BT Openreach has opened consultation talks with communication providers to begin preparations for moving 16 million phone lines to voice-over-IP by 2025.
The huge task is part of BT’s plan to shut down its traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN) and transfer to a fibre-based network.
As part of the strategy, Openreach will withdraw its Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) products, such as line rental and connections, which are reliant on the PSTN.
BT said that by 2020 they will have shifted 3 million premises to full fibre and 10 million customers to its ultrafast hybrid fibre and copper G.Fast product.
G.Fast is a BT’s new technology that will offer significantly higher download and upload speeds. It was trialled back in 2015 and is compatible with the post-PSTN replacement.
Our aim is to have as many customers as possible on fibre products. But there will still be a gap for those who can’t get fibre. So, as part of the consultation there will be a new copper product to fill that gap that will be VoIP compatible.
This is obviously a big challenge, as there are a lot of WLR customers. So, we have seven years to move 16 million lines to new services.
We have deliberately put a long-time window on this, giving it plenty of time to work with industry.- James Lilley: General Manager for Copper and Services Products, BT Openreach
For communications providers this is an opportunity to move onto a new product range. This includes lines across residential and business customers, but also special services for alarm lines, lift lines and health care products.
Others, who are currently voice resellers, adding value through specific software or other components, may have to rethink their business models.
We are pleased that Openreach notes the need to work closely with the Federation of Communication Services (FCS) and, over the coming months and years we will be working with them and members to ensure that relevant issues are addressed.
These include, disruption to services, retail future of voice, switching in a multi-technology environment, migration timelines, retail contracts management, infrastructure timelines, commercials and new relationships and also Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that are required.
All to be smoothly managed in good time for the 2025 deadline.- Iret Latif: Interim CEO, Federation of Communication Services
BT’s consultation will run until 27 July 2018 and there are a number of events planned across the country. The events will be an opportunity for customers and industry groups to discuss the impact of the changes and to get feedback.