back to article Openreach consults on shift of 16 MEEELLION phone lines to VoIP by 2025

BT’s Openreach has opened a consultation with communications providers (CPs) over preparations for the monumental task of shifting 16 million phone lines in the UK to voice-over-IP by 2025. The move is part of BT’s plan to shut its traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN) in Britain, and shift customers onto a …

  1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Problems

    I can see two problems, which aren't the sole responsibility of BT.

    1 - Lifts. Currently, lift providers throw the biggest hissy fit imaginable if you try to connect the lift's emergency line to anything other than an exchange line. Is someone going to beat them over the head and get them to finally accept an IP based connection?

    2 - Redcare. Is there going to be a replacement for Redcare for alarm lines?

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Problems

      Been ripping out Redcare from sites for years. The second owner of a property never feels it's worth paying for. There's no reason, in theory at least, that you couldn't get a "redcare adaptor" that goes on the customer end if absolutely necessary.

      Lifts and emergency lines? I think we'll all going to have to start accepting IP as emergency-capable lines by the sounds of it. I'm much more concerned about a little old granny out in the sticks with no family trying to call 999 than someone stuck in a lift who almost certainly has a mobile phone on them, alarm buttons, staff on site, etc. BT's (not unreasonable) plans are to sort out the old granny first, so the lift people will have to get onboard or provide a better solution (e.g. lifts tend to go all the way to the top of the building... which would be a lovely spot to put in a cheap GSM-connected box). Someone already has to pay the line rental, so having to pay for the GSM connection shouldn't be that much of a chore (I can run a GSM connection reliably for £5 a month, I'm sure someone negotiating nationwide can get a cheaper deal... but a BT line rental is what? £20 a month now?).

      To be honest, for once, BT are operating at least vaguely in the right decade and I can't really fault them for it.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Problems

        In fact:

        From the Wiki article on Redcare:

        "Other versions also use GSM (mobile) as a backup to the main phone line or can function using either wireless (2G/3G mobile data) or IP as the primary connection all backed up by an alternative signalling path. These 2G/3G and IP offerings are marketed by Redcare under their Secure product range."

      2. boltar Silver badge

        Re: Problems

        "omeone stuck in a lift who almost certainly has a mobile phone on them, alarm buttons, staff on site, etc"

        Phones don't always work in a big metal box inside a shaft full of metal beams and if its after hours there may be no one to hear the alarm if its simply a buzzer in reception.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Problems

          In addition, even in places which might normally have decent mobile coverage, neither lifts nor mobile phones can be relied upon in the case of a non trivial power cut. Not sure about the status of BT's core IP network in those circumstances.

          Fortunately, the chances of significant losses of supply are reducing as fast as market forces are encouraging the UK supply industry to invest in generation (including storage) and transmission/distribution, rather than wasting their customers money on Crapita-fuelled nightmares such as pointless domestic smartmeters.

          Obviously there's no need to think about e.g. a recurrence of the comms issues of the 7/7 incident or another Grenfell-class incident, because although mistakes may have been made, lessons have been learned, and BT are fully capable of delivering a trustworthy emergency services network to replace TETRA, one which they are sure will be fit for purpose in the early 20th century.

          1. boltar Silver badge

            Re: Problems

            "e.g. a recurrence of the comms issues of the 7/7 incident or another Grenfell-class incident, because although mistakes may have been made, lessons have been learned"

            Lessons are never learnt, all thats happened is a cliche has been parrotted. Lessons didn't need to be learned, it would have been obvious to an utter cretin that cladding a building in tons of flammable material was a bad idea and so hopefully some councillers will be doing porridge for it. Where saving money is the main factor corners will always be cut by the unscrupulous and the gutless too scared to stand up to their bosses.

          2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            Re: Problems

            neither lifts nor mobile phones can be relied upon in the case of a non trivial power cut

            Absolutely. However the same might apply to fu;l fibre products as well - see below ...

            Fortunately, the chances of significant losses of supply are reducing as fast as market forces are encouraging the UK supply industry to invest ...

            Quite the reverse ! Market pressures - specifically for lower costs - are actively reducing the level of redundancy in the network. Instead there are moves towards things like interruptible supply contracts (ie pay large industrial users to shut down) instead of putting in/maintaining redundant capacity to cater for (eg) a circuit fault.

            I recommend a read of this : https://www.raeng.org.uk/publications/reports/living-without-electricity

            The subject of what happens to mobile networks is covered - they stop working ! In practical terms, the cost cannot be justified of equipping all base stations with anything more than a token battery backup, nor is it physically or financially practical to have standby generators available to roll out to them all.

