Openreach says the offer a ‘landline-free’ wholesale broadband product to customers will accelerate the switchover from analogue to digital phone lines.
BT wants to migrate all users from the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to IP by December 2025 so its voice services can compete better with over the top (OTT) offerings such as Skype and WhatsApp.
Whereas PSTN requires a complex network of physical lines, IP services only need the Internet to function, meaning communications providers could simply deliver a digital voice service over the top of a more modern broadband system. It would also pave the way for the UK to switch off its copper telecoms network.
Digital phone system
However, the switchover to the new wholesale system, called Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA), is a considerable task. SOGEA will need to be made available to the entity of Openreach’s 27.7 million-strong fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) footprint. This means 50,000 lines would need to be switched over every week.
Besides consumer and business telephone users, there are a number of other applications that rely on PSTN, including point-of-sale terminals, telehealth services and traffic lights, adding further complexity to the project.
However the launch of the new product will allow communications providers to deliver broadband services without a landline and offer Voice-over-IP (VoIP) as an additional extra.
Openreach is now set to hold two trials – one in Wiltshire and one in Suffolk – to allow for testing and to identify the best practices for migration.