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Openreach Announce CP Consultation on Analogue Switch-Off

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Openreach has launched a consultation with its Communications Provider (CP) customers and industry groups about the move from analogue telephony to digital voice services. The consultation will help prepare the industry for the upgrade to ‘Voice Over IP’ technology and the withdrawal of wholesale products and services that run over the traditional analogue telephone network – which is due to close in 2025.

Openreach, which provides voice and broadband infrastructure to more than 32 million homes and businesses, and supports more than 600 CPs across Britain, made the announcement after parent company BT signalled plans to migrate all customers from its traditional analogue phone network (the PSTN) to new digital, internet based (all IP) services by 2025.

The consultation, which will run until 27 July 2018, will also seek feedback on a new transitional product – known as the Single Order Transitional Access Product (SOTAP) – which will enable consumers and businesses that are currently connected via traditional copper lines to order a pure broadband service which doesn’t rely on the analogue PSTN platform. CPs will in turn be able to supply a digital voice service over the top.

Mark Logan, Product Director at Openreach said: “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.

“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.”

Over the last year, Openreach has been trialling two ‘broadband-only’ services which are due to launch later this year. Single Order GEA (SOGEA) and Single Order Gfast (SOGfast) both offer similar connectivity to the company’s existing Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) services, but without the need for a bundled analogue voice product.

The move to digital is part of an international trend amongst telecoms providers preparing for analogue platforms like the PSTN to become obsolete.

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.”

Before the end of May 2018, Openreach will be holding a series of events at venues in London, Birmingham, Leeds and Edinburgh to explain the consultation to customers and industry groups and listen to feedback which may form part of their formal consultation response.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine