Openreach trials service methods to support analogue network retirement
Trial measures will prompt customers to contact their service provider
Openreach, the UK’s largest 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 said: “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Openreach notified its CP customers in January last year that analogue services would be withdrawn in the trial areas by 19th April 2023, but that deadline has now been extended to October 9th to test the new service measures.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.
 Numbers for Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs) and CP contacts are also exempt from call barring so that telecare devices continue to function and for customers to call their service provider
 Products that enable customers to have a digital line i.e. SOGEA (Single Order Generic Ethernet Access). In Salisbury customers who don’t yet have access to Full Fibre can retain their existing service.
Notes to editors
Exemptions also include sites that come under the banner of Critical National Infrastructure, and will not form part of either service interruption or contract termination, if flagged to Openreach by the CP.
BT is preparing to switch off the old copper PSTN phone network by December 2025 and everyone in the UK will need to have a digital phone line before then. To help us and our CP customers to prepare, Openreach is stopping the selling of analogue products and services (Wholesale Line Rental or WLR) to new customers by September 2023, and in a phased way across the UK. So far we’ve notified for ‘stop sell’ for more than 700 exchanges covering 6.6 million premises.
The ‘Stop-sell’ process applies when 75% of the homes and businesses connected to a particular exchange can get Full Fibre (FTTP). Customers in served by that exchange won’t be able to buy our old copper products if Full Fibre is available at their premises. This applies to anyone who's signing up to a new contract, whether they’re switching, upgrading or re-grading. If Full Fibre is not yet available to these customers, they can be be migrated over to one of our newly developed products to enable them to have a digital line i.e. SOGEA (Single Order Generic Ethernet Access)