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The Great British Switch Off – Replacement Products and Services

The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is being closed in Jan 2027. The PSTN supports a range of familiar telephone and broadband products. These products include basic telephone lines, multi-lines, ISDN2, ISDN30, ADSL broadband and Fibre to the Cabinet (FttC) broadband. There is a 5-year plan to transition from PSTN based products to a new range of products, which will replace the existing PSTN-based products. The replacement products, referred to as “Single Order”, include Fibre to the Premise (FttP) and Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA). There will be a stop sell point in September 2023, after which PSTN based products will no longer be available for new supply. By January 2027 all PSTN products will need to have been migrated across to replacement Single Order products. 

One of the most significant impacts of the closure of the PSTN is the way in which voice services will be delivered to customers. With PSTN based products, there is an underlying voice enabled access line e.g. basic telephone line, ISDN2 or ISDN30). Customers can make and receive calls over that access line. If the customer wants, they can order a broadband service to sit on the basic telephone line.   

With the closing of the PSTN, Openreach will no longer be providing a voice service. The replacement single order products are data only. If a customer wants to have the facility to make calls, they need to order an over the top IP Voice service. To retain an existing telephone number upon migration to a Single Order product, the number will need to be ported to the new IP Voice Provider. Alternatively, in some cases the customer may choose to use mobile phone services for future voice needs. 

FTTP Exchange Upgrade Rollout 

In parallel to the closure of the PSTN network, Openreach are rolling out their FTTP network. The roll out is being done exchange by exchange. As the availability of FTTP increases, within an exchange area, there will be a point at which Openreach will stop selling copper-based services (75% availability of FTTP in an exchange area). Once an exchange has reached its copper stop sell point, the only services available for new supply will be FTTP in building with availability or SOGEA in buildings without FTTP. 

National PSTN Closure vs FTTP Exchange Upgrade – Two timelines 

One of the challenges that results from the way in which Openreach are rolling out their FTTP network is there are now two separate but linked product withdrawal timelines. In the National PSTN Closure timeline, September 2023 is the date after which legacy copper-based products cannot be ordered (Copper Stop Sell). This date applies across all exchanges in the UK. 

In the FTTP Network Roll-Out timeline, the Copper Stop Sell date is 12 months after FTTP availability in an exchange area gets to 75% and Openreach issue a Stop Sell Notification. This means that within a number of exchange areas, which Openreach refer to as Priority Exchanges, the impact of withdrawal of PSTN products will be felt earlier. As of today, 117 exchanges are planned for Copper Stop Sell in June 2021 and a further 51 planned for October 2021. Openreach intend to notify on new Priority Exchanges on a quarterly basis. 

The second impact of the FTTP Roll-Out project is that the PSTN product withdrawal date is brought forward in the Priority Exchanges. There are still industry discussions going on around whether there will be 24 or 36 months between Copper Stop Sell and PSTN Product withdrawal, however what this means is that in FTTP Priority exchanges customer will need to have migrated off PSTN product based on their specific exchange PSTN Product withdrawal date and not the National PSTN Closure date.  

Single Order Products 

Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) 

FTTP as the name implies is a service fully delivered over fibre optic cables. The fibre optic cables run from the customer premises to the exchange and do not touch the legacy copper network. FTTP is a data only service, so calls cannot be made without an additional IP voice service being purchased. 

The use of fibre optics brings several benefits over copper and part copper-based services. FTTP services are not impacted by how far the premises is from the exchange, unlike copper-based services. FTTP services always deliver the headline download speeds so are not sold as “up to xMb/s” products. The standard FTTP service does however use shared infrastructure, so a user can see reductions in speed during busy period (Contention).  Fibre optic cables are more reliable than copper-based services so FTTP sees less faults and is more stable. 

FTTP is not available in all locations. Openreach are in the process of building out the FTTP network. Currently there are around 3.5 million premises in the UK with FTTP availability. Openreach have committed to have around 4.5 million premises connected by the end of March 2021. 

Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA) 

SOGEA is a broadband only version of the current FTTC product. It uses the same technology as FTTC, but without the voice service. SOGEA is a part fibre/part copper service. Fibre optic cables run from the exchange to a street side cabinet (green cabinet). From the cabinet the service is supplied using copper cables. Although this “looks like” traditional FTTC, the line coming into the premises is a SOGEA data line and not a basic telephone line that people are used to seeing.   

The use of copper in the delivery of SOGEA means that the distance from exchange has an impact on the speeds likely to be seen on the service. SOGEA is an “up to xMb/s” product in the same way as FTTC.  

SOGEA is available in the same locations as FTTC, which means it is available in around 95% of premises. 

Single Order G.Fast (SOGFAST) 

SOGFAST is an enhanced version of SOGEA, which delivers higher speeds than the standard SOGEA product. The higher speeds are enabled by using different technology in the green cabinet, which allows higher frequencies to be used. This results in an ability to deliver higher speeds to premises located within 300m of the green cabinet. 

SOGFAST can deliver speeds up to 300Mb/s downstream and 50Mb/s upstream. Current availability of SOGFAST is around 2.8 million premises and is typically in areas where FTTP is not available/planned. 

IP Voice Based Products 

When a customer moves to a single order product, and they want to be able to make calls over it, there is a need to purchase an “over the top” voice product. These products are all based on IP technology and there are several options available or in development 

Hosted Voice (e.g. CloudPBX) – This technology takes the traditional on premises phone system and migrates it to the cloud. All the functionality, and more, of the phone system is available via web-based portals and all that is needed on site is IP-Enabled handsets or even just a “soft phone” on a laptop. 

SIP – For customers who want to retain their traditional on premises phone system infrastructure, SIP allows calls to be made over the internet, without the need for a PSTN based product. 

Single Line Voice – For customers who do not have multiple users and currently have a single basic telephone line. Single Line Voice services will allow the customer to plug an existing telephone handset into the back of their SOGEA/FTTP router 

For more information on the products and services we can offer, please contact one of our sales specialists on 0344 770 6000.

About the author

Grant Thain

Grant Thain is an experienced Connectivity and Voice specialist. He’s undertaken a number of roles at Chess, and is now Vendor Alliance Manager. He supports Chess customers, vendors and people with his in-depth experience and knowledge of the solutions that are both available now, and under development.

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