            What is clear from the report is that it was lucky that the outage was relatively local - had there been a widespread problem then the generators brought in by the DNO (ENWL) could well have been needed elsewhere.

            Now back to the telecoms network itself. IF the connection goes all the way back to the exchange with no active equipment then it should keep going as BT exchanges normally have some very large batteries to keep everything running. But if there are any active devices in the link (like there are the green cabinets in FTTC connections) then it's questionable whether these would hold up for any sensible time (or at all) given the ongoing cost of maintaining batteries at every node. AIUI the NTEs used to date in all-fibre connections have a backup battery to maintain POTS service for a short time (hours) in the event of mains failure. I could well see these becoming a maintenance problem - will they ever get changed ?

            That's the key benefit of the current copper based POTS lines - very reliable and completely independent of mains power (including powering basic end user terminal) for quite some time.

            Nothing insurmountable, but it WILL add costs (eg periodic battery replacements) to various applications.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Problems

        I can run a GSM connection reliably for £5 a month, I'm sure someone negotiating nationwide can get a cheaper deal

        At our place we pay £0 line rental on mobile connections. That also includes some free calls too.

      4. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

        Re: Problems

        someone stuck in a lift who almost certainly has a mobile phone on them

        Back in the late 90s my wife was working for an IT supplier managing customers support needs. One of her accounts was one of the mobile phone companies. While visiting their site she was in the lift with a number of their IT managers when the lift broke down. The emergency phone didn't work. Done of the guys from the mobile phone company could get their phones to work, no signal. Luckily my wife's company had a deal with a rival mobile network and her phone worked fine much to all the techies amusement.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Problems

      New lifts have been using GSM mobiles for years... (yes I know, lift shaft + mobile = theoretical trouble... but new lifts have solutions for this, you just add a sim card!)

      And old ones can be retrofitted

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Shadmeister

      BT talk as I think it used to be called fell by the wayside presumably because most people do not require two landlines. BT tried at the end to tie their VIOP into their mobile offering such that mobile calls from home went via the broadband connection but clearly there still was not enough interest.

      Thus BT have clearly decided to remove the customers audio bandwidth and make that available for resale via their other services such as mobile and BTwifi.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will I finally be able to stop paying for a phone service I don't want, need or use just to get broadband?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes: very soon you will be able to get broadband without any phone service (it's called SOGEA).

      No: you won't save any money. The "line rental" you pay is mainly for maintenance of the copper in the ground, not for the voice service.

      In fact, every time you pick up the phone and pay ludicrous call setup and per-minute charges, you're helping to subsidise this cost; and every time a cold caller rings you to sell you PPI claims services, BT receive a termination fee for the call.

      So in theory at least, you may have to pay *more* for broadband without the phone service, since they lose this extra cream on top.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Vodafone do this already. Bearing in mind they are voted worst for customer service in mobile, take your chances.

      Good luck.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I buy xDSL services without voice capability across Europe. They cost more than a line with voice, without exception. That's because the telco is expecting to make some extra revenue from you making or receiving calls. If that's not possible because there's no voice service they up the rental to compensate.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Um... Why not buy them with voice then?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Because I don’t want my customers plugging in a phone and making a load of calls that I’m going to get the bill for. Over hundreds of sites that could be a huge problem. I’d rather pay €5 a month extra and eliminate the risk.

  4. 0laf Silver badge

    If they offer VOIP will they be offering to drop the line rental charges? Somehow I doubt they'll want to lose the juicy income.

    I've no use for a voice line in the house but I've got to bloody have one to get broadband. Dropping it wasn't an option.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      0laf, you *must* be joking! They have to make their slice of the dosh! (of course I agree, I have the same irritation)

    2. tip pc Bronze badge

      @0laf

      its line rental, its rental for teh phone line, regardless of what your running over it you still need the line for a voice call or BB. The voice bit costs next to nothing so you won't notice much if any difference in cost, but you still need the line for xdsl.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I've no use for a voice line in the house but I've got to bloody have one to get broadband."

      You may not have noticed that the broadband arrives in your house via the same set of wires as your phone. If the phone service were not provided that maintenance costs that are currently chaged to your phone line will simply be added to your broadband charges.

      1. julian_n

        You have to have the physical wires - yes - but you don't need a voice service. I pay £10 line rental pm for the lines with no voice service.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Maintenance costs?

        We're still paying £18.99+ a month for an even shorter bit of 1970's 'speaker wire' copper cable to an FTTC cabinet (20 metres away), at which point the monthly charge for FTTC kicks in (or should).

        No calls in/out for 5+ years.

