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Openreach Campaign Raises Awareness of Analogue UK Phone Retirement

Wednesday, Apr 28th, 2021 (10:33 am) - Score 18,192

Network access provider Openreach (BT) has today launched a new national “Call Waiting List” campaign, which aims to raise awareness among UK businesses of their plans to withdraw old copper-based analogue phone (PSTN / WLR etc.) services by December 2025 and replace them with digital (IP / VoIP) alternatives.

At present many homes and businesses still connect a traditional phone or DECT handset directly to a Master or Extension Socket on the wall, but the shift to Internet Protocol (IP) based digital connectivity – via both copper and full fibre (FTTP) lines – means that new phone services are increasingly becoming optional and are instead handled by your broadband connectivity (e.g. handsets connected to a router, rather than a wall socket).

NOTE: Over the next 4-5 years, more than 14 million traditional lines across the UK will be migrated onto new digital services (an average of 50,000 analogue lines will need to be upgraded to digital each and every week).

The platform switch, which is also happening in many other parts of the world, brings with it plenty of compatibility issues with older systems and that can be a particular problem for many businesses, which may be blissfully unaware of the impending change.

The goal of Openreach’s new campaign is thus to raise awareness and understanding of the process, while also helping businesses to stay informed. At present the “Call Waiting List” page for all this is largely just a subscription form for their personalised newsletter, but you can also find some new information pages on their website too.

This is particularly important for vital CNI (critical national infrastructure) organisations, to make sure the upgrade can be completed smoothly, and with minimal disruption for the wider public. Failing to properly prepare for all this could leave some people and businesses to suffer a loss of phone connectivity.

James Lilley, Openreach’s Director of Managed Migrations, said:

“This is an important early step in upgrading the UK. We know businesses are time-poor and the choice to upgrade may sit at the end of a long-list of other priorities that will seem more pressing. By launching the Call Waiting List we hope to help those businesses plan their upgrades effectively, with regular updates about our activities and the potential implications on their operations, as well as guidance and examples of how they can make the transition a smooth one.

We’re also working closely with service providers to make sure any changes happen as smoothly as possible. This upgrade will ultimately provide the nation with faster and more reliable services; so we encourage all businesses in the UK to take steps now to understand what they’ll need to do.”

Broadband ISPs and phone providers on Openreach’s network also have a big responsibility to ensure that they help to educate their customers about the change, although at present there seems to be a lack of focus on this from some providers. Greater education of businesses, and indeed the wider public, is most definitely required.

At the same time as all this, Openreach are also in the process of slowly migrating exchange areas from copper to new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) infrastructure. At present over 200 FTTP exchange upgrades have already been announced (here). The process for moving from copper to FTTP lines begins once 75% of premises in an exchange are able to receive that full fibre connectivity.

Under the current plan Openreach will stop selling analogue phone lines to new customers by September 2023.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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27 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Robert Brown says:

    There are 30 flats in this premises and still waiting on fibre as we are only getting 1mgof Internet speed yet there is fibre to the premises 20 meters away WiFi speeds here are atrocious surely something needs to be done herr

    1. Avatar photo Meadmodj says:

      Those experiencing less than 10Mbps should have registered under the USO so that they are being addressed if not covered by other programmes.

      BT and Ofcom are probably envisaging that the number UK premises without the existing USO level service will be eliminated by 2025. By this date Ofcom should have revised the USO specification “when at least 75% of premises in the UK subscribe to a broadband service that provides a download speed of at least 30Mbit/s”

      All new installs and increasing migrations of VDSL are likely to be data only now and VoIP used. Ofcom have approved providers no longer supporting local dialling which assists.

      OR have already announced a restricted low speed FTTP product which can be used for a number of purposes including telephony only (by exception).

      Voice QoS may depend on the providers approach e.g BT/Sky will deal with voice traffic directly within their network whereas other providers may route to a VoIP provider via the Internet.

    2. Avatar photo Anti-moaner says:

      Probably because your landlord won’t give Openreach a wayleave. Suggest prodding your landlord with a long stick!

  2. Avatar photo JmJohnson says:

    My bandwidth when streaming is already on the verge of bottlenecking (high latency spikes as packets are queued).
    I’m assuming the VoIP QoS will take priority so if my phone rings whilst I’m streaming my issues are going to be worse.

    1. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      VoIP will use around 100 kbit/s (probably less) and only while the phone is off hook. It isn’t likely to make much of a difference to your streaming.

      Any ISP worth bothering with will have implemented QoS to ensure the voice always gets through. Openreach have a variant of their product which will similarly provide priority within their bit of the network.

    2. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      The bandwidth for a voice call (even HD voice) is miniscule compared to video streaming. And it won’t start using bandwidth until you answer the call.

  3. Avatar photo Jake4 says:

    Received a letter earlier today from BT saying I’ll be moved over to Digital Voice soon (Voice over Fibre) & I was able to claim a free digital voice handset (told to visit https://www.bt.com/DVequipment & enter landline number & was provided with a coupon code to order one for free).

    (I’m not in Salisbury or another town / city that’s attempting to shift the whole network to Fibre only)

  4. Avatar photo Graham T says:

    all well and good shifting to non copper. what happens when there is a power cut ie currently power cut can still make/receive calls using a corded phone. from reading above the digital phone is connected to the router, which will be dead with no power, so no phone line

    1. Avatar photo Just a thought says:

      OLT were originally shipped with a battery backup. Now this seems less common. Bigger issues for security systems, fire alarms or personal assistance callers even if they were fitted with a battery backup that’s useless if the LAN in your premises is down.
      Really surprised that battery backups are not being provided as an ‘added extra’ service that you can choose to add to your monthly rental. Also surprised that ISPs are not selling more VoIP early doors over even FTC and VDSL. Given they can add some extra services such as call management and forwarding again they could be charging these as extras.
      The big thing that needs some national agreement and clarity is a way of making 999 calls over these see services.

    2. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      Where there’s mobile coverage available that’s the backup. Where there isn’t battery backup it’ll have to be.

    3. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      Note that switching off the analogue PSTN, and switching to non-copper, are two separate things that won’t happen at the same time.

      When the PSTN is switched off by 2025, there will still be lots of copper in use. It will still be providing VDSL and ADSL data services, which the digital voice will be carried over. Only the baseband analogue dial tone will be gone.

      However the upshot is still the same: if you want to make calls during a power cut, and you don’t have mobile coverage, then you’ll need battery backup.

    4. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      I believe a large reason for lack of regulation is that people simply don’t use corded phones anymore. I consider myself a bit of a geek, and I had to borrow one from a family member when the power company turned everything off for the day & I suddenly needed to make some very important calls (let’s say it wasn’t a very pleasant day!)

      BT do already offer a UPS for their Smart Hub 2. OR no longer provide battery backup for the ONT as standard (though it’s just some AAs, how good is it anyway) but presumably it can be made available for vulnerable customers? If nothing else, it’ll open up a market for third party DC output UPSes.

      The network side should be fine – Openreach’s equipment is almost always going to be in the exchange with all the traditional power resiliency that this provides

  5. Avatar photo Randy cortes says:

    Virgin currently provide battery back that allows you to make emergency calls using any of the mobile networks if they are available and if provided free to vulnerable customers I would guess BT provide something similar.

  6. Avatar photo Clive says:

    All well & good BT saying this but I had FTTP installed & took them 3 months to tell me they are having issue porting numbers currently on copper services to VoIP, ended in me having to stay on copper in the end.

    Also when VoIP becomes more mainstream ISP’s need to consider that users may want to use own routers. Under current config the phones are tied to BT’s router which is shockingly appalling.

    Don’t get me wrong I love the idea of VoIP but only if implemented correctly & not limiting the consumer.

    1. Avatar photo Meadmodj says:

      Hopefully BT has now recognised their porting issues and are clearer now where there are still technical issues preventing migration from PSTN to BT Digital Voice and addressing them.

      As for implementing VoIP properly I quite favour the approach of the likes of BT, Sky and VM. The VoiP is integrated into the router for simplicity and support, it is secure because the settings are hidden, you can still use corded phones, Fax?, DECT etc and they can efficiently manage the end to end routing of voice within their networks.

      The number of ISPs offering FTTP is increasing on OR and some Altnets. Even FTTC is available now without voice (including BT). So those that do not wish to have voice or wish to use a 3rd party VoIP service can do so.

