Openreach Initiates Trials to Encourage Migration from Analogue to Digital Networks

Openreach, the UK’s largest wholesale broadband network, is embarking on trials aimed at motivating customers still utilizing analogue phone lines to transition to modern digital alternatives. The trials will take place in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and Mildenhall, Suffolk.

In these trial areas, specific restrictions will be introduced. Outbound telephone calls, except those to emergency services, will be prohibited, and broadband speeds will be limited. The purpose of these measures is to encourage customers to take action and upgrade their services.

Openreach is collaborating with Communications Providers (CPs) to migrate their customers to digital technologies before the 2025 deadline. This deadline aligns with the global trend among telecom operators, including BT Group, to retire their existing analogue PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) systems.

James Lilley, Director for Managed Customer Migrations at Openreach, emphasized the importance of a smooth transition: “With the deadline for retiring analogue services approaching, we’re working closely with service providers to migrate their customers smoothly and safely off the old analogue network.”

While the majority of fixed-line voice calls in the UK rely on PSTN technology, most customers in Salisbury and Mildenhall have already shifted to digital voice services. These digital services offer enhanced convergence between fixed and mobile networks, increased flexibility, and improved sound quality.

Initially, Openreach had notified CP customers in the trial areas of the analogue service’s withdrawal by April 19, 2023. However, this deadline has been extended to October 9th to accommodate the testing of the new service measures.

The trials, which have been ongoing since December 2020 and May 2021, aim to refine processes for upgrading the UK’s decades-old analogue network to modern digital products and services.

For customers remaining on the legacy network without an agreed exemption, Openreach will gradually reduce broadband download speeds to approximately 2Mbps from April 24. Starting from June 5, outbound calls will be barred. These changes will be introduced in batches to manage customer responses effectively.

Throughout this transition, safeguarding vulnerable customers remains a top priority. Openreach has collaborated with CPs, local councils, and the industry to ensure that customers relying on essential services, such as care alarms connected to the legacy network, are exempt from these changes.

If the trials prove successful, they will contribute to providers’ readiness for the nationwide analogue network switch-off scheduled for the end of 2025.

Jonny Rae

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