back to article Openreach to UK businesses: Switch is about to hit the fan. Prepare for withdrawal of the copper-based phone network now or risk disruption

UK businesses must prepare for the retirement of the copper-based phone network that may cause devices to stop working. Or so said BT-owned Openreach as it urged businesses to audit their systems for devices that use the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), which is scheduled to be switched off in December 2025. While …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Openreach owner BT will pay minimal tax in the coming years"

    So, after having spent years dilly-dallying and not putting any money into infrastructure, BT is now handsomely rewarded with a guaranteed low-to-nothing tax bill to make it do its job.

    Isn't it great to be at the top ?

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: "Openreach owner BT will pay minimal tax in the coming years"

      That's not how it works. Corporation Tax is due to increase. That give companies an incentive to delay capital spending as they might as well pay tax at the current lower rate, then spend to reduce taxes when the higher rate kicks in. By introducing the 'super deduction' the government has reduced the incentive to wait.

      In the end it's a win-win. Companies spend sooner which boosts the economy now which is when we really need it.

      I can't really benefit from the 'super deduction'. Instead, I'm paying little into my pension this year to max out the CT payment. When the rate goes up, I'll make pension payments to keep my little company in the 19% band for CT.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: "Openreach owner BT will pay minimal tax in the coming years"

        > Corporation Tax is due to increase. That give companies an incentive to ~~delay capital spending~~ ramp up their avoidance schemes.

        FTFY

        1. AMBxx Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: "Openreach owner BT will pay minimal tax in the coming years"

          I guess you're not bothering with pensions or ISAs as you like to pay the maximum amount of tax possible.

    2. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: "Openreach owner BT will pay minimal tax in the coming years"

      Can’t say I have seen Sky, Vodafone, Talk Talk, Virgin Media, CellCo’s and other USO-free come to the plate with an opportunity to sink £25bn into a hole in the ground as a competitor.

      Infra costs bankrupting the predecessors to and ultimately NTL allowed Virgin Media to be created… and dump the debt. Virgin (formerly NTL) have barely expanded their network in 20 years other than easy new builds and cherry picks of stuff with a high ROI.

  2. Lon24 Silver badge

    The future is coming

    Or is it?

    My small business is in a high density part of London within a stone's throw of the exchange. Ask for an advisory date for FTTP (or even how far we are down the rollout) and an answer there is none. Which complicates planning a little. And silence also from the alarm company too. And if I don't have the router protected by a UPS will that invalidate my insurance? So many questions, so many non-answers. It is as though this has just shot out of the blue.

    1. Pete B

      Re: The future is coming

      Probably prove easier to use a GSM card in the alarm system that's protected by the systems own battery to provide the monitoring.

      1. Lon24 Silver badge

        Re: The future is coming

        Oh that would be a nice little earner for ADT. And, I guess like Win11, my current kit will all need to be upgraded to accommodate it. Indeed ADT is so near a monopoly I'm surprised BT hasn't bought it.

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: The future is coming

          A showroom manager I once worked with had a brush with the law thanks to the alarm system at her previous employers. She was in the pub on a Friday night with everyone else from the shop just before closing. The pub lost power for 5 minutes and the emergency lights came on. Then her phone rang and it was the alarm company calling to tell her they were monitoring an activation at the showroom. She went back with somebody else and they checked everything was still locked up. So they went in and checked the back door was too. Satisfied she sent the other staff member home silenced the alarm and called the company.

          She explained it was a false alarm caused by a brief power cut in the area. She gave them the everything's fine codeword, asked to reset at their end and then put the kettle on. Three minutes later a police card screeches to a halt outside the showroom and two coppers leapt out. They knock on the door, she lets them in identifying herself as the manager and offered a coffee. The alarm company had called them because the manager had given the "under duress" codeword. She called the company on speakerphone and explained she hadn't, then repeated the codeword and asked them to reset things at her end. Woman said she couldn't stop the alarm until she heard the manager's "safe word"

          She asked her to repeat that holding back a giggle. Again the woman says she must hear the "Safe Word" before she'll stop the activation. Now the two police officers are laughing as hard as she was. Alarm woman starts getting angry

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: The future is coming

        Professional burglars use signal jammers, so anything that is wireless is not going to work when it should.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The future is coming

          Even then... A place I worked at had the phone lines cut (yep, multiples) but missed the fibre optic cables.

          The worst of it, was that they cut the wires then pissed off elsewhere for a few hours, waiting to see what the security firm response was.

          After the security bods had a look around, declared no issue and didn't inform the MD that all the phone lines had died proceeded to bugger off.

