Openreach are leaving the voice market and ceasing to supply ISDN lines from 2025 as they move to an IP-based model of voice communication. Vodafone are also terminating ISDN lines (Cable and Wireless) with their existing network closing during February 2019.

The change is being led by the telecoms industry, not the government, but it is supported by Ofcom and BDUK. This means that there is much to be decided with current and future plans changing.

The decision by Openreach means a major change for analogue lines which are used for many different things from alarms to sluice gates and emergency contact for 999 calls. These services use the voice DTMF tones so will cease to function after the switch off.

The Openreach PSTN (Public Service Telecoms Network) copper estate is not closing and will be used to support existing broadband services and those due to be launched in 2020. These are planned to provide voice as a data product at a similar price point to the existing line. For NSL customers, the connection will be different although the voice service on the line will continue. It is the non-voice services currently supported by analogue lines which will need a specific plan to change.

Why are the changes happening?

The switch off is taking place for a number of reasons. The telephone exchanges in the BT local exchanges, SystemX, were designed by the GPO (General Post Office) and are 40 years old. Spares are difficult to find, engineers are retiring and the opex is much less for a fibre network. This does have a benefit for the end users as there is a direct correlation between rainfall and the existing network faults rate. Fibre networks are far more tolerant when they get wet; but the end user devices are IP and have all the usual challenges of maintaining their ‘up’ time. The widespread roll out of fibre optic services means many of ISDN’s and PSTN’s advantages have now started to disappear. VoIP technology is a cheaper and more flexible option which has largely contributed to the decision.

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The transition

Below is NSL’s understanding of the plans so far;

  • 2018 Cessation of service notice given
  • 2018 NSL launches ISIN – the most resilient ISDN replacement
  • 2020 SOTAP will be launched – a simple voice only service on analogue lines
  • 2023 ISDN can no longer be ordered
  • 2025 Openreach to cease ISDN lines
  • 2025 Openreach to cease voice & DTMF tones on analogue lines
  • 2033 Fibre connectivity available nationally
The national connectivity is expected to mean 80% coverage. Ofcom and the government are encouraging and providing grants so the major conurbations will have a choice of network. The more expensive, difficult and remote areas are not likely to have fibre connectivity.

There is activity to help the remaining 20% but it is recognised that half of this are unlikely to have fibre and will need a different technology, perhaps 5G, but this remains a product largely written about more than used.

Additionally there is a government backed ‘Task Buster’ force, who are working hard to simplify the process of obtaining permissions to lay a fibre network, with the priority being unifying the process across many councils.

How NSL can help your business

So what next? NSL will contact all customers over the next 12-24 months to offer support leading up to and during the change. We will be confirming the function our customers use analogue lines for, so a transition plan can be made. The industry itself is faced with a huge task, as all telephone numbers currently on ISDNs and analogue lines will need porting, but the replacement product and commercials for analogue lines are not yet available. NSL will work with your business to ensure a robust and strategic approach is taken and the transition is as seamless as possible.

If you would like to talk to us further about the changeover, please contact the team

0345 678 6646