        £18.99 is pretty hard to justify when BT have reduced the line rental to £11.99 for "BT landline only customers"*

        And of course, when push comes to shove, Ofcom's definition is watered down so it doesn't include ALL BT landline only customers.

        * with no broadband (not even Virgin Media) and requiring lines all the way back to the exchange, whereas those with FTTC could survive with a copper connection to the FTTC cabinet if the call service could be dropped.

        It makes are a mockery of BT's fcukbuddy Ofcom, Ofcom's cosy pathetic three year (anti-competitive) decision to differentiate £18.99/£11.99 line rental based on third-party data of broadband services provided by Openreach.

        Why has Ofcom let BT off the hook regards line rental charges? Regulation at it's worse.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        " If the phone service were not provided that maintenance costs that are currently chaged to your phone line will simply be added to your broadband charges."

        Let me amend that. In the fibre future you'll still be charged for the upkeep of the line and it may indeed at some point be less than it costs OR to maintain the current structure. However you'll also have to contribute your share to pay off OR's loans for the cost of rolling out the new system plus the interest charges on those loans.

        So will the rest of us, irrespective of whether or not we wanted anything more than FTTC. The chorus of "FTTC is not enough" have done their work. Now OR have got a means of getting a price increase past OFCOM.

        1. Adam Jarvis

          It's not a case of told you so.

          "The chorus of "FTTC is not enough" have done their work. Now OR have got a means of getting a price increase past OFCOM"

          You're being disingenuous, stating full fibre is all about headline speeds. It isn't.

          The point is FTTC and Pointless G.fast don't help anyone with flakey lines (aka. low-level pump noise - industrial areas), longer copper lines (500m / 250m as the crow flies), fairly short aluminium lines regards 100Mbps+ Ultrafast services, the only way ultrafast services can be cost-effectively achieved is using full fibre on anything other than multi-dwelling properties, using a single technology deployment.

          Edinburgh/Glasgow tenements are probably the best type of use case (if any) for Pointless G.fast, but it's niche in the scheme of things.

          Fault finding G.fast / firmware incompatibilities / redundant standards within the vectored VDSL2 side of the copper network will become more and more difficult to fault find (aswell as getting ADSL switched off), as this technology ages / some kit is upgraded / some kit remains non-upgradeable. It becomes a can of worms to fault find going forward.

          There are so many additional advantages to using full fibre.

          Openreach know this. BT-Group know this, Ofcom know this. It's not a case of told you so.

          It's disingenuous to start saying this is reluctantly happening as a result of loudmouths banging the need for (just) more speed, if there wasn't a business case for full fibre in terms of lower maintenance costs/better reliability of the network (with less pressure of BT's absolutely disinterested abysmal Customer Service) or Political pressure on them to 'shape up' or be moved to one side (the bloated BT drunk blocking the doorway for those attempting trying to get to the full fibre bar) - I very much doubt this would be happening.

          The penny dropped for BT when there were no more subsidies on the table for further copper carcass upgrades to their network. They knew they needed to look again at full fibre, even though they'd used the line "Copper is cheap, Fibre is expensive" to justify their bias regards decisons towards further copper investment.

          And cautious as ever, it hasn't happened yet.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If they offer VOIP will they be offering to drop the line rental charges?

      Probably, but they'll replace it with "fibre rental" which will be more expensive, because "fibre is more expensive to install". You can't win.

  5. Steve Todd

    Let me guess

    BT have been milking the copper network for as long as they can. Offcom have been cutting back on the amount they can charge for it, and they have been allowing it to slowly rot. At this point they say "please sir, if we can charge more money we can roll out this shinny new fibre network (except for the VDSL bits of it we're not going to mention)"?

  6. tip pc Bronze badge
    Paris Hilton

    i wonder what OFCOm will say?

    making a clear move away from the metallic path for voice removes a large part of the requirement for keeping copper. If OFCOM drop the need for BT to maintain the copper OR may finally be able to replace copper with fibre and have a happy ending?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "If OFCOM drop the need for BT to maintain the copper OR may finally be able to replace copper with fibre and have a happy ending?"

      Does this replacement happen automagically without any cost?

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    So we decide to do something and then try to find out how to do it. Have I heard of that somewhere else?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Presumably there will be outliers who are currently too isolated for fibre, have lousy speeds over their copper, and don't have a mains power supply.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Technically, nobody in range for copper should be out of range for fibre. The physics just don't support that.

      It might cost to convert but it should be a one-time conversion for at least the next 50-100 years.

      Mains supply? I think we're talking about the box near the customer converting fibre down to something on traditional copper + 47volt. Otherwise you're talking about ripping up every telegraph pole wire in the country and that's not practical.

