2018-05-25

Analogue phones, 1876 to 2025, RIP

Analogue phones have been around a long time, but BT plc have finally announced that in the UK the analogue phone will be gone by 2025.

I have been saying this for a while, traditional landlines are on the way out. People use mobiles for calls, if they call at all as people tend to "message" and "text" and "FaceTime" a lot more these days, or so it seems to me.

But the end is in sight - BT plc t/a Openreach will stop selling analogue phone service, and even ISDN phone services, in only 5 years time (2023) and stop actual services 2 years later in 2025.

For actual phone calls the alternatives are mobile and VoIP. For businesses, services like webRTC to call from your browser. I have been using VoIP for a long time now, in fact I am not sure how long, but over a decade at least.

This will be a challenge to some industries where analogue lines are still used for alarm monitoring systems, lifts, and just as a backup.

It will also be interesting to see how OFCOM cope as voice telephony becomes simply an "over to top" service just like web pages, email, or things like FaceTime, which are out of their remit. It will also be interesting if this move is followed by the death of the "phone number" as a thing.

A&A have been selling broadband using the analogue copper pair simply as a carrier for the broadband for a long time. We don't do "landline" phone service. So for us, for these existing services, we simply migrate them to the data only variants rather than a "phone service with no calls" as we have now.

The bigger challenge is the existing broadband customers that have a phone line from someone else and broadband with us. They will need to realise that they have to change at some point in the next 7 years. Thankfully we already offer a means to migrate to a broadband only service and (where a BT number) port the number to VoIP which we can even point to a mobile SIM if needed. Even with our small customer base that represents an average of several lines per day that need moving in order to be finished in only 7 years!

But for now, no change. We need to wait for BT to have these new SOTAP and SOGEA services rolled out, which is likely later this year.

We live in interesting times...

28 comments:

  1. This will not happen in 2025. There are too many people like my elderly Aunt who don't have internet and frankly couldn't cope with it, and don't have or want a mobile phone. She's 76, she's not going to start using new technology she can't get a grip on at her age. She never really coped with work once they phased out manual typewriters, she couldn't type as fast on electric typewriters.

    My parents and myself will also be forced to change. The three of us have pay as you go mobiles, but they are all ancient dumb 10 year old GSM phones. I use an iPad for internet on the go, I find the screens of smartphones far too small (I'm toucn typing this on the iPad virtual keypad). For my parents and myself, our primary phones are still our analogue land lines, we talk for a couple of hours every weekend. Even my brother who does have a smart phone uses his analogue land line a lot.

    And then as you say there are phones in lifts, and burglar alarm monitoring lines. And what about multiple phones in the house? My parents have an extension in the shed, the cable is run in underground ducting.

    Nope, not going to happen by 2025. I don't care what BT say on the matter.

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    1. Don't worry about it, or expect the change to be too visible: maybe your handset is genuinely a 2G one, but the trusty old Nokia 3310 is available in a 3G version too - virtually identical apart from the case colour options.

      BT have already stopped offering copper voice services in some (FTTP only) areas - but you still get a voice "line", in the form of the FVA (Fibre Voice Access) port on the optical terminal.

      If BT roll that option out nationwide (or a Gfast/VDSL version), they could phase out the PSTN exchanges completely - but all end-users would see is a change in pricing and a different box on the wall to plug their phone into. (Yes, a bigger one that needs a mains socket, which is a pain for some, but not as big a deal as genuinely removing the service entirely!)

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    2. Analogue phones work for 10 to 20 years, sometimes longer. Broadband routers seem to last no more than three years, so suddenly my Aunt has a box that will need replacing every three years which has been forced on her so she still has a phone. It will also likely lock up every 6 months and need power cycling, or need firmware updates or config changed to be secure, etc. Then there is the extra electricity to run the thing. The list goes on.

      My aunt can't cope with this, I know I helped her write down the instructions she follows to listen to messages on the answering machine part of her DECT phone. Even having batteries in the DECT handset caused problems, she kept replacing them with Alkali and wondering why they wouldn't charge. I replaced the phone with one that has a Lithium battery built in that is not easily replaceable since the phone is IP67 sealed, you need a screwdriver.

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    3. The analogue phone service went out years ago! We are on digital exchanges now. Also BT Broadband is only available on compatible phone lines. We all still need phone lines! It would be against my human rights!

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    4. Err, the analogue phone service is still very much used today. Even on a digital exchange, it is an analogue phone service which most people have rather than ISDN. BT Broadband will work on a copper pair (which currently, mostly, has an analogue phone service on it). BT are not getting rid of copper pairs (metallic path to be more correct) as, indeed, it is used for ADSL and VDSL. What they are getting rid of is the analogue phone service. I need to check if ISDN is going too, but I would assume so.

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  2. Oh goody! Now I can expect my voice calls to be as flakey as my Internet connection. The landline was the one communications device in my house that was rock-solid... always there, always working... but now I can expect to sound like a robot half the time and get randomly cut off whenever anyone surfs the web on my 0.6Mbps upload home Internet connection. As for mobile phone coverage, that's non-existent here. Plus the speakerphone on the landline is way louder. I can just see it now... "Emergency services how can I help you?"... "I'd like to repor... *crackle* *robot noise* *hiss* *crashed app* *10 mins rebooting*... hold on could you wait while the modem resyncs please... nevermind it's not an emergency now"

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  3. Won't they have to keep some analogue lines for special purposes?
    I'm thinking things like lift emergency calls.
    Or in my case emergency out of band dial in for router management. For those times when I screw up a config on a router far away.

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  4. This is ridiculous - I have friends who run businesses where they can only get 1.5Mb ADSL2, nowhere near enough bandwidth to pass the 8 or so lines of voice they have over. I really hope they pull their finger out and do FTTP everywhere in the next few years to remedy this!

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    1. Err, 1.5Mb/s is plenty for 8 concurrent phone calls. They typically use around 100kb/s uncompressed a-law. But that is 1.5Mb/s per line you can get, so with 8 lines, as you have now, what is the issue. Uplink is more of an issue on long lines, but again, that is per line. Am I missing something?

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  5. There is a curse.
    They say:
    May you live in interesting times.

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  6. This is indeed going to be interesting.

    We use ISDN30, the village's broadband is horrible and there's no mobile signal :-(

    Still at least it'll be quiet !

    I know I'm not alone in this either. Quite a lot of our customers (who take lots and lots of telephone orders) are on industrial estates with rubbish broadband. Cut off the ISDN and they'll have no phones either.

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    1. Don't worry, it's like cheque books. They say cut off in 2025 so that we're not surprised when they cut it off in 2050. By which time BT will be bust and we'll all be using mobile signals rather than relying on 200 year-old aluminium wires for streaming our Netflix.

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  7. For the many that live in rural areas, mobile reception is often poor to non-existent and ADSL is too slow to support reliable VOIP. BT will have to ensure 100% coverage of FTTC before they can switch off someone's analogue lifeline.

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    1. Yeah, and we don't mean any of that long line FTTC rubbish either. We mean proper