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Openreach Prep Alternative UK Analogue Style Phone Product

Monday, Nov 6th, 2023 (9:32 am) - Score 14,176
Home phone UK handset in red

Openreach is developing an additional phone line product, which does NOT require a broadband connection to function and will be targetted at vulnerable and edge use cases (inc. CNI) users with old analogue phone lines (PSTN) who would otherwise “face challenges” in migrating to an All-IP (Internet Protocol) based solution by 2025.

At present all Openreach-based phone providers and broadband ISPs are working toward the final switch-off date for the old analogue Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), which is due to reach its conclusion by December 2025. As part of this those same providers are adopting all-IP based solutions, which tend to require some form of broadband connection in order to function (i.e. IP based phone solutions become an optional extra).

NOTE: The new product reflects a Statement of Requirement (SoR) request – ID no. 8683.

The network access provider has already launched several products to help with this transition on copper-based lines, such as SOGEA on FTTC (VDSL2) lines, SOGFAST on G.fast lines and last week’s (here) soft launch of Single Order Transitional Access Product (SOTAP) for those with the oldest ADSL based broadband lines.

However, some eagle-eyed readers on our forum (here) have spotted that Openreach are also developing an additional twist on the SOTAP model, which is known as ‘SOTAP for Analogue‘ and appears to be a fairly significant development because you won’t need a traditional broadband connection for it to work.

What is SOTAP for Analogue?

One of the challenges with the migration away from analogue services and on to All-IP networks is that it can make life difficult for some landline-only phone customers in vulnerable and Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) groups, which is just as true in modern fibre-covered areas as it is for those in remote locations. Openreach has recognised that this will be a difficult group to transition, both technically and politically (complaints), and so they’ve come up with an alternative.

The new SOTAP for Analogue solution is a standalone product that will be available “nationally” (not just outside the All IP footprint), which means related end-users will be able to migrate to it even in areas of FTTP and SOGEA coverage. Just to be clear, the focus here is only on migrations for existing / working lines (WLR3), so consumers won’t be able to order it as a new product.

Openreach states in a recent video download (at 19:15) that this solution “provides point to point copper access between an end customer premises and the CP equipment using pre-existing LLU [Local Loop Unbundling] ties within the exchange. It is required to allow end customers who have a WLR3 only line today, to maintain a working voice only service.”

In short, the new service is trying to replicate (or emulate) a traditional phone line – “as close as possible“, but within a modern network (i.e. the end customer shouldn’t notice any difference). This also means that these lines will be powered, just like a traditional line, which should help to support those with older telecare style devices that haven’t yet been upgraded to support digital products. But some aspects of this have yet to be confirmed via testing (it’s still a beta product).

Rental pricing will be aligned to the existing wholesale pricing for a traditional Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) product, thus those affected won’t notice much of a change, if any at all, in price. According to Openreach, BT Wholesale will offer this product to providers under the title of a ‘Pre-Digital Phone Line‘.

BT’s chosen name alludes to this as still being a transitional (temporary) product to help get vulnerable people off PSTN before December 2025. But the end goal is still to shift everybody on to an IP-based service, and BT tentatively expects that the new product may thus be needed until around 2030, albeit ultimately lasting only as long as the core SOTAP solution is actually required.

The design of the new product means that Openreach and BTW can use a bulk (mass) migration to transition PSTN lines to the new service, but consumers and ISPs will also be able to move over via an elected migration path if they want. According to the slides we’ve seen, the plan is to launch this product in September 2024, so we can probably expect a pilot to take place before that (interest from providers is currently being fielded).

Overall, this sounds like an interesting solution to a well-known and widely publicised challenge, albeit one that will be arriving quite late to the party and so may confuse some of the pre-existing messaging that consumers have become accustomed to seeing. We’ve requested a bit more detail from Openreach, but this article covers most of what is already known and confirmed.

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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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44 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

    Makes sense but odd to announce it now given how late it is? Maybe BT finally had to acknowledge how far behind the telecare providers are? (Its not like they haven’t had years to prepare). I guess this will just delay the shuttering of exchanges for a year or two.

    1. Avatar photo MilesT says:

      Many telecare providers are charities (or social enterprise) part subsidised by government payments, so haven’t had the funding for a mass migration of equipment which currently works, the years of priori knowledge does not matter in that discussion.

      I wonder if a user would be allowed to “downgrade” from VoIP over broadband to SOGTAP-A, if they fit the “profile” of actual needs including power off access

    2. Avatar photo maria says:

      So in your opinion, just cause technology has advanced, it should be forced onto those that don’t use the internet ever!! Thank god BT had a non selfish attitude to cater for all

  2. Avatar photo Phil says:

    So essentially an ATA wired onto the line at the exchange. I wonder who supplies this kit and what it is presented as, presumably not just a rack full of Grandstream’s ATA or similar?

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Sounds like it. According to an Ofcom report I read in 2019 there were about 3% of landline only customers without an attached broadband service. That number will have probably gone down since then but probably not that much as I think by 2019 everyone who wanted broadband had probably got it.