      No, they'll just fibre to the nearest exchange/cabinet, provide IP backend, and cut the "direct" access to the POTS... it will just go through a PSTN->IP convertor. It knocks out things like Redcare and proprietary protocols that run over the copper, but it shouldn't mean that granny has to even change her phone, let alone all the phone wiring in the house. And presumably said box is already getting mains and providing telephony voltages down the wires to power whatever may be at the other end.

    2. Terry Barnes

      You only need 100Kbps for voice and that's for full encapsulation using G.703 with a SIP overhead. With more efficient codecs you can drop that to 10Kbps or lower.

      The number of locations with a telephone service installed but no mains power must be vanishingly small.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        More compression, worse latency. More bandwidth, worse latency.

        "You only need 100Kbps for voice and that's for full encapsulation using G.703 with a SIP overhead. With more efficient codecs you can drop that to 10Kbps or lower."

        Show me how. Include figures for needed bandwidth and resulting latency.

        Codecs might get the voice bandwidth down to less than 10kbit/s, and on a circuit switched setup (e.g. GSM) that works quite well.

        Now try doing that in a packet switched network where the IP overhead bandwidth per conversation is much biglyer than the emcoded voice bandwidth per conversation.

        Number of conversations per Mbit/s and latency are worse (from an end user point of view) than you get even from ISDN.

        1. Terry Barnes

          Re: More compression, worse latency. More bandwidth, worse latency.

          That Mbps per call efficiency doesn’t matter in this case though because the ISDN network costs more than an IP network per Mb of delivered traffic.

          Seat occupancy efficiency is high on Concorde because I occupy the seat for less time than on a 747 making the same journey. It doesn’t make Concorde cheaper.

  9. Dr Who

    In countries where they've already pretty much completed this (Switzerland for example) the biggest headache has been elderly customers. It takes a lot to convince them that :

    - If they haven't got it yet, they will need broadband.

    - They will keep the same number (they never believe that bit - how can it possibly move to the internet?)

    - No that favourite telephone they've had for the last thirty years definitely won't work any more1 but the new ones are very nice

    - The anxiety attacks they are having about possible disruption to what is often their main link to the outside world will pass in time

    These are all serious and genuine concerns, and the answer has been to deploy very expensive teams of support staff to go and visit this segment of customers to help reassure them and handhold them through the transition. Warning, costs will go up as well as up.

    1) without some additional non-standard equipment at at significant additional supply and setup cost.

    1. Haku

      "These are all serious and genuine concerns, and the answer has been to deploy very expensive teams of support staff to go and visit this segment of customers to help reassure them and handhold them through the transition."

      Somehow I don't think BT will be splurging on a crack team of 'pensioner whisperers' to help ease the minds of those who find technology baffling.

      "Warning, costs will go up as well as up."

      Yeah that sounds more like BT's m.o.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Depending how it's implemented, people can absolutely keep their existing phones and sockets. They don't need to take a broadband service, at least not one with functional Internet access.

      I've seen home broadband routers that are capable of being plugged into the home phone wiring and that generate all the tones and voltages required for a home phone to appear to work exactly as it did before. The change to VoIP is transparent.

      1. Alan Mackenzie
        FAIL

        I've been changed to VoIP, and the change most definitely isn't transparent.

        Previously you just plugged a 'phone into the wall socket, and it worked.

        Now, you have to buy a router, you have to _configure_ it, for goodness sake, and you have to plug the telephone into that. You also have to pay for electricity to run the router, 24 hours/day, 365.25 days/year. I doubt the telecoms firms give a fig about the excess CO2 they will cause to be generated.

        To say nothing of your 'phone not working when the electricity in your house fails. Great for emergency calls.

  10. Woodnag

    No thanks

    If the power goes down - anywhere - my POTS phone still works to the CLEC. Because they are battery backed up by law, as essential service. The new system?

    1. Steve Todd

      Re: No thanks

      Erm, so does fibre. It comes with a battery backup system at the client end (I happen to know someone who has FTTP).

      1. Woodnag

        Re: No thanks

        That covers the client's local power, not the power to the intermediate distribution box up a pole or in a grey box at the side of the road.

        1. Jon 37

          Re: No thanks

          My understanding was that with fiber, there is no powered intermediate distribution box (usually). The fiber goes from the exchange to one or more passive optical splitters and from there to your house. The splitters are unpowered, so are not affected by power cuts.

        2. Steve Todd

          Re: No thanks

          @Woodnag. There are distribution boxes and grey (well, green in these parts) boxes in the current system. They have their own battery backup or are exchange powered. Why do you think FTTP will be any worse?

