Network access provider Openreach (BT) has today launched a new national “Call Waiting List” campaign, which aims to raise awareness among UK businesses of their plans to withdraw old copper-based analogue phone (PSTN / WLR etc.) services by December 2025 and replace them with digital (IP / VoIP) alternatives.
At present many homes and businesses still connect a traditional phone or DECT handset directly to a Master or Extension Socket on the wall, but the shift to Internet Protocol (IP) based digital connectivity – via both copper and full fibre (FTTP) lines – means that new phone services are increasingly becoming optional and are instead handled by your broadband connectivity (e.g. handsets connected to a router, rather than a wall socket).
NOTE: Over the next 4-5 years, more than 14 million traditional lines across the UK will be migrated onto new digital services (an average of 50,000 analogue lines will need to be upgraded to digital each and every week).
The platform switch, which is also happening in many other parts of the world, brings with it plenty of compatibility issues with older systems and that can be a particular problem for many businesses, which may be blissfully unaware of the impending change.
The goal of Openreach’s new campaign is thus to raise awareness and understanding of the process, while also helping businesses to stay informed. At present the “Call Waiting List” page for all this is largely just a subscription form for their personalised newsletter, but you can also find some new information pages on their website too.
This is particularly important for vital CNI (critical national infrastructure) organisations, to make sure the upgrade can be completed smoothly, and with minimal disruption for the wider public. Failing to properly prepare for all this could leave some people and businesses to suffer a loss of phone connectivity.
James Lilley, Openreach’s Director of Managed Migrations, said:
“This is an important early step in upgrading the UK. We know businesses are time-poor and the choice to upgrade may sit at the end of a long-list of other priorities that will seem more pressing. By launching the Call Waiting List we hope to help those businesses plan their upgrades effectively, with regular updates about our activities and the potential implications on their operations, as well as guidance and examples of how they can make the transition a smooth one.
We’re also working closely with service providers to make sure any changes happen as smoothly as possible. This upgrade will ultimately provide the nation with faster and more reliable services; so we encourage all businesses in the UK to take steps now to understand what they’ll need to do.”
Broadband ISPs and phone providers on Openreach’s network also have a big responsibility to ensure that they help to educate their customers about the change, although at present there seems to be a lack of focus on this from some providers. Greater education of businesses, and indeed the wider public, is most definitely required.
At the same time as all this, Openreach are also in the process of slowly migrating exchange areas from copper to new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) infrastructure. At present over 200 FTTP exchange upgrades have already been announced (here). The process for moving from copper to FTTP lines begins once 75% of premises in an exchange are able to receive that full fibre connectivity.
Under the current plan Openreach will stop selling analogue phone lines to new customers by September 2023.