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Businesses Unprepared for End of Openreach’s Copper Phone

Friday, May 14th, 2021 (11:22 am) - Score 9,744

A new survey of 400 UK-based SME businesses, which was conducted by ISP Spitfire during March 2021, has found that nearly half (46%) of firms have no idea that their existing analogue phone and ISDN services will be switched-off completely by December 2025.

The “Switch On to the Switch Off” survey also highlighted that 83% of businesses have no visibility of when their services will be switched off, and over three quarters (77%) haven’t prepared for the disruption the switch-off of services may cause.

Openreach has already begun the gradual migration of traditional voice (PSTN / POTS) services to all-IP (VoIP, Cloud PBX etc.) technologies (here), which is due to complete by December 2025 and is occurring on copper lines (e.g. SOGEA). In other words, future phone services will need to connect over your broadband service (via a router etc.) instead of a handset plugging directly into the old wall socket.

Meanwhile, most people switching from copper to Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband lines will also need to adopt digital voice style services. Admittedly, some people are still using transition products that mix analogue phone lines with FTTP lines, but the copper side of that will eventually also need to make the transition.

Dominic Norton, Director of Spitfire Network Services, said:

“When you consider that the services businesses rely on to ensure they can serve their customers will be gradually switched off between now and 2025, the lack of preparedness has surprised us. Now is the time to take action because the future of your business depends on it.

To facilitate the analogue network and ISDN switch off, newer technologies are being more widely adopted. For those using an analogue or ISDN telephone number service, they will need to move to Voice over IP and take a SIP service. This could be a Cloud PBX for example or fibre Ethernet for larger offices.

The impact on telephony and broadband services is far reaching so you need to know how it will impact you.”

Both Openreach and various ISPs are currently in the process of trying to raise awareness about the switch so that both homes and businesses are aware of how things will change. Openreach has also launched the semi-related “Call Waiting List” campaign (here) and added new sections to their website (Stop Sells Page) to help.

In terms of the survey itself, we should highlight that not every provider uses Openreach’s network, and it’s thus unclear how many of those respondents might be at risk of confusion because they’re already on an IP based phone solution from a different network (e.g. Virgin Media).

Leave a Comment
22 Responses
  1. Phil says:

    I see Openreach on their info page is using the “Greener” marketing slogan regarding the transition to VoIP without qualifying it. So 20 million landlines convert to VoIP with an ATA drawing about 2 watts of power is 40 Mega watts extra power draw on the national grid, however factor in that many people without broadband will now need a router of some sort drawing about 10 watts could easily add another 5-10 Mega watts of power consumption to that total. I wonder how that compares to the power saved by the telephone exchanges shutting down? Then we have existing perfectly good routers and telephones being discarded as they are replaced by VoIP capable equipment. Not looking that green to me.

    Honest marketing would be: We aren’t making enough money to warrant the upkeep of a landline telephone system so we are decommissioning it. Our customers will have extra costs and inconvenience due to this and a less reliable “landline”, but tough.

    1. Alex Haines says:

      I’m going to have to research this further as numbers like this interest me but I’m dubious of your intent at present as, like the BT marketing, you don’t provide anything concrete.

      Take-up is hard to calculate as residential will probably just switch away from a landline completely and stick with mobile services so ergo less power draw in that scenario.

      Many businesses will have internal PBX consuming this power already so actually, no increase likely in those scenarios.

      Further, old copper has to be switched off, it’s simply not good business to run old and new networks alongside each other. There is of course a huge coat saving here for Openreach, but until that last line is terminated they have huge overheads.

      As for the comment about reliability it should be improved with an IP based service, not the other way around.

      TBC, I’m not saying your wrong but I don’t think that you have considered deeply enough the underlying existing usage.

    2. Meadmodj says:

      The reality is that the PSTN has grown to a capacity no longer required. Large businesses have already moved to over the years to VoIP and with the rollout of faster broadband, the increasing cost of the PSTN and the prominance of mobile its had its time.

      BT’s PSTN consumes about 0.5% of the UK’s electricity alone and it’s about 17 kilowatts per gigabyte per month whereas an FTTP network will be around 30 times less.

      Add to that OR can recover most equipment in their local exchanges (fibre linked to larger sites except for some remote OLTs, FTTC cabinets etc.)

      I personally like the landline concept, phones that can be used and traced in an emergency by anyone of any age. So VoIP it will be. The issue then is how should we adopt VoIP with its benefit of encrypted calls, quality and cost without losing the benefits of a traditional landline.

      Sky, BT and VM are achieving that with their current range of routers for their voice service and customers do not need to discard their current telephone/handset equipment as as a standard UK telephone socket is provided. The wasteful use of routers has been due to biennial switching of ISP and ad-hoc technical advice.

      Those that have chosen to go with their own router will have to return to the main ISP router or buy their own ATA/VoIP service or simply go mobile only.

      As for resilience of both telephone and broadband people need to think more strategic going forward with separate centralised power for comms using UPS/Solar and PoE technologies.

    3. Paul M says:

      We only have a landline because it supports xDSL, as there’s no BTOpenReach fibre here and no Virgin Media infrastructure.
      We make all outgoing calls on mobile, because for £8/month we get unlimited calls and text, unlike BT where line rental costs more and there’s no talk time included!

      I’ll be very happy once fibre comes as I’ll port my number to a VOIP provide, no need to pay BT for services then.

    4. Douglas says:

      You will have an element of truth in whT youre saying. But it is still far greener.

      Copper cabling if far more pollutant to produce over fibre.