          1. Woodnag

            Re: No thanks

            Because battery backup is mandated for POTS (must work in event of power failure) but not for non-POTS because the necessary-service laws are very old.

            https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/02/internet-providers-lobby-against-backup-power-rules-for-phone-lines/

            1. Steve Todd

              Re: No thanks

              @Woodnag. Not in the UK. Offcom mandates battery backup for FTTP systems just like POTS.

              1. Woodnag

                Re: No thanks

                Firstly, Ofcom issued guidelines not mandated, and they "consider that 1 hour battery back-up capability represents an appropriate minimum level of protection to provide to customers taking FTTP services".

                See https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0027/76527/battery_backup_statement.pdf

                The issue isn't just consumer premise equipment. It's forcing the telecom provider to not rely on consumer power for the switching network. This costs money - backup battery stacks and generators.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No thanks

        I have FTTP and can confirm that there is a battery backup so I can make calls during a power cut which would be good if I used the phone over FTTP, but I don't. Instead I still use my copper POTS line because BT can't transfer the number I have had on POTS for the last 24 years, despite it only differing in the last 3 digits. I'm told that one day they will be able to port the number. Till then their plans to get rid of POTS sound a bit nebulous.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No thanks

      When did you last lose your POTS phone for more than an hour and/or your Broadband for more than an hour? and/or your Mobile Phone for more than an hour?

      i.e. All at once, so you wouldn't be able to make an emergency call?

      You seem to be crying wolf regarding a scenario that didn't happen with Manchester bombing, didn't happen with Grenfell and didn't happen with the London bridge attacks.

      I'm not saying it can't happen but there is a lot of resilience in place, on all network types, nowadays.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No thanks

        "I'm not saying it can't happen but there is a lot of resilience in place, on all network types, nowadays."

        Is there, really? We're talking about BT here, remember. They're not rolling out IP to improve QoS (in the general sense), they're doing it as part of a plan to make money for the Board and the shareholders. 'Investing', especially in resilience, isn't a concept they understand.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: No thanks

        "When did you last lose your POTS phone for more than an hour and/or your Broadband for more than an hour? and/or your Mobile Phone for more than an hour?"

        Last year, mains power cut for over 4 hours, twice within months. On one occasion, just after I got home with a nearly dead phone battery. POTS phone worked ok though.

        (and technically, so did my mobile if I went out and plugged it in in the car, which I'd forgotten to do on the way home, hence the nearly dead battery.)

        The second occasion involved a failed local substation and it took over 4 hours to bring in a generator which then sat there running for over a week so over a week was the duration of the "mains" power cut.

      3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: No thanks

        i.e. All at once, so you wouldn't be able to make an emergency call?

        See https://www.raeng.org.uk/publications/reports/living-without-electricity

        Large part of a city without power for "some time". POTS still worked thanks to the copper connection and exchange batteries. If your end users are reliant on an NTE battery with a life of just one hour then such a failure would lose you EVERYTHING at the same time. Note that the emergency might not occur within that first hour - your proverbial elderly relative may fall during the night following the power cut (perhaps trying to get around the house in the dark).

      4. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: No thanks

        That may be true in the cities but my parents live in a small village and they don't have a mobile signal indoors. The last time I visited they'd lost power and therefore had no broadband. Their alarm line and phone line were up but I hope the fibre batteries are going to be big as the power was out for about 8 hours. I had a powerful torch with a 3000mah rechargeable battery but I was met when I arrived by candlelight.

  11. defiler Silver badge

    So, can somebody clarify for me?

    I'm presuming that this means "simply" switching off the analogue signal on the last-mile copper and shifting the call termination to an IPPBX in elsewhere-land, and then having everyone use an IP handset? Did they fix the automagical inbound-SIP-to-the-first-listening-device "feature" of the Homehubs? They used to get scanned by everything going... And is anybody pushing for IPv6 now, since we'll have to have IP active on more endpoints that currently only have a PSTN device? I mean, Plusnet are still on IPv4 and didn't have any plans to change when I last changed them.

    Or do they mean basically having an ATA for each line at the exchange, and propagating an analogue signal from there into the home? (Because that doesn't seem awfully far removed from the way it is just now.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I am thinking

      that BT will, for non-fibre customers, just make the voice bandwidth available to their existing VDSL systems and implement the voice at their routers. This way they can resell that additional bandwidth via BTwifi whilst also requiring other router manufacturers to provide support for BT's proprietary VOIP implementation.

      Thus copper will remain profitable and true fibre roll out will be slowed even more than at present.

      BT have since privation, been reselling the same bit of old string why would they stop now

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I am thinking

        "BT have since privation,"

        The only privation any part of BT is suffering is the pension fund.