      My view is those that want to utilise their own equipment would probably be wiser not use an ISP that charges more for a service wrap increasingly dependant on a proprietary router. For customers not technically minded using the ISP router will assist any fault resolution when things go wrong. In addition equipment provided by the main ISPs (not sold separately) is owned by the ISP and have T&Cs to its use.

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      Have to think of it in terms of the mass market though Clive – where most people use (and are perfectly happy with) the ISP supplied kit. It may not be for you, though it’s far from “shockingly appalling”. There will be ISPs who are more willing to accommodate your requirements.

      One reason not to allow DIY kit is that these VoIP services are subject to different regulations – i.e. 999 must work and must be accurate, etc. No SIP credentials = presumably reduces the risk of fraud also, and also eliminates all interop issues (imagine the bad PR when it turns out that 999 doesn’t work because someone hasn’t configured their SIP device correctly!)

    3. Avatar photo Peter Brookes says:

      After LOTS of phone calls, empty promises and refusal to give up, my daughter managed to have me converted to fibre phone with three free handset’s AND keep my old number. Don’t give up.

  7. Avatar photo Lisa Morrow-Mayer says:

    What about emergency services, as currently copper wire is always on, but voip will only work if the internet is working. I had a voip system from BT years ago and when internet was down, so was voip.

    1. Avatar photo Paul W says:

      I thought the old phone line was more reliable until one of our wires broke. My sip (IP) phone continued to work while BT didn’t. ADSL still works on 1 of the old copper wires, not so well, but good enough for a phone.

      We haven’t made outgoing calls on our fixed line for 15 years. I can put my IP lines on my mobile phone so I can make and receive local “landline” calls from anywhere in the world with a data connection. Do need a registrar for connecting with the public system. Registrar knows who I am and will route 999 calls appropriately, just as your mobile provider will.

      Don’t look back, IP is more reliable and versatile. The only people to miss the copper are the thieves who steal it.

  8. Avatar photo Simon Ackerman says:

    Being an aluminium customer with 10MB on FTTC who uses wireless 4G because Openreach can’t actually provide a working service for longer than 3 months. I suspect this will never ever affect anybody outside of a city. I don’t think OFCOM even know outside London exists let alone plan to lay fibre.

    1. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      True. The regulator doesn’t plan to lay fibre anywhere.

      This sent via my FTTP service nowhere near London.

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      you’ll have to look at both the fibre rollout list & the copper stop sale lists – plenty of places that are not London in there. Remember that the two are not connected – Openreach will be closing the PSTN down long before some people get FTTP, so they’ll be moved to VoIP over their existing connection.

      I can voluntarily upgrade to a BT or Sky “digital voice” service today if I so wish. I can also go broadband-only (though it’s not really any cheaper) and use a 3rd party VoIP service or mobile.

      Signed, yours with a rock solid reliable 80Mbit VDSL for about the last decade, nowhere near London

  9. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    Will BT digital voice service be free of the international scam “Cold” callers who they currently let roam at will across their analogue network ? With so many of these barstewards hanging-off the back service-providers servers or being given “An inside line” by “Data leakages” from certain sub-continental call-centres, I find that even light to moderate internet usuage produces hordes the b*ggers calling.
    And, it appears,from recent effects that I’ve noted, that when these “Cold-callers” are thwarted by something like BTs Call Guardian, their calls, either by design or accident screw up the BT decor range of phones equipped with “Call Guardian” causing dialling tone breakthrough, making the phone unusuable for all subsequent use, until the phone is reset. This, as you can imagine is highly convenient.

    1. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      Please explain ‘dialling tone breakthrough, ‘

  10. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    Will existing tone phones be able to connect to the digital voice service ?
    Smart Hub 2 seems to have something like a BT jack plug socket (In green) on the backside.

    1. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      It depends what your provider offers.

      Some providers’ routers have an ATA (Analogue Telephone Adapter) port that you can plug an old phone or analogue DECT base station into, so it’s an easy migration. This includes BT, Sky, Vodafone.

      On the other hand, Talktalk’s Openreach-based FTTP offering has no voice service at all. That may change in time. But you can always migrate your voice number to a third-party VOIP provider.

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