UK looks to end of analogue landlines

June 30, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
UK looks to end of analogue landlines
The UK needs to replace 14m analogue PSTN landlines by December 2025 but most companies, including IoT operators, are unaware of the change

UK telecom infrastructure provider Openreach is calling on UK businesses to start planning for life without the analogue phone network.

By December 2025, the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) will be switched off the user moved to voice over IP (VoIP). Over the next four years, more than 14 million traditional lines across the UK will be upgraded to new digital services, a rate of 50,000 lines a week saysd OpenReach. Sales of PTSN services in the UK stopped this year, sevreal years behind other European countries.

This affects not only residential phone lines but lifts, alarms, payment card readers and even medical equipment. It will also include Integrated Services Digital network (ISDN) lines for older devices attached to the Internet of Things (IoT)

Despite the decision being announced in 2019, three quarters of companies are unaware that it is happening, according to a survey by Internet Service Provider Spitfire.

Mobile phone services transitioned from analogue to digital 20 years ago, with the last analogue ETACS service shut down in 2001 after 16 years in operation.

Openreach’s 35,000 engineers already handle over 9.9 million engineering jobs a year on the analogue and digital landline network, many of them in extremely remote and rural locations. There are 192 million kilometres of network cable, 110,000 curbside cabinets, and 4.9m telephone poles and junction boxes across the UK.

The transition is likely to put more pressure on the push to upgrade digital lines to faster broadband using optical backhaul and the backlog from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Openreach is encouraging businesses to conduct a thorough review of all the current devices that rely on their phone lines or the phone lines of their customers.

OpenReach is pointing out this is particularly important for organisations in critical national infrastructure (CMI) sectors such as chemicals, Civil Nuclear, Communications, Defence, Emergency Services, Energy, Finance, Food, Government, Health, Space, Transport and Water.

“Ahead of the switch from analogue to digital phone lines, it’s crucial that businesses understand their current systems and the implications of the shift. This upgrade will provide the nation with faster, more reliable services and will allow devices to become more connected, providing UK industry with a framework from which it can develop innovative emerging technologies. Taking these simple steps now will make the process of upgrading much smoother," said James Lilley, director of ALL-IP at Openreach.

“For those businesses that want to understand more, we’d encourage them to sign up to our ‘Call Waiting List’, which will provide organisations 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,” he added.

Some European telecoms operators have already moved from PSTN to fully digital landline networks.

  • From Q4 of 2018, telephone lines in mainland France from Orange were no longer using the PSTN and by the end of 2018, neither homes or business in France were able to order analog phone lines. 
  • As of June 2017, Deutsche Telekom had migrated 61 percent of access lines in Germany and 64 percent in the Eastern European countries where it holds stake. Macedonia, Slovakia, and Croatia are now all-IP. DT’s rollout plan was set for completion by end of 2018. 
  • Swisscom had moved all its customers to an all-IP network by the end of 2018.

The OpenReach Call Waiting List provides advice and tips for the transition in the UK.

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