        (I assume you meant privatisation :-))

    2. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge

      Re: So, can somebody clarify for me?

      You shouldn't need to replace your handset. If they design their hub correctly, it should provide a socket to connect your analog phone and translate the VoIP signal to the phone. The technology has existed in France for 15 years, for VoIP but also IPTV.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So, can somebody clarify for me?

        You can even connect the socket on the router to the home wiring so that all the extensions work the same as before.

      2. defiler Silver badge

        Re: So, can somebody clarify for me?

        If they design their hub correctly

        If they put an ATA in it, you mean. And for those of us with our own routers? Those without broadband?

        I'm alright, Jack - I'll find a couple of SIP handsets kicking about, but you seem to be assuming a certain level of competence on the part of BT and the consumer that may be absent here.

        I'm just wondering if we are all going to be required to have broadband to have a phone (ironically), or if they'll be an option to push IP back to the exchange.

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: So, can somebody clarify for me?

          AIUI what they have done so far when doing "fibre only" connections is to terminate the fibre into an NTE (there needs to be something) which DOES include a terminal adpater to allow an analogue (POTS) phone to "just plug in". So customer gets to keep their existing phone (and internal wiring), all that is different (for the telephony) is that the master socket is bigger and needs a power supply (so an issue if there isn't a mains socket nearby as there often isn't).

          The NTE also has a socket into which the router is connected (router, NOT modem+router) and the router just needs to talk IP over ethernet or PPP over ethernet depending on how the service is presented (I've not read anything saying much about that side).

          At work, I've worked with a few services which were just presented as plain routable IP over an ethernet connection - the provider's NTE handling all the fibre-something conversions together with any protocol conversions that might be needed - so from the end user's PoV you just talk IP over an ethernet link. Makes it a doddle doing your own routing/firewalling/etc - especially in our own office where we had a whole /24 to play with :-)

  12. GingerOne

    Shouldn't they have had this consultation BEFORE making the arbitrary decision to have it all done by 2025?

    1. defiler Silver badge

      And that, my boy, is why you'll never have a career in management!

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      "Shouldn't they have had this consultation BEFORE making the arbitrary decision to have it all done by 2025?"

      We just got the timetable for our new working pattern shift, a major undertaking. It starts with consultation next month, and then implementation October 2021. Not sure what the consultation will be if it's already been decided.

  13. Peter2 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    So, in 7 years Openreach expects to decommission every single phone terminated with a copper wire and move them all to a 100% VOIP solution.

    Ahahahaha. Ahem. Sorry, that's Cloud Cuckoo land which is only inhabited by politicians and upper management. It can't possibly, potentially, conceivably happen without severe impact.

    There are areas in the countryside which (entirely due to openreach not installing faster services) don't get the minimum required speed/bandwidth to place a VOIP call. That's going to need 100% fixing in 7 years, despite those people having been pleading to no useful result for at least the last 20 years.

    Assuming that openreach fixed this in the next 6 years and upgraded everybody to this then they'd "only" have to replace or upgrade EVERY SINGLE TELEPHONE LINE in the country. Think about that. Replacing the NTE (ie, modem/router) is a daunting enough challenge in 7 years for anybody who has been exposed to the general population and knows how hard people can be to deal with, but it's not just migrating about 7000 lines a day, starting today. Where is the satisfactory equipment that BT would use for 90 year old ladies and the refuseniks that have avoided getting on the internet?!

    Besides of that minor little niggle you'd also need to replace (or scrap) every phonebox, every intruder alarm system that phones the police and security company when they register a breakin, every (worthwhile scale) fire alarm system that phones the fire service when an alarm sounds, every random one of those AA/RAC phones in laybys, every "ALARM" button in a lift, every "call the signal box" phone at level crossings, every "this station is unattended", press here to speak to a human" button on an unmanned railway stations and busstop. The scale is mind blowing, and I obviously won't have even thought about half of the widely deployed use cases. And in 7 years when the equipment to replace with hasn't even been developed yet?!

    Yeah, good luck with that. This is the sort of scale severity problem that people actually thought the millennium bug was.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As an absolute maximum you need 100K for VoIP to work. There are very few locations where a phone line will work that won't support that kind of data rate.

      Why would you need to replace any of the other things you mention? The end devices work just the same, they plug into the same sockets and receive the same tones.

      And level crossing phones - not part of the PSTN. They're connected to the rail telecoms network.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      According to this they're not planning to get rid of MPF LLU, which is where ISPs have their own MSANs and provide both analogue dialtone and DSL over the same copper pair from their own equipment in the exchange.

