Openreach trials service methods to support analogue network retirement
Openreach, a wholesale broadband network, is planning to trial a set of service management measures to encourage customers still using analogue phone lines to contact their provider and upgrade to new, digital alternatives.
The trials in Salisbury, WIltshire and Mildenhall, Suffolk, will see restrictions introduced that prevent out-bound telephone calls – with the exception of calls to the emergency services and limit broadband speeds, in order to prompt customer action.
The company is continuing to work with communications providers (CPs) to migrate their customers onto digital technologies ahead of a 2025 deadline when, in common with other telecoms operators worldwide, BT Group intends to retire its existing analogue ‘PSTN’ system.
James Lilley, director for managed customer migrations at Openreach, says “With the deadline for retiring analogue services approaching, we’re working closely with service provider to migrate their customers smoothly and safely off the old analogue network.
“Our trials in Salisbury and Mildenhall have been a great testing ground to identify and iron out issues, and we’ve already managed to upgrade the vast majority of customers in those areas successfully. Having said that, a small minority of customers are yet to upgrade despite several attempts by their service provider to contact them, so we’re planning some gentle measures which will nudge them to contact their provider and have a conversation about their future service.”
By responsibly adjusting the performance of the remaining analogue services, it’s hoped that customers in the trial areas will be prompted to contact their provider and upgrade their line, preventing the ultimate risk of their service being switched off.
PSTN technology is used to deliver the majority of fixed-line voice calls in the UK today but most homes and businesses in Salisbury and Mildenhall have already moved over to digital voice services, which offer greater opportunities for convergence between fixed and mobile, as well as greater flexibility and sound quality.
Openreach notified its CP customers in January last year that analogue services would be withdrawn in the trial areas by 19th April 2023, but that deadline has now been extended to October 9th to test the new service measures.
The trials have been running since December 2020 and May 2021 respectively to test a broad set of processes for upgrading the UK’s decades old analogue network to new digital products and services.
For those remaining on the legacy network who don’t have an agreed exemption, Openreach will introduce a reduction in broadband download speeds to around 2Mbps from April 24, followed by a barring of out-bound calls, from June 5. The changes will be introduced in batches to better manage customer responses.
Protecting vulnerable customers during this process is a key priority and Openreach has worked closely with CPs, local councils and industry, to make sure those customers (such as people relying on vital services like care alarms that use the legacy network) are exempt and unaffected by the changes.
If successful, it’s hoped the measures will help providers prepare for the UK wide switch off at the end of 2025.
Providers should be in touch with their customers to keep them updated and informed about changes to their service, whilst Openreach’s Fibre Checker continues to give a personalised, post-code level view of which wholesale services the company can provide to individual addresses.