With the next digital switchover on the horizon, Shahid Khan, ECA Technical Manager, looks at the challenges associated with meeting the 2026 deadline.
Many readers will recall the national switchover from analogue to digital television, which was rolled-out, region-by-region, between 2008 and 2012.
Now, another landmark analogue-to-digital switchover is all set to happen – this time involving the nation’s telephone lines.
Demand for faster broadband and other digital communications services has skyrocketed in recent years, and especially during the coronavirus lockdowns. Between now and 2025, telecommunications providers will gradually be switching 14 million traditional Copper phone lines to new ‘All-IP’ (Internet Protocol) networks, which utilises fibre optic cabling.
Some of the customer benefits anticipated to result from the switchover include:
- Larger businesses will be able to consolidate multiple sites onto a single platform – reducing operational costs and requiring less equipment and maintenance (simpler network structure).
- Improved telephony via laptop/PC, and general improvements in functionality e.g. voicemail to email, call recording, instant messaging, call management and diary integration.
To retire the UK analogue network by the 2026 deadline, an average of 50,000 analogue lines will need to be upgraded to digital every week. Some parts of the UK are switching to All IP this year, and some areas will already be experiencing the benefits of faster connection speeds.
However, some of the rollout has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with restrictions affecting several areas that were scheduled to switch over the summer, and where connection is now planned for the autumn and winter months.
Impact on essential systems
Not surprisingly, the national switchover will have implications for any crucial system that depends on phone lines, such as alarms, lifts, and other technology.
The new network will be configured in two formats: ‘Fibre To The Premises’ (FTTP) and ‘Fibre To The Cabinet’ (FTTC), with FTTC being phased out sometime in the future, in favour of FTTP.
Back-up power arrangements will be fundamentally different for these new networks. This will be a key consideration for contractors and installers, to ensure continuity of alarm protection and monitoring when using an All IP connection.
This is particularly important for vital CNI (critical national infrastructure) organisations, who will want to ensure digital upgrade can be completed smoothly, and with minimal disruption for customers and the public.
Openreach has launched a national campaign to raise awareness and understanding of the roll-out process, and it recommends that organisations join its ‘Call Waiting List’ to stay informed.
The ‘Call Waiting List’ aims to provide the latest information, guidance and advice for businesses of different sizes, in different sectors and with different needs to help them make informed decisions in relation to the coming upgrade.
“This is an important early step in upgrading the UK,” said James Lilley, Director of Managed Migrations at Openreach. “We know businesses are time-poor and the choice to upgrade may sit at the end of a long-list of other priorities that will seem more pressing.
“By launching the Call Waiting List we hope to help those businesses plan their upgrades effectively, with regular updates about our activities and the potential implications on their operations, as well as guidance and examples of how they can make a smooth transition.
“We’re also working closely with service providers to make sure any changes happen as smoothly as possible.”
Matthew Evans, Director of Markets at techUK, added: “I encourage all organisations, particularly those in the CNI sectors or those that depend on services provided over analogue lines, to sign up to the Call Waiting List newsletter.
“The upgrade to digital services is a key stepping-stone on the path to full fibre and while 2025 may seem a long way off, it’s essential that organisations start to take action today. The best first step is to sign up to the ‘Call Waiting List’ newsletter to stay engaged and find out more about the action you need to take”.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SWITCHOVER AND THE CALL WAITING LIST CLICK HERE