      But the biggest saving for Fibre is on the transmission of signals. Laser transmission through the fibre network can travel 10x the distance than conventional copper. Therefore the copper network has amplifiers everywhere, you have huge numbers of exchanges, most of which will close once copper turns off. Saving power from the transmission of the signals and also the upkeep of the exchanges. Many of which are in very remote locations making up the equivelent of a large garden shed in size.

      The marked saving on the transmission of signals will far surpass the small amounts of extra energy being used by the minority of people who do not currently have an internet connection.

      I dont have any material for you to read, but its all stuff ive learned. As a fibre network engineer.

    5. John says:

      Not the 1st time and it won’t be the last time that Phil throws a ridiculous statement out there with his opinion as evidence.

      I think someone needs to look up the power consumption of the UK PSTN network.

  2. slowday says:

    Bet your fun at parties Phil, and completely irrelevant . I can’t be bothered looking it up but didn’t BT Group buy 20 odd years of renewable energy a few years ago ?

    1. Paul M says:

      You’d have thought they’d have solar panels on their exchanges now.

    2. Mr G Walker says:

      As a former BT, and Post Office Engineer, I am saddened at the empty Telephone Exchange Buildings, which we all paid for before BT existed.
      A windfall to the get Rich People who own BT now. Grrr

    3. John says:

      “A windfall to the get Rich People who own BT now. Grrr”

      BT Group don’t even own their exchanges so they would have a hard job making a profit from selling them.

      They will simply make expenditure savings by not having to pay their current leases for the exchanges.

  3. Mark says:

    Will copper ever be completely phased surely not for decades? Especially Exchange only lines and FTTC done by subsidises? Digital down the copper is fine, but it’s still down copper wires in some areas for a long time to come.

    1. New_Londoner says:

      The headline of the article is a little misleading as the story is about the switch-off of the PSTN and not the withdrawal of services delivered over copper lines, including hybrid services such as FTTC.

    2. Douglas says:

      Copper lines will be turned off in time in total. Even though thats not the purpose of this topic.

      But the Fibre Network will replace the copper network, the estimated time is after an areas full fibre roll out is complete and live that it will be 5years and the copper lines will turn off.

      Thats still quite ambitious personally as that is litterally millions of installs to be carried out. And even at that the fibre network is not fully rolled out and its still looking like 10years away before it will be

  4. The Facts says:

    How will it work? Plug phone into FTTC router. Is the copper from the FTTC cabinet then disconnected? Will there be 50v from the cabinet?

    1. Meadmodj says:

      All new FTTC installs will be Broadband only. OR may leave the E side connected but its not needed going forward. If it is then 50v at the exchange may mean there is a voltage still at the NTE.

      BT/Sky will provide people with new Routers if required to migrate because of PSTN transfer at a particular exchange. Some old routers could be enabled by firmware but unlikely. BT in particular want the user to break away from legacy wiring in case it causes issues and adopt their DECT Handset/Corded Extender concept.

      OR will be hoping that within the stop sell window most people will have moved to a new Broadband contract with their ISP and hence moved to VoIP if required.

      Those requiring voice re-injection to their existing telephone wiring will need to ensure they isolate extension wiring from the NTE.

    2. TB says:

      Wouldnt worry too much about where the 50v is coming from. On the current VOIP enabled routers with telephone (ATA) connections you just plug your landline phone into the router, the router provides the power (50V). If you have no dial tone from the exchange the voltage on your physical phone line is close to zero. If you move over to a VOIP phone as well everything is digital/mains powered (no need for the 50v)

  5. Mark says:

    I was stating that VOIP and the router required to run it is fine, but in some areas especially EO lines, my area the FTTC is just put across the from the exchange then hundreds of EO lines in placed in the cabinet, so 5heres about 10 metres of fibre to the cabinet, then its copper some runs several kilometers of copper, that the bit I can’t see being replaced for years if at all. According to some experts on here subscribers to these cabinets won’t be upgraded.

    1. Meadmodj says:

      Yes FTTC will quite easily support VoIP and some may be on it until 2028/29.

      However there are rays of hope that may stimulate FTTP. One is that any resildual ADSL will need to be addressed. A second is that at some point the USO standard will be revised and any slower FTTC lines will have a subsidy incentive for OR to invest. In addition OR also want to consolidate fibre to centralised centres.

      Unless an Altnet turns up in the meantime.

    2. NE555 says:

      > Unless an Altnet turns up in the meantime

      If an Altnet turns up, that gives Openreach a very strong financial incentive to install FTTP as well, to stem the number of lost customers.

    3. Adam says:

      The fibre probably goes a lot further as it is unlikely it goes to the local exchange, Openreach have a smaller number of large exchanges that have the headend for FTTC/P.
      BT are already doing VoIP over FTTC, I think they said the trigger is if your line is 20Mbits/s or above they provide it via SoGEA and use digital voice.
      FTTP cable routing may be different to copper so having an exchange only line doesn’t mean you’d be excluded.

  6. Ian Dobson says:

    It says something about the IT support of these businesses if they aren’t aware what is happening. Up until 2019 we were already on premises based VoIP and have now moved to Cloud based VoIP. This last year it’s been a real bonus with working from home, all I needed to do was take my office desk phone home, plug it into my home network and bingo, office number at home with free internal calls. I also have a mobile app that works as my office extension, no one even knows I’m at home unless I say.

  7. R Walker says:

    We are an SME on a fairly well populated Ind estate and can’t get FTTP only poor ASDL. How are we supposed to replace 8 channels of ISDN? If the only way is leased line then bye bye any savings on the VOIP

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