          The thieving gits helped themselves to a couple of pallets of the cheapest laptops, walked past £££ worth of highend CPUs and gfx cards (a small box of the highend gfx was worth more than the laptops) and ignored the stupid money servers.

          The security firm though got a right bollocking and forced to pay for out-of-hours security until new security measures where in place and new procedures in place with them.

          Anon because otherwise you might know which distie it was.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: The future is coming

            "The thieving gits helped themselves to a couple of pallets of the cheapest laptops,"

            Easy to sell, no questions asked, nobody bothers with serial numbers on cheap commodity kit

            "walked past £££ worth of highend CPUs and gfx cards (a small box of the highend gfx was worth more than the laptops) and ignored the stupid money servers."

            All of which are a different story if you try to sell with serial numbers obliterated or altered

            They knew exactly what they were doing

        2. Nifty Silver badge

          Re: The future is coming

          "Professional burglars use signal jammers"

          Traditionalists use wire snippers.

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: The future is coming

            When there is a wireless camera at the door, how are you going to cut the wire inside without pictures of you being sent off?

            I have seen a burglary where the van pulled up and wi-fi and phone reception was gone. Cameras recorded the moment the van pulled up and the rest was scrambled.

            After that the security has been upgraded and you could snip or jam all you want :-)

            The wireless is the easiest to defuse so that's the first thing you eliminate in your security except you can run a "watchdog" that will raise an alarm if wi-fi or phones go down and one or two wireless cameras as honeypots.

            1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: The future is coming

              I'd say canary for the sacrificial devices whose function is to indicate that jamming has occurred.

              In the "Rivers of London" book series, police constable Peter Grant wrestles with the practice and consequences of magic, Harry Potter with a lot fewer jokes. One consequence is that magic reduces active microelectronics to sand. Apart from ritually sacrificing pocket calculators to appease "spoiler", Peter proceeds to buying a lamentable number of cellphones, running particular software, and leaving them around so that when one of them stops working, he knows that some magic happened in that place.

      3. Richard Jones 1
        Stop

        Re: The future is coming

        Great idea apart from one aspect. What is GSM connectivity? Will it be able to send out smoke signals? Or use the gas pipe of the electrical cables? Radio access is not reliable everywhere, and frequently not even possible in many locations.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: The future is coming

          starlink uplinks might have a lot of traction in times future....

    2. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: The future is coming

      And of course, expect a big service price hike because it's "fibre", plus the cost of replacing your interface equipment (and the cost of installing a separate UPS if your point of entry is quite some distance from your computing kit - ours are 25 ft apart).

      1. short

        Re: The future is coming

        Wouldn't PoE be better than yet another bloody unreliable UPS whose battery will fester, forgotten?

        1. Mike 137 Silver badge

          Re: The future is coming

          Ideally you'd want a much longer hold up time for the router that you'd need for your computers as typically the UPS just lasts long enough for orderly shut down (I'm talking SOHO here). But your phone (via the router of course) needs to stay available for much longer than that if you want to be safe, so a separate UPS is a more resilient approach as you don't want your computers dragging the router power down soon after the mains go out.

        2. AMBxx Silver badge

          Re: The future is coming

          In the future, with all the green power, electricity outages will be far more common. To counter that, we'll all need big batteries to backup our household electricity.

          Problem solved (sort of, in an extremely complex, expensive way)

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: The future is coming

            > To counter that, we'll all need ~~big batteries~~ bike powered generators to backup our household electricity.

            FTFY

            1. Jusme

              Re: The future is coming

              > > To counter that, we'll all need ~~big batteries~~ bike powered generators to backup our household electricity.

              Filthy great (and small) diesel generators more like

              FTFY

        3. AnotherName
          Alert

          Re: The future is coming

          POE over fibre? I'd like to see how they solve that one! Maybe run some copper wires from big batteries at the exchange?

          1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

            Re: The future is coming

            Exactly so. Including a low wattage conductor pair within a fibre cable is currently known and available technology. There are no extra development costs since the capacity to provide power to a subscriber phone is already a standard part of every exchange.

            Indeed, having a copper pair in the cable should even save on trouble-shooting costs by keeping cable-break testing and location as simple as it is today: just use a bridge megger to locate the fault. IANAE but it seems that fault location in fibre optic cable isn't so easy, as it depends on the break reflecting a strong signal.

          2. OwenC

            Re: The future is coming

            This company seems to have managed it:

            https://scenariio.com/powered-fibre-by-scenariio.php

            (I'm not affiliated or related to them - just aware that they do powered fibre installs.)