    2. Avatar photo Jonny says:

      It will be devices such as https://www.audiocodes.com/solutions-products/products/digital-and-analog-media-gateways/mediapack-1288

      Using the LLU ties still allows BT to retire old System X equipment which was one of the objectives.

    3. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      It’ll be an MSAN, probably the smallest BT can get their hands on.

    4. Avatar photo wireless pacman says:

      Just needs a PSTN card in an existing DSLAM/MSAN. Talk Talk have been doing it that way for years.

  3. Avatar photo binary says:

    Definitely not part of the original PSTN switch-off plan, but a late addition!

    I am curious as to how the challenges of PSTN switch-off were handled / are being handled in other countries – I haven’t come across any comparisons or articles that really cover this issue, maybe it only features in very specialist telecoms literature / journals?

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      The problem there is that most of the literature will be hard to find due to language differences, and not all operators are as open about it as Openreach. This is a complex area and one with a lot of jargon, which doesn’t always make for an easy read in English, let alone a different language with unfamiliar product labels.

      I have seen some reports on it before, but they were at a very high level and didn’t really go deep enough into the details. Needless to say, similar challenges do crop up, and often the outcome was enforced migrations.

    2. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      One of the youtubers I follow in Canada in the last year has been force migrated from VDSL/PSTN to FTTP/VOIP so I think other countries have been more aggressive in this than Openreach have been in this country.

  4. Avatar photo Ivor says:

    I guess the point of this is to allow Openreach to plough on with switching off the PSTN, likely a very high priority project as the equipment is literally obsolete, whereas exchange closures are still some time away anyway. I would presume the ISPs are still being heavily leaned upon to continue with their digital voice plans, ie this really is a stopgap and doesn’t change the overall plan.

    I wonder how it’s being done. Do BT’s ADSL DSLAMs have voice capability? They were supposed to back when 21CN was in its infancy and was supposed to be the original PSTN replacement.

    1. Avatar photo Luke Jennings says:

      SOTAP stop gap have a similar ring

  5. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    Perhaps as people migrate from VDSL to FTTP it would be possible to fit ATAs in the old VDSL green cabinets for those who really want voice service only. The only thing the number requiring voice service only now is only going mostly down by natural wastage to put it delicately. This would allow the exchanges to then be closed.

    1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      From what I can tell the ECI M41 cabinets can already handle voice the Huawei ones might need a linecard swap.

      I’m suprised Openreach didn’t enable voice on FTTC cabs and require everyone to switch over years ago. But then again I’m still suprised that Openreach didn’t build FTTC cabs right into PCPs or have them as PCP pods (like Gfast was) and instead placed massive cabinets seperately.

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      ” But then again I’m still suprised that Openreach didn’t build FTTC cabs right into PCPs or have them as PCP pods (like Gfast was) and instead placed massive cabinets seperately.”

      They did do the former, for areas that had previously had “exchange only” lines or needed a PCP swap for whatever reason. As documented by our esteemed host here: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2019/12/identifying-bt-and-virgin-medias-uk-broadband-street-furniture-2019.html/2 (Huawei All in One)

      Perhaps pods did not provide the desired port density back when FTTC was shiny and new? I believe there are actually VDSL “pods” – my PCP has one, installed in 2019 or so, and there definitely isn’t any G.fast here

    3. Avatar photo John says:

      “Perhaps pods did not provide the desired port density back when FTTC was shiny and new? I believe there are actually VDSL “pods” – my PCP has one, installed in 2019 or so, and there definitely isn’t any G.fast here

      This. They were a long way off that back in 2010

  6. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

    SOTAP for Analogue, this seems to be a product designed to wait as many older people out as possible, until they expire. Looks like 2025 has just been moved to 2030 for many, if still alive, Complexity upon Complexity!

  7. Avatar photo Jan says:

    Sounds like one of those things only available with a helpful isp
    Don’t imagine it will be a standard product to the masses

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      I would guess the vast majority of landline only customers are with BT so it shouldn’t be much of an issue.

  8. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    Good opportunity for some entrepreneur to revive a dial-up internet service for SOTAP-Analogue customers. “Internet-4-Dinosaurs” perhaps?

  9. Avatar photo Alex A says:

    Using LLU ties with an MSAN at the exchange? How long till we find out they are just reselling TalkTalk

  10. Avatar photo Walter says:

    Talk Talk are / were thinking of launching a voice only service for wholesale access using their estate of msans. SKY can probably do the same. This is just BT catching up, they’ll act as a LLU in their own exchange. Still means they can turn off the big lump exchange! Presumably it will only work where they are keeping the exchange building itself!

  11. Avatar photo james smith says:

    Or as I have a cheap, about £70 mobile 4g volte router with a legacy phone attached. A cheap unlimited calls sim at £6 for example. The router is VOLTE compatible. Just arrange the battery back up if required

    1. Avatar photo GH says:

      Or why not just give the analogue only users one of these: https://amzn.eu/d/3qtQLv2 (A landline lookalike mobile phone).

