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Openreach Begins ISP Pilot of All-IP Solution for ADSL Broadband

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022 (8:52 am) - Score 8,832
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Openreach will next month launch the UK ISP pilot phase of their new Single Order Transitional Access Product (SOTAP), which forms part of the withdrawal process for the old analogue copper telephone network. This will make it possible to offer a standalone ADSL broadband line, with optional phone services via VoIP etc.

The current plan is for BT to switch-off the old Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and adopt an “All IP” (Internet Protocol) setup by December 2025. On hybrid copper and fibre lines, we’ve already seen the products for this transition go live for Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) lines via Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA), but the equivalent solution for older ADSL lines (SOTAP) has tended to lag behind.

In the old way of doing things, customers taking out an FTTC or ADSL service would have first required the installation or activation of an analogue copper phone line (usually coming bundled with broadband). But the transition to all-IP technologies changes this around, with the copper line now carrying broadband by default and the less desirable – now optional – phone services going over the top of that via VoIP style products.

The UK is still home to around 4 million slow ADSL / ADSL2+ lines, which tend to exist in more rural areas (plus a few underserved pockets of poor urban connectivity). In other cases, faster connections may be available, but consumers might have simply chosen not to upgrade yet due to issues of price, awareness or personal choice etc. Suffice to say, Openreach needed an all-IP style solution for ADSL too.

Openreach has now launched the ISP pilot phase of SOTAP, which will commence in Mildenhall on 30th May 2022, before expanding to additional available exchanges in East Anglia, London and the South East regions on 25th July 2022 to meet the pilot exit volume. Wholesale pricing details for ISPs can be found here, which puts the annual rental for a SOTAP line at £89.59 +vat.

The SOTAP solution (more details) has been in development for a long time and requires an unbundled (LLU) exchange infrastructure that supports ADSL and connects to the Openreach copper loop (ISPs can alternatively purchase SOTAP via a wholesaler who already has LLU exchange equipment and is offering SOTAP to retailers).

The last we heard, Openreach was still aiming to move to its Early Market Deployment Launch (EMDL) phase in Q1 2023/24, which would then be followed by a full commercial launch of SOTAP.

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11 Responses
  1. Philip says:

    SOTAP over long reach ADSL lines is hardly progress, it pulls the plug on analogue phones but fails to offer an upgrade path to FTTC or FTTP where it is most needed.

    1. John says:

      It isn’t supposed to be progress.
      It’s a stop gap to make do, hence the word transitional in the name.

    2. HR2Res says:

      Just to reiterate what @John says, it’s not designed with progress in mind, except in the narrow sense of change from PSTN to VoIP in late 2025.

    3. Alistair Skipper says:

      This is typical of BT which appears to spend all of it’s time thinking up new products without considering what the public want or need. I live in a rural area and recently while in hospital undergoing a triple bypass operation, we had a major electricity power outage which affected part of the village and meant that we were without power for some time.

      Because the mobile signal is so appalling at home due to a lack of investment by mobile providers, we rely on our landline to communicate. Whilst our neighbours relied on their mobile phones, they soon found that they had problems because they could not recharge their phones. Our two BT phone boxes have long since been decommissioned by BT without local consultation.

      My partner was still able to contact me because of a good old copper wire line and the use of a simple old fashioned telephone. All VoiP numbers ultimately rely on electricity and whilst this may be OK most of the time, there are still plenty of occasions when copper wire is needed.

      In light of the current attitude of rogue states such as Russia, it is my belief that copper is more secure for the individual and cannot be attacked in the same way that mobile signals and the hacking of electricity power stations. BT needs to consider these points and change it’s strategy before it’s profit margin and if not, then brought back into public ownership.

    4. Graham says:

      Without getting too technical. E sides have only been used for testing purposes i.e CPI and PSTN and rarely go wrong. d sides however are less than reliable and almost all are shot on our aging network due to fttp being put at the forefront and statistical policing of engineers. Another service we have to disappoint customers with.

    5. HR2Res says:

      @Alistair Skipper The loss of electricity side with VoIP, though a pain, can at least be ameliorated with proper battery back-up at the customer end, as long as the system is then used for its intended, emergency, purpose, rather than continuing to browse possibly nefarious sites until the leccy comes back on or to have your usual nightly hour-long chat with a relative.

      But as all the world moves to VoIP for comms, I do wonder about protection from mass DDoS attacks, whether they be originated via state, criminal, terrorist, or hooligan actors and whether there are sufficient means in place to mitigate (or, even better, militate against) such future attacks on the comms system.

    6. An Engineer says:

      Nearly all the public don’t have your issues, Alister. You’re asking BT’s customers to pay more for a tiny proportion of people to have a product, Wholesale Line Rental, continue to run for them unchanged.

      If that doesn’t happen you then want the taxpayer to pay to nationalise BT. The national security reasons are not valid. While your copper needs someone with crocodile clips to tap it the hardware on the other side that actually gets your calls where they need to be can be harmed remotely just as the power grid can. Jamming mobile towers needs equipment to be pretty close to it, or to be so insanely powerful it’ll blow your telephone and the BT equipment on the other side to bits. All of those are an act of war anyway, so frankly the UK would have somewhat bigger things on its mind than whether or not Alistair Skipper can make a phone call.

      I think a far more reasonable solution is decent battery backup and either an external mobile antenna for your property or upgrades to the mobile network with an upgrade eventually to full fibre and digital voice, again with battery backup. You’re talking a few hundred Pounds initially followed by a few thousand to deliver the full fibre.

  2. HR2Res says:

    What will happen about exchanges that are currently listed as non-LLU (like mine, WNMIC, according to SamKnows)? Will they become LLU enabled when SOTAP goes fully commercial?

    This may become moot in my area by the time SOTAP goes fully commercial because fttp may surface under Project Gigabit in maybe 2024 or 2025. But given the Gigaclear descoping fiasco in my neck of the woods and the lack of interest from other parties (even OR) when that contract was offered them, I’m still not convinced that any company will want to take up the fttp baton after the OMR is completed, so maybe it won’t be moot!

    1. Vince says:

      When you say “will it become LLU enabled” … there’s no such thing, nothing has to be “enabled” – just an operator willing to take service in the exchange and thus offer an LLU service. If your Exchange has no LLU option available it is simply because no operator decided it was worth doing, and SOTAP will not change that.

    2. HR2Res says:

      Ah, I see. Tx.

  3. Winston Smith says:

    Mentioning copper isn’t really helpful, it’s PTSN voice and DC power that’s being switched off.

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