    3. AW-S

      Re: The future is coming

      I'm guessing you have an EOL connection and as such have like us a maximum of ADSL+?

      We are assured that FTTP will become available before 2025.

      There's plenty of time and we get a very good 5G connection too - so that backup might become our primary.

      1. Lon24 Silver badge

        Re: The future is coming

        We have a FTTC connection giving us around 70/20 and a /29 subnet. As I understand it PSTN dies in 2025 but last mile copper delivery may continue for longer. We have no 5G thanks to our local nimbys and I am unaware any 5G provider provides subnets at anything like comparable prices.

        If our ISP (one of the better ones) hasn't a clue what they will be able to provide us with when - it does make planning a little challenging.

    4. Crypto Monad

      Re: The future is coming

      > Ask for an advisory date for FTTP (or even how far we are down the rollout) and an answer there is none. Which complicates planning a little.

      That's because switch-off of the PSTN is *not* linked to the availability of FTTP.

      Come 2025, if you have no FTTP, you'll still be getting Internet via FTTC (or heaven forbid ADSL). However your voice service will be delivered over that, as VoIP, rather than analogue narrowband signals injected directly over the copper.

      You can start switching to VoIP today. There are many providers of IP-based telephony services. If you have a PABX in the basement linked to an E1 trunk, now is the time to get rid of it.

      In terms of alarm companies, you'll need them to provide a service which works over IP. Again, you can move to that as soon as the alarm company has a workable IP-based solution.

      1. Lon24 Silver badge

        Re: The future is coming

        Thank you - but I did know all that. We have VOIP - we've had it for decades. Even so our ISP cannot tell us when and how they are going to transition our PSTN line to which some analogue equipment is attached. They could if FTTP was an option. That's the point.

        Hence the current plan is to do nothing and wait until Openreach and the ISP community can get all their ducks in a line.

    5. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: The future is coming

      We have multiple clients where their current network connectivity is "adsl" or "leased line", it's weird how a small company with say, 8 phones paying £40 for their internet at the moment sees a £300 a month leased line as "a bit on the expensive side". Their choice for when ISDN goes? Sticking to adsl and doing all their calls on mobile phones seems to be their only choice.

    6. elaar

      Re: The future is coming

      London always had an issue with BT connections. We found it near to impossible to deliver customers with FTTC in central London.

      Virgin/Colt tended to be the answer

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back in 2013

    Where I was living back in 2013 a storm took out the power lines for best part of a day before temp fix. Within half a day there was no mobile phone coverage and Virgin's local box was dead so no home phone and this was on Herts/Essex border so not exactly some out in the wilds small community.

    For anything causing similar damage to 1987's storm then likely the telephone network will be dead to a lot of people within similar timescales, so hope there are no emergencies needing to phone calls.

    1. Mishak

      1987

      Where we lived, the telephone network was dead for days.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: 1987

        When I were a lad, sometimes the phones would be out for years.

        1. SGJ

          Re: 1987

          In 1987 I'd just moved in to a new build house just outside Cambridge and BT couldn't install a phone (or give me an install date) because of a lack of capacity in the local network!

          1. Juan Inamillion

            Re: 1987

            In 1976 BT told me there was a 12 month waiting list for a phone. The only way to get one quicker was to install a payphone - yes that's right. Oh and this was in Bromley, Kent.

            1. myithingwontcharge

              Re: 1987

              In 1975 not only were there no lines available and a waiting list, but we ended up having to share a line with our neighbours* (yes really).

              Tell that to kids to day....

              * Then known as a "party line" in the days long before 0898 numbers, but without the fun part and still with large bills.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what about emergencies?

    One of the reasons why you were required to always have at least one analog phone hanging off a copper pair in a business was because it would continue to function in case of a power outage as it was powered from the exchange.

    Has that requirement gone then?

    1. Mishak

      Has that requirement gone then?

      Yes, I think it was removed as a requirement for IP phone services last year.

      I had an Openreach engineer here on Monday. They are still installing ONTs for FTTP with battery backup (for phone and internet) in new build estates, but that's just to use up stock. Single installs and replacements are all now without the backups.

      I'm using a fit-Uptime to power the ONT and Fritz!Box (which includes DECT and analog phone support), which will cover most of the outages we get.

      I've also got another small UPS (from Amazon) that I use for a pfSense box and WiFi AP (PoE) - mainly because I work from home and it's a pain when a cut of a few seconds interrupts a conversation ;-)

      1. elaar

        Re: Has that requirement gone then?

        What about emergency phones in lifts? Currently a PSTN phone is required as far as I'm aware.

