamie Simms says:

    My sister has called BT today to upgrade her broadband from FTTC to G Fast and I expected BT to move her onto IP based phone service but apparently she will be keeping the standard phone service even though she already has the latest Hub.

    Although as the install is not for 3 weeks I wouldn’t be surprised if Openreach want to change it.

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Why expect?

    2. Avatar John says:

      OpenReach can’t change it…

      BT either order SOGEA or they don’t.
      OpenReach don’t get to pick and choose what service to give a customer. They give what’s ordered.

  6. Avatar Wayne says:

    Where is the VOIP / Voice only tier?
    My understanding is that OR would launch a voice only SOGEA option for customers wanting a phone line, but not the broadband, with the SOGEA giving enough bandwidth for VOIP (say 2mb up and down)

    Hopefully its coming!

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