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The Great British Switch-Off


Openreach have signalled the biggest change in decades for telecommunications in this country, the switch-off of analogue and digital phone lines will affect everyone. Here, we run through what’s happening and what it means for you.

So what’s happening?

Openreach have stated that by the end of 2023 they will stop supplying new analogue and digital phone lines. Existing phones lines will be switched off in 2025. After that, they will only be supplying broadband and other data services.

Why are they doing this?

The telephone equipment at your local BT exchange and elsewhere is getting old and very costly to maintain. The network of copper wires which have been used up to now to deliver phone services is also ageing and is susceptible to wind, water, bad joints and wear and tear. Moving to IP telephony and full-fibre networks reduces maintenance costs and improves quality and reliability.

How am I supposed to make phone calls?

By 2025, all businesses and consumers will have to migrate to IP (internet)-based communications. There are various terms for this, from IP (Internet Protocol) Telephony, to VoIP (Voice over IP), to Cloud Telephony, all basically describing the same thing; phone calls over an internet connection.

So all traditional phone lines are going?

Yes, all 16 million of them. Analogue and digital (ISDN). All services currently using phone lines will have to be migrated. This includes lines for things like credit card terminals, lifts, alarms etc.

Do I need to change my phones?

Maybe. If you have a more modern phone system, it may be able to use your internet connection instead of phone lines with a bit of reconfiguration. Others may need to swap traditional handsets for VoIP equivalents, which plug into your data network just like computers. Other methods include ATAs (analogue telephone adapters) and VoIP gateways, which sit in between your existing hardware and your internet connection, in effect converting them to VoIP. The best course of action will depend on a number of factors, which is why it is best to consult a specialist company.

Will broadband products have to change too?

Yes. Most broadband products other than full-fibre FTTP sit on top of phone lines. Openreach are in the process of coming up with new products which are just standalone broadband with no phone service attached. Depending on location, this may still be delivered over copper wires for now, as we’re still some way off a full-fibre network which ultimately is the best way to deliver broadband and data services in the long term. They are also looking at lower bandwidth broadband products just for phone calls, and products with better service levels for businesses were communications are essential.

Is VoIP new and unreliable?

Not really. VoIP has been around a long time, and can be considered a mature technology at this point. Reliable connectivity has been the main barrier to wider deployment. While everyone has probably heard horror stories about disastrous migrations to VoIP, this is invariably down to poor planning, or sales teams just looking to get a sale (and the commission!) without considering whether it’s right for the client. A sales agent doesn’t consider every aspect of a migration, which is where problems start to occur. Carefully planned, a VoIP service can be painless, seamless, and can provide cost savings as well as more flexibility and features for business communications.

I’m already using VoIP, will I be affected?

If you have migrated to VoIP in the past, and are on a full-fibre broadband connection, you are ahead of the curve and won’t be affected by any upcoming changes. If you use VoIP but are on an ADSL or part-fibre (FTTC) connection, then at some point there will be a migration to a broadband-only data connection. This should be seamless but Openreach are still working out the products and processes of how best to achieve this. Things will become a lot clearer by the end of 2020.

Any other advice?

We’ve noticed a lot of telecoms companies using fear-based telesales techniques to try and get you to sign up to potentially expensive long-term leases. They conveniently fail to mention timescales, and try to make the suggestion that you need to do something now to avoid loss of service and business disruption. While it’s definitely worth having upcoming changes in the back of your head, you still have time to plan a migration and shouldn’t be pressured into a hasty decision. Some businesses can make the move now, potentially saving money in the long term. Others are better off waiting until new broadband products or full-fibre connections are available. There is no one piece of advice which is correct for everyone, so we do recommend you speak with a reputable company who will give you best advice.

 

Bira’s approved service partner, Utility Options can support and advise you and your business further. Speak to the team directly on 0800 849 1056 or bira@utility-options.co.uk. 

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