      This means dialtone is not going away any time soon for the likes of Talktalk and Sky customers (and remember they are VOIP already: the MSAN is doing analogue to VOIP).

      Hence the refuseniks could simply switch provider. Or BT could deploy their own MSANs. Or BT could make their FTTC equipment act as MSANs, and move all non-MPF customers onto FTTC. There are lots of options still to be discussed.

    3. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

      Upgrading the whole country

      "they'd "only" have to replace or upgrade EVERY SINGLE TELEPHONE LINE in the country. "

      Time to study the obstacles British Gas faced with the conversion to Natural Gas, and see how that translates to the telephone system.

      Granted, BG didn't have to replace the pipes to each dwelling or commercial premises, but plenty will have been condemned during the process, and therefore replaced.

  14. RPF

    So which quango/ineptocracy will make BT liable for recycling/disposing of all the old phone handsets (30 million or so, maybe) that will be made obsolete by this, I wonder?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They won't be made obsolete. They'll still work, but over a different network.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The DECT house phone has been obsolete for 5+ years. We don't even have it plugged in anymore.

      Each person's mobile has taken over that role for everyone. The BT landline wouldn't even be used in an emergency.

      There is absolutely no "use case" for it, iMessages, WhatsApp, Telegraph, Facetime and (reluctantly still) Skype fill the role of what you'd call a traditional home phone today.

      By 2025, the idea of BT still offering VoIP/BT landline to consumers seems incomprehensible and a waste of money in terms of future investment. Full fibre services are where the profits will be made.

      1. Nematode

        Yeah right

        "Each person's mobile has taken over that role for everyone" Spot the city dweller. In fact even in our local town the 400 metre radius around Tesco's is within a mobile signal, and as for us in the boonies...

      2. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        "Full fibre services are where the profits will be made."

        I'll just leave this here:

        eff.org: The Biggest Cost For An ISP is the Initial Deployment, Not Internet Usage

  15. Patrician

    Internet goes down, so does your phone line; emergency calls, how?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Internet goes down, so does your phone line; emergency calls, how?"

      Scaremongering.

      Mobiles were working long after BT landlines stopped working in terms of Grenfell (as an example).

      Mobile networks have to be just as resilient today, in terms of emergency services, to withstand multiple points of failure before they fail completely. (There have been quite a few large headline fines for failure in this regard). Maybe not yet as good as landlines yet, but 7 years from now?

      Add another 7 years to BT's investment in EE, you can see where this is going (current Government investment in Emergency services 4G network via EE/BT), in terms of mobile resilience.

      I'd say traditional/VoIP voice landlines are dead. Yep, they're dead Jim. Not sure why a BT VoIP service is even being discussed as such a necessity. Habits are changing fast.

      10 years from now, the cabling to most homes will be for full fibre services, whether by Vodafone, Gigaclear, CityFibre, B4RN or if BT pulls their finger out, BT (+ others).

      This is the start of the legacy copper carcass switch off. It's far less reliable than you think anyhow in terms of disasters outside of bomb proof bunker type Nortel exchanges metres below ground in City of London (which were installed en-masse after 1993 Bishopsgate's bomb)

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        "Scaremongering.

        Mobiles were working long after BT landlines stopped working in terms of Grenfell (as an example)."

        Although I can use a landline in my living room, but Three are having trouble getting a mobile signal to it. Perhaps the big window is blocking it. Nope, still problematic in the garden.

  16. Norman Nescio Silver badge

    Lancaster

    It was mentioned previously on El Reg, but just for those who might have missed it, here is the link to the report on how Lancaster coped with a long-duration wide-area power outage.

    Living without electricity: One city’s experience of coping with loss of power

    Of particular note are the problems contacting emergency services, or simply getting the message out that schools were closed. Moving to VoIP really needs to take this experience into account. POTS availability is deeply embedded into national infrastructure in ways people easily forget.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Lancaster

      Thanks for providing that link; I had not seen that previously. I would describe that as a report that was written to be read, not left gathering dust somewhere.

      I was more than a little surprised when I looked at the list of participants; there are, IMHO, some "large gaps in the coverage". I would have expected a much more significant presence from the Emergency Services, but there seems to have been just a single PC from Lancashire Constabulary. Now it might have been that ES communication (TETRA / Airwave) was much more resilient than other communications systems, but if that was the case then I would have expected a report such as this to have highlighted that fact so that how and why it was better protected could have been the subject of comment.

      Similarly BT appears not to have been represented, and only EE there to speak for MNOs. Perhaps they were invited but chose not to participate.

      While it was (IMVHO) an excellent report I was left with the slight feeling of a golden opportunity having been missed. Doubtless other agencies will have conducted their own post mortems, but it would have been nice if there had been a bit more in this report for public awareness.

