Millions of phone and broadband lines are about to be switched off – what should you do?

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By Mark Castle, director, Fusion

Openreach, which maintains the telephone lines to nearly all UK homes and businesses, is terminating all its copper wire-based lines.

Around 15 million homes, businesses, charities and public organisations rely on this old technology, which was originally just a telephone network but since the 1980s has been used to carry digital services via ISDN as well.

By 2025, it will all be gone but don’t let that fool you into thinking you have three years to decide what to do about it. Openreach plan to carry out the switch off in stages, and the first steps have already begun.

It is going to affect broadband Internet as well as analogue and digital voice telephone services plus a range of other systems including dial-up devices, faxes, alarm systems, modems, CCTV, EPOS (electronic point of sale systems), building management systems, lift lines and PDQ machines.

Why is this happening?

Britain’s telecommunications infrastructure has utilised copper wire since 1876 when the first telephone call was made.

In the 1980s, ISDN was tacked on to the analogue lines to deliver digital services but with the advent of fibre broadband and other new communications technology, that too is now outdated.

The old infrastructure  is expensive to maintain, so it is being phased out in favour of a fully digital, fibre-based network that can meet the demands of the new digital era – from remote working to live streaming.

How will it be done? 

Openreach is going to go through each telephone exchange one by one. That process was already well underway a year ago with more than 200 exchanges banned from selling services based on the old technology. This also means no changes are allowed to existing services running on the old wires.

Once an exchange has gone through this “stop sell” phase, the lines will be switched off within two years.

Does it affect me?

Most homes, businesses and other organisations will be affected.

The big switch off will terminate voice and broadband services delivered by landline (PSTN) or other fixed lines, including broadband ISDN.

If you have not switched over to a different telephony solution by the time your line is switched off, you will find yourself without service.

What do I need to do?

If you have a landline (PSTN) or ISDN contract, it’s time to think about switching to a fully digital, fibre-based alternative. Remember that the majority of broadband lines rely on a landline so these will also cease.

There are plenty of good reasons to do it sooner, rather than wait for the last minute when your service is about to be switched off. Have a look at the section below on benefits.

Check when your contract is up for renewal and prepare for the switchover by then at the latest. It will give you time to evaluate different options and service providers, find the most cost-effective service and learn how to use any new systems that you install such as VoIP.

Check that all the services you currently use with your old analogue line will still work with whatever alternatives you’re looking at. This might be as simple as plugging an existing phone into a router but you may need new equipment.

You should also check any other services connected to the old line such as alarms or conference phones. Contact your supplier or the equipment manufacturer to check if they are compatible or need upgrading.

Many businesses will opt for a decent fibre broadband connection to run their computer systems and any other IT. However, more intensive users who are running critical applications may decide a fibre leased line is required which can result in lengthy lead times

You might also need more power sockets or a power over ethernet switch because analogue telephones receive their power down the telephone line but digital equipment needs mains power.

Benefits

  • Cost savings: cheaper to run than landline and ISDN
  • Reliability: Less downtime
  • Flexibility: For example, to run services across multiple offices or take calls from any device from the same number
  • Continuity: Cloud-based back up for disaster recovery
  • Ease of use: Digital phone systems are easier to manage than clunky old analogue switchboards
  • Scalable: From a single digital line for a micro business to enterprise-wide systems

Alternative Products

Openreach have introduced various broadband products to replace the old service.

When it comes to broadband, the choice is between ethernet fibre connection or if that isn’t available, SOGEA, which is a conventional broadband service without the old telephone line.

Remember to make sure when switching over that you keep your telephone number.

If you’re at all unsure about what the changes mean for you or how to respond to them, please get in touch with us. We’ll be pleased to help.