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Businesses Unprepared for the End of Traditional Phone Lines

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 2,112
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A new survey has warned that 24% of UK businesses (33% for SMEs) aren’t aware of the plan to withdraw traditional copper line phone services (PSTN – WLR, LLU SMPF etc.) by December 2025, which will see both homes and businesses being migrated over to a modern all-IP based network for broadband and voice connectivity.

The process of migration has already started in some exchange areas, specifically those that have achieved 75%+ coverage of Openreach’s new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based network (here), although it will also occur in areas where slower copper-based phone solutions are still dominant (i.e. both copper and fibre lines will be moved to an all-IP platform).

The shift effectively means that broadband will be the default product, while voice services will become more of an optional add-on via VoIP style solutions from your ISP or other providers (i.e. reversing the current trend where broadband is treated as an add-on to analogue copper lines). Naturally, businesses need to be aware of this shift so that they can adapt their systems in advance, or risk services being disrupted.

However, the new Censuswide survey with 1,021 respondents (105 CEOs and 416 IT decision makers in large businesses, plus 500 IT decision makers in SMEs), which was commissioned by Zen Internet, found that almost a quarter (24%) were not aware of the impending change (rising to 33% for SMEs). Meanwhile 10% of SMEs say they are aware of the stop-sell, but do not know what to do next.

On top of that there may be other complications. For example, 13% of businesses said that the next possible point of contract renewal / termination with their traditional telephone supplier is more than 3 years away and 8% claim they have no plans to renew or terminate. It’s a similar story for traditional telephone equipment.

Paul Stobart, CEO of Zen Internet, said:

“A look through history suggests that businesses have illustrated a pragmatic approach when it comes to adopting new communications tools. However, there is a growing risk that many will be caught short by structural changes to the UK telecoms network which loom on the horizon. Keeping company technology up to date should be a continuous, evolutionary process, but the clock is ticking for those businesses still reliant on outdated communications tools such as traditional telephony.”

James Lilley, Openreach Director of Managed Customer Migrations, said:

“Copper has served us well for the last 100 years, but it’s coming to the end of its working life. We relate to the findings from this research. Yes, there is more work to do and alongside work we already do with industry to educate and inform, we’ll also soon be ready to announce a new business specific communications campaign to help provide the level of detail required for businesses to get ready and prepare for the copper stop-sell.

This digital change is an important time for industry and impacts all businesses as we modernise and continue to build a full fibre network which is the next generation of internet technology. This upgrade will transform people’s internet experience and this new digital network will connect phone calls over the internet in much the same way computers exchange information online.”

In terms of solutions, it’s noted that 50% of businesses already use a cloud-based solution to integrate their communications channels and 44% say that they use unified communications to manage inbound / outbound calls. Meanwhile 45% say they do not currently use a cloud-based solution to integrate their communication channels, but would consider doing so. But there are other solutions too, although those fall outside of our focus.

At the same time, it’s worth remembering that residential consumers will be affected by this change too, with some ISPs like BT, Virgin Media and Sky Broadband already beginning the gradual process of migrating customers on to new IP based voice solutions. Nevertheless, ISPs definitely need to be doing a lot more in terms of communicating this change to their customers and providing solutions.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
15 Responses
  1. Avatar AQX says:

    Virgin recently transferred me over to VoIP & there was no difference other than me being one more service down in the event of an outage, hope they start doing something worthwhile with it as they’re claiming it makes for better quality in calls which doesn’t seem to be the case.

    1. Avatar MrD says:

      Quality is not going to be better. The FXO/FXS VoIP conversion will remove the HD element. A full VoIP setup, no ATA, will deliver HD calling when both ends support it.

    2. Avatar I says:

      That’s why they have DECT built in. People can choose to use shiny HD capable handsets with the bells and whistles that VoIP can provide, and someone who couldn’t care less can continue to use their old corded phone without significant upheaval. Or even both.

      The HD benefit will be slow to materialise unless the network operators support it and have enabled cross-network support (which still seems to be lacking on the mobile side in my experience)

  2. Avatar R Walker says:

    It’s a bit pie in the sky for a date as we are in the middle of an industrial estate in Devon and still can’t get decent speed DSL so how they think we can migrate to IP phones is a joke. Must get a phone call every week offering phone upgrades once a month without fail from BT always falls flat when they see the speeds we get. Phones for a business are still more important than email although fax traffic has gone.

    1. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      Copper will stay until there is an effective alternative, this is aimed at consumer in higher speed areas. You don’t need that much bandwidth to support a few IP Phones with the flexibility they would provide both in functionality, competition and cost (no multiple lines). If you are in “the middle of an industrial estate” then a collective approach may benefit all on your estate (various providers) if you and neighbours will not be covered by either BDUK/Out-in anytime soon.

    2. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      SME not consumer

  3. Avatar tonyp says:

    Is it reasonable for SME’s to understand the changes to their communications when many are running on thin margins and have their time devoted to the real business they own and operate? Of course, there will be (SME?) tech companies who will specialise in ‘helping’ businesses changeover to the new world but there would be a charge for doing so, which might, in turn, affect marginal income.

    There will be casualties!

    1. Avatar I says:

      If the phone is that essential to their business then they’ll have to take some time to get it sorted – which could be as simple as plugging in the supplied ATA into their existing phone. It would be unreasonable to expect telcos to keep legacy networks going just because some people CBA to do anything.

      If they’ve got a PBX then chances are they pay someone to manage this hassle for them anyway.

  4. Avatar Phil says:

    What doesn’t help is stubborn business owners who refuse to migrate because “it’s what we’re used to,” and “they can’t switch us off if we don’t want it.”

    1. Avatar Andre says:

      But that’s a perfectly valid argument. Why risk the upheaval of change if they perceive no benefit to said change?
      It doesn’t seem like stubbornness, seems very sensible.
      The new product needs to be enticing rather than just something that makes Openreach’s life easier.

    2. Avatar The Facts says:

      As in ‘there’re not adding a ‘1’ to my phone number’.

    3. Avatar I says:

      Andre – the enticement is that if they don’t do anything, they’ll find themselves without a phone service. The PSTN is going away within this decade whether they like it or not. It’s not just Openreach, either.

    4. Avatar André says:

      Well, quite.
      But I’d call that “coercion” rather than enticement 😉

  5. Avatar Optimist says:

    Whatever happened to the plan to install ONTs in the customer premises to interface with their legacy internal phone system?

  6. Avatar Anna says:

    I just got connected to Sky and they have given me a proper phone line – not plugged into the router.

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