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Openreach starts countdown to the end of analogue phone services

Openreach has started a consultation on the future of telephony services as its parent signals plans to switch off analogue PSTN phone services in seven years' time

Openreach, the quasi-independent network infrastructure arm of BT, has launched a consultation seeking input from its communications services provider (CSP) customers and industry stakeholders on the transition to nationwide digital voice over IP (VoIP) telephony.

The consultation will also include proposals to withdraw wholesale products and services that run on the analogue public switched telephone network (PSTN) network.

BT has now signalled that it plans to switch off its increasingly obsolete PSTN network seven years from now, in 2025, by which time all voice services in the UK will need to be running over the internet.

“We’re launching this consultation because we’re committed to play a leading role in helping the industry move from analogue to digital products by 2025,” said Openreach product director Mark Logan.

“As our customers demand faster and more reliable connectivity, we’ve already accelerated our plans to build more fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband technology across Britain, and we expect to reach three million premises by the end of 2020. At the same time, we’re developing new, digital, broadband-only products that will no longer rely on BT’s ageing analogue voice platform.

“The move from analogue to digital opens up exciting opportunities for our CPs to develop new products and services which will drive their businesses forward and meet their customers’ demands for decades to come,” he said.

The firm has already been trialling two so-called “broadband-only” services which it hopes to launch later this year – Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA) and Single Order Gfast (SOGfast) – which it says offer similar connectivity to its existing fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) broadband service, but removes the compulsion to bundle an analogue voice product on top.

It is now seeking feedback on a transitional product, which will be known as Single Order Transitional Access Product (SOTAP) that will let consumers and businesses that currently connect using copper lines to order a broadband service that doesn’t rely on the PSTN platform, over which CSPs will be able to supply a VoIP service.

David Wilkinson, director of technical services at the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), said: “We are encouraged to see Openreach consulting with industry in preparation for the migration of analogue telephone services to an internet-based system.

“We recognise that the switch to digital will affect a number of important applications that are not directly related to the delivery of voice, such as security alarms as well as fire and personal care alarms. We’d like to see the whole industry engaged on this issue so that these services remain operational, or are replaced in good time,” he added.

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