  17. John Miles

    When storms hit

    In some places the power can be out for several days - I wonder how long the systems will carry on working. In 2013 storms took out the power where I lived for about 16 hours, virgin phone lines went down an hour later and the local cell tower about 6 hours later IIRC (though was heavy congested before then). Then with smartphones needing to be charged daily how many people will be without any phone after a day?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When storms hit

      Get that original Nokia 3310 out of the drawer. Battery still half charged after 20 years

  18. Nematode

    Hype hype hype

    This just strikes me as the usual modern-day hype and bright-idea-ing by some ivory tower "strategic thinker". Mark my words - this will never happen in the timescale suggested. Eventually, it might but in the end it will require money, lots of it, and not just for the kit, but also for the meeelions of extra OR/whoever staff they'll need to deploy it all. Where's that money going to come from? And this from a company that is just sacking several thousand employees (OK, not the same skills but the guys at the sharp end need decent backroom and admin staff too). And this is before they start on thinking about what they'll do with us rural bods. Yes, I have copper so according to one post: "Technically, nobody in range for copper should be out of range for fibre. The physics just don't support that." Yebbut, physics and OR and costs and real-world speeds don't always tie up. I can get ADSL at ~ 3Mbps but am too far away from the cab for VDSL which drops off speed per 100 metres a lot faster than ADSL. I would dearly love this to work out as it'd mean I get a decent broadband service too, but I ain't holdin' my breath

  19. IGnatius T Foobar

    "web tone"

    It's time to start considering an Internet connection, rather than a phone line, to be the "typical" communications infrastructure found in homes and businesses. Ask any building manager -- would they rather connect their alarms and lifts to a bunch of dedicated analog lines, or to the building LAN? Sun Microsystems (RIP) figured this out 20 years ago. They said [http://java.sys-con.com/node/35818] that we need to move from a "dial tone" world to a "web tone" world.

    Sun was right about a lot of things but they were either ahead of their time or didn't execute well (take your pick). Remember their "network computing" push? Well guess what, kids: we're there.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The future is SPAM

    The key issue here is the fact that SIP/VOIP securityand privacy is orders of magnitudes worse than that caused by the now well publicised SS7 signalling system bugs. VOIP is a dream for computerised phishing phonecalls, let alone the scope for monitoring and intercepting calls. At least if PSTN calls are monitored it is most likely being done by someone with official connections in the exchange (legal intercept), with VOIP the network is open to hacking, or more easily DDOS, by anyone. Luckily most of the UK cellular network does not currently use VOIP, but will probably enable it long before the PSTN - then we are really asking for trouble.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The future is SPAM

      Other places have already done this either nationwide or at least at very large scale. Are there any reports of any of the above scenarios happening there yet?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh God

    I just started wondering how comprehensively TalkTalk could take this new avenue and fuck it up

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Oh God

      "I just started wondering how comprehensively TalkTalk could take this new avenue and fuck it up"

      Did you take inspiration from the recent TSB migration?

  22. Roger Greenwood

    Comparison with other "improvements"

    When I were a lad you turned on the TV and it took 5 minutes to warm up before you got a picture (in monochrome). Then came electronics and TV screens were almost instantaneous colour - magic. Now we are back to a 5 minute warm up while the digital box boots up, coupled with random video artifacts for no good reason.

    Once upon a time you turned on your AM or FM radio and got joyous sound in an instant. Then came DAB and the box has to find the strongest signal resulting in short audio jumps and repeats as it swaps from one tower to another, really weird when listening to speech.

    Currently when I lift my phone handset I have an instant dial tone ready to receive my instructions. The general experience and quality is totally reliable. It also works when the power goes out.

    I really hope that this time the "improvements" work for the user, not just the supplier.

  23. PeterM42
    Facepalm

    VOIP service quality?

    ".....HELP!........stuck............lift.............%^&*.......locatio............woman...............birth.......&.......man...........h@:rt...........attack.............

  24. Nimby
    Alert

    You've been MagicJacked!

    I have seen many homes and businesses switch to VOIP over the years, hopping on that hypegasm rainbow-____ing unicorn of hopes and dreams, and not once have I ever seen it come even close to being equal. Call quality goes down. Networks get overloaded. Downtime happens. Costs are shifted. And at the end of the day, after fixing everything that you can, the best you can say is, "It's almost as good and we certainly cannot go back now." Why anyone would voluntarily choose this nightmare today, after all of these object lessons, is only willful blind ignorance.

    Oh, sure, in theory it could work ... if you first invest properly! But no one ever does. No one. Ever. Does.

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