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Ofcom UK Removes FAX Service Obligation from BT and KCOM

Friday, Jan 13th, 2023 (10:34 am) - Score 3,480
ofcom uk telecoms regulator

As expected, Ofcom has today confirmed that the requirement for certain UK telecoms operators to provide “outdated” FAX (facsimile) services under their legally-binding Universal Service Obligation (USO), which only applies to BT and KCOM, has officially been removed.

The related obligation was last set in 2003, when fax machines were much more prevalent and email and instant messaging were less ubiquitous. But the current move to adopt full fibre (FTTP) broadband ISP lines and all-IP (Internet Protocol) based phone services (VoIP etc.) – whether via copper or optical fibre infrastructure – will hamper how the old analogue FAX system operates.

This change does not mean that fax services will stop working immediately, but remaining users of fax will need to look for alternatives … (such as email) ahead of their telephony networks being migrated to IP – the timescales for this will depend on their telephony provider, but is expected to be before the end of 2025,” said the regulator.

FAX can sometimes still to made to work, but the timing and synchronisation that it relies on for the duration of the transmission can no longer be guaranteed to work in the same way. However, there are other solutions, such as Fax-over-IP (FoIP) / Virtual Fax (i.e. sending FAX via VoIP connections), but that requires both a T38-capable VoIP gateway and a T38-capable fax machine, fax card or fax software.

At a certain point, it may be better and cheaper to simply stop using Fax and take a different approach.

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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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12 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Matt says:

    Apparently in the Kcom USO when providing Lightstream they have to provide a telephone line at around £20 a month which isn’t used. Does anyone know if this is right or not? Their USO on the website doesnt state about it but they are adamant that we have to have it on our connections. https://www.kcom.com/universal-service-obligation/

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      It should be an option upon “request”, rather than enforced. If you don’t want it, and it’s not necessary for the broadband service to function (e.g. FTTP line), then I don’t believe they can force you to take it. The catch is that in many areas they’re still the dominant / only network in Hull, so ‘force’ is a matter of perspective, due to the lack of choice.

  2. Avatar photo RaptorX says:

    Lawyers still seem to use faxes for some strange reason. Very odd when there are so many better methods to transmit data now. They’re just gonna have to modernize.

    1. Avatar photo Hungry Dog says:

      The mom and pop village solicitors. Probably for ho him conveyancing. I can assure you that magic circle firms haven’t used a fax for deals in literally decades.

  3. Avatar photo Philip says:

    Fax can often be supported via an Analogue Telephone Adaptor if g.711 VOIP codec is enforced.

  4. Avatar photo Adrian Rodsett says:

    Does this also mean point to point modems won’t work either?
    Not everywhere has or can get Broadband.

    1. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      Correct: when the PSTN is turned off, regular modems won’t work, as there will be nothing to plug them into!

      If you have a voice-only phone line, then before the PSTN is turned off in Dec 2025, your Service Provider will have converted it into something else: a digital service using SOGEA (FTTC) or SOTAP (ADSL) with a router on the end, or in some cases a 4G/5G service. There will be voice port on the router for your phone.

      Since these are all digital services, you can use them directly for your data. Plugging a modem into a VoIP adapter would be completely pointless, even though it can work in some cases.

      Openreach still has a voice USO, and I don’t believe it will be removing voice from properties that currently have it. For the few very long copper lines which can’t support either ADSL or FTTC, solutions will be found on a case-by-base basis.

    2. Avatar photo Philip says:

      Where the analogue phone service ( PSTN / POTS ) remains, modems and fax will continue to work.

      When the telco moves to VOIP typically they have already deployed FTTP (Openreach)
      or HFC / RFoG (Virgin Media) so there would be a broadband service.

      Dial up modems over VOIP ? With g.711 codec, possible but expect 14.4Kb/s max.

    3. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      ‘Where the analogue phone service ( PSTN / POTS ) remains, modems and fax will continue to work.’

      Needs that at both ends…

      As in the first telephone invented was not much use until the second one was.

  5. Avatar photo Richard Reis says:

    As a fledgling service engineer when Fax technology was just entering the market, I recall a customer raving positivly that using his shiny new “Fax Machine” he no longer needed to fly on Concorde from London to amend drawings in New York and return promptly back to his desk. It had its benefits for sure, but I am honestly surprised it is still even a thing. Time to move on.

  6. Avatar photo Anon says:

    For everyone who always says that BT have it easy, and Ofcom do them favours. It’s 2023 and they’re only only now not legally required to provide fax!

    1. Avatar photo Harry says:

      They didn’t have to do anything really. Just ensure they didn’t break the fax protocols over the PSTN.

      This is just tidying up for the future, just so some smart-alec doesn’t try to sue a broadband provider for not giving them a Fax-over-IP device or something.

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