BT Openreach have announced that they are aiming to transition all telephone lines in the UK from Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) by 2025. In the next decade, we will witness the fall of landlines as they are replaced by digital, fibre networks.
On 19th April 2018, the announcement was made. BT Openreach are in control of the network used by all but one of the UK telecoms providers, so you can expect analogue telephone lines to be fully phased out in seven years’ time. All phone calls in future will be made over broadband, according to this plan, through a VoIP system. The departure from traditional copper telephone lines means that BT’s Wholesale Line Retail (WLR) products will need to be removed, as these rely on PSTN to operate.
Some people will find this announcement nostalgic and bittersweet, as the landline telephone has been a central part of hundreds of thousands of households throughout the UK for many years now. But BT are confident that with their transition to VoIP, they will be able to provide better quality broadband services due to there being one less network to focus on. All their efforts will be centred on digital telephone lines of the future.
In an email sent to communication providers explaining the plan, BT Openreach stated: “This is a truly significant change for the industry and represents a move from an analogue to a digital, fibre-led future. These changes will affect how you do business with Openreach.” Next month, Openreach will be consulting with UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in order to make them aware of the planned timeline and process which will be implemented to remove WLR products and shift towards exclusively digital telephone lines.
This change to VoIP-only will make it essential for every UK home to have internet capacity, at least to transmit voice. BT’s plan to migrate away from traditional analogue telephone lines is no secret, and on the 26th April 2017 (around this time last year) they originally revealed their interest in shutting down PSTN and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) systems.
Allowing fibre-optic infrastructures to become the primary focus should help to improve these systems’ performance, Openreach hopes, as by 2025 none of the company’s time will be invested into the traditional technology that has dramatically declined in popularity. BT Openreach is regulated by Ofcom, who will be overseeing this move. Openreach have also announced that they aim to pass fibre-to-the-premises with three million homes and businesses by 2020.
An Openreach spokesperson explained that: “In May , we’ll consult with industry around the process of withdrawing WLR and related products. This follows plans by BT to upgrade its customers from analogue (PSTN) to digital (all IP) telephone services by 2025. We’ll be working with our Communication Provider customers over the coming months as we consider the move to IP voice services – where broadband rather than voice becomes the primary service.”
BT first introduced ISDN nationwide in 1986. In the world of ever-evolving digital technology that we live in today, traditional systems have become outdated and connectivity has made huge strides over the past few decades. Openreach have outlined that digital telephone systems are the way forward, as digital fibre networks will save users considerable money, offer a wider range of flexibility, faster installation time, increased resilience provided by multiple backup fibre lines, and advanced features. We can expect these systems to evolve rapidly, increasing the benefits.
Across the world, a growing number of telecommunications companies are setting similar goals. For instance, Orange aims to complete the shift to all digital IP networks by 2020, and Deutsche Telekom want all their telephone lines changed to digital by the end of this year (2018). It appears that the era of analogue telephone networks is truly coming to a close, and it won’t be long before they are phased out completely.