June 1, 2020
By Calum Lamont, Director
Telephony as we know it is changing, and it’s happening faster than you think. These technologies have provided the backbone of organisations’ communications for decades and now the Big Analogue Switch Off is just around the corner, all these analogue services must be gone by 2025.
Openreach, part of BT, the largest telecommunications provider in the UK, will permanently switch off support for all analogue communications networks by 2025. Openreach also recently announced that it will “no longer be selling copper-based products” in 118 exchanges areas from next year, effectively accelerating the migration of legacy phone services to digital equivalents.
This announcement should act as the starter’s gun of a crucial race against the clock and as a warning to avoid being stuck in the starting blocks when change has arrived. Although Openreach has outlined intentions to move up the migration process to withdraw legacy phone services, other providers are moving to their own timelines. Some operators plan on switching off their analogue services even sooner – emphasising the importance of getting off to a fast start with migration planning.
When Openreach stop supporting analogue services, their plan to move to Internet Protocol (IP) is a logical step. On the face of it, the replacement is fairly straightforward. However, it depends what is connected to these old analogue services and what can replace them – there isn’t a one size fits all solution.
Swapping high capacity telephone trunks (usually ISDN30) for IP equivalents (usually SIP) is a relatively simple change. However, organisations typically also use a large number of other telephony services to support a range of applications for example: alarms, building management, lifts, traffic management systems & telecare. The modern communication standards used by IP phone lines, and their reliance on mains power, means that they cannot always support these kinds of legacy applications, meaning a like-for-like replacement may not always be possible.
Identifying where all these existing telephony services are being delivered, and what they’re being used for can cause a few headaches. We regularly see telephone services that were installed decades ago, with limited information available on who is using them, but bills still being happily paid.
IP telephone lines require a data network connection – this can be an issue for telephone services in locations with no data cabling, or where the service must operate during power outages. Ultimately, organisations need to consider whether there is time and budget available to address cabling issues, and what impact a potential reliance on data networks may have on support arrangements.
However, it’s not all bad news. Although a one-size fits all approach is not possible, there are solutions available for most applications. In addition, the switch off provides a perfect opportunity for organisations to review their telephony services and delivery arrangements. Our experience has shown that the process of rationalising telephone services and refreshing contract arrangements can deliver significant efficiency savings and simplify support arrangements.
So, the lesson? - The Big Analogue Switch Off isn’t happening in 2025, it is happening now! Time is running out and there is often more to the change than a first glance might reveal. The planning and implementation takes time and money, and time for some has run out and is running out for others. Act now before it is too late!