  5. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Prepare ... now or risk disruption

    I think I'd prepare for disruption, just to be on the safe side.

  6. vtcodger Silver badge

    Ahem

    Not my problem (thankfully). But might it not be better to get fiber to everyone who wants it BEFORE you announce a four year deadline for switching off your legacy phone network?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Ahem

      No (well maybe yes) but the legacy copper network is not being phased out over the next four years. What's actually being announced here is the end of their analogue wholesale service. That's the gubbins in the telephone exchange which encodes your analogue phone signal to digital and a service that provides packet routing.

      You will now have to have your own box that does the A/D encoding/decoding and someone who can do the routing for the resulting data packets. If you don't have FTTP you will just use some form of DSL instead. And before you moan about not being able to get decent DSL when it comes to providing a dedicated VoIP solution you really don't need much. Frankly an analogue modem would be adequate. I think there are very, very few properties who can't at least get .1Mb/s DSL in the UK and that's all you'd need.

      1. Bowlers

        Re: Ahem

        Legacy copper network! Copper would be a welcome upgrade at our house, aluminium wire rots, cracks and breaks Even had aluminium wire problems at the exchange in the past, that may be sorted now we have FTTC.

  7. steelpillow Silver badge
    WTF?

    I don't understand

    If copper is withdrawn, how can BT honour their obligation to connect through 999 emergency calls when the emergency situation involves a power cut?

    1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: I don't understand

      BT just want the money - they do not care about the lives lost or ruined because their wonderful new phone service does not work without mains power.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: I don't understand

      To judge from Mishak's reply, several posts above this one, that is no longer a legal requirement.

    3. Anon
      Big Brother

      Re: I don't understand

      BT have Phorm (q.v.) on honour.

  8. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Where my current telephone is located there is no power point nearby, which means that when Openreach decide to switch me over to VOIP i'm going to have to pay a sparky to put in a socket next to the phone for the VOIP adapter if I want to keep using that line.

    So either i shell out around £150 to get a new power socket installed for no benefit to myself to get moved onto VOIP or i take that money and spend it on a mobile contract and cancel that telephone line. Hmm I wonder which option i will be choosing

  9. CJatCTi
    Flame

    "more reliable services " is a lie

    VoIP is intrinsically less stable, has no standards (only RFC) and many more elements to go wrong than the analogue or ISDN services it replaces. Ask anybody who uses it.

    Internet connections can be iffy

    Your line provider, system manufacture & handset manufacture all work to different over lapping and constantly changing RFC. Someone updates something and things stop working.

    Someone makes a change in a firewall you lose your voice connection.

    You are working from home over VoIP and the kids go on the X-box and your call quality is gone.

    It’s cheaper, you can get unlimited lines on a single number for £1 per month or pay just £4-£6 for a channel and get free UK calls, but no way is it “more reliable”

    None of standard VoIP is encrypted so people can listen into you calls from where ever, rather than locally tapping the wire.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: "more reliable services " is a lie

      People can only listen to your calls if they can see the packets - so as to be able to "tap" them. If the packets aren't going through your equipment (or at least, equipment you control) then you can't listen in.

      But otherwise, yes - there are many problems. Not least of which is that without proper end-end QoS (which in practice means that Openretch provide a separate channel with dedicated bandwidth) then you are at the whimsy of network load as to whether you sound like a Dalek or a real person.

  10. Stephen Hope

    IP voice standards

    There are standards for VoIP - but you need to search a bit to make sure you get to the right ones.

    It helps to have a manual or 2 at hand - because you need a standard you can actually use on the equipment you want to deploy and that works with the voice provider you are looking at...

    Voice was 1 of the 1st things standards got to in the electronics world and that didn't stop just because we moved from analog to ISDN to SDH and now to IP.

    the Wiki is good place to start

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice_over_IP

    In RFCs you need the ones which are "STANDARD" or sometimes "PROPOSED STANDARD" if the final bits of process havent happened yet.

    Some of the CCITT standards cover voice - digitisation of the analog voice stream for example in G.711 which was invented for ISDN and SDH is still used.

    There are encryption standards for voice, covering both signalling and the voice "payload" (2 separate options naturally so you can pick whether you do 1 or both) - but as others mentioned that is only an issue if you think your traffic stream might be tapped.

    Finally there are interworking agreements for UK VoIP carriers - they cover the interconnections, but they imply what it is easy for a carrier to get from a user device - and guess what - that is what gets used......

    anyhow - jumping off place for NICC if you dont just google for UK IP voice interworking and pull the right PDF....

    https://niccstandards.org.uk/current-work/#bookmark1

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