  12. Avatar photo TheKeymeister says:

    It’s been a long time since I worked anywhere near a telephone exchange, but I’ve got a distant memory that the copper MSANs installed as part of the 21CN rollout, that ended up getting used for nothing more than ADSL2, were capable of voice. I can’t remember much else about them though!

  13. Avatar photo Nick Roberts says:

    As we’re all processing back to the 14th Century I was hoping for at least a set of canvass blankets so I could do the smoke signals or perhaps some shiny metal shards . . . .

  14. Avatar photo will tell says:

    Does that mean they will have to leave copper lines in place (even where fibre has been rolled out)?

    1. Avatar photo David Wade says:

      Only where they can’t persuade people to move. The article says that you can’t order this for new supply, only for transition.

    2. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      They’ll want to extract as much copper as they can because 1. It will free up space in the ducts and 2. there’s an awful lot of money to be made out of the scrap value of the copper. Someone told me (I’ve no idea if it’s true) that they extracted all the copper and dumped it on the markets it would affect world copper prices there’s that much of it.

    3. Avatar photo Bob says:

      I think it is an interim measure. Once full fibre is available they will be migrated to it

  15. Avatar photo Stuart says:

    What will happen to the newly vulnerable customer for the future who may need this? Will they be told to just use fttp, even if they have equipment that keeps them alive?

    I feel its to little too late.

    1. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      they get a UPS to power their router.

      are people aware that the telecare devices also need power and also have limited battery backup capabilities?

    2. Avatar photo Bob says:

      If it is LIFE critical equipment it will be mains powered sand backed up

  16. Avatar photo Bob says:

    We seem to have become a country very adverse to progress. If it were a century ago we would now have people demanding to keep horse drawn buses

    1. Avatar photo MilesT says:

      “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” (Allegedly Henry Ford but actually not)


      It is a truism that people don’t do change unless the benefit is very clear and compelling, which is hard to communicate (even when it is)

  17. Avatar photo KevinR says:

    At least this is finally am attempt to support the care line and panic button users. When I looked the other month, the UPS solution that had been mooted would struggle to power a phone, router and fibre modem for very long.

    We recently had a power fault in my area and although we weren’t on the initial fault we were still powered off for about 6 hours.

  18. Avatar photo Jonathan Eccles says:

    Most interesting reading the various comments. Clearly I’ve come across a field of experts. I’d be most grateful for anyone who could shine a light on my problem. My burglar alarm company tells me that the forthcoming change of landline system requires a considerable cost for new/additional equipment plus an extra £120 a year to the monitoring station. This is because the alarm system uses our landline to contact the monitor station when the alarm triggers. But BT literature have sent me literature that says I merely have remove the land line plug from the input box and instead plug it into the green socket of my BT hub.
    Can anyone please suggest why this shouldn’t work?
    With many thanks

    1. Avatar photo Tom says:

      The existing communications between your alarm and the receiving centre most likely uses an alarm industry standard tone signalling protocol which may not be transported over VoIP with sufficient fidelity/timing to work.
      It should be a case of replacing the alarm communicator with one which uses 4G and/or IP so there is obviously a cost for this and its installation. However a £120/year additional fee seems excessive as there will be no significant changes in cost to the receiving centre to receive the messages, at most there will be a cost for the SIM if using 4G.
      Time to find a new alarm maintenance company.

  19. Avatar photo Manajemen says:

    How does Openreach plan to address the challenges faced by landline-only phone customers, especially those in vulnerable and Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) groups, during the migration away from analogue services to All-IP networks, and what is the alternative they are proposing?
    Visit us telkom university

  20. Avatar photo Patrick says:

    Aged 87 and 67 years a BT customer, what does that mean to them? Nothing at all.
    Many people will have one or more reasons to object to this forceful, yes even uncaring approach.
    Many elderly are not happy having this forced on them late in their life, change can be stressful and often unjustified to the consumer, but welcomed by providers who see larger profits.

    Well old I might be but I am not prepared to be bullied, so I intend.to say goodbye to them. There are plenty of options not requiring electricity or cables around the house. Just hope that other old folk will realise this.


  21. Avatar photo Old Luddite says:

    I do not like or want a Voip line which can conk out if the web/power is down as I live out in the sticks and mobile signal can be problematic in emergency situations. I think it mad to have a phone working via the internet. Far better to keep it separate and independent. I am having to replace my old 3g Nokia to a 4g nokia payg as they are turning off 3g soon. All this tech is counterproductive. If I could lay a WW1 field telephone line to my GP I would as I have a working one in my shed with 10 miles of copper wire!

  22. Avatar photo DAVESOUNDS UK says:

    What totally staggers me is the fact that all out telco,s assume its perfectly ok for older or vulnerable people can be left ALONE for hours without any communications! . After a lifetime in this industry it makes me ashamed! . If these companies had invested a little of theyre profits in reasearch and new exchange products instead of simply extracting money we wouldnt be in this poor uncareing state! . thx

  23. Avatar photo Cathy Dowd says:

    Where can we buy this analogue land line phone please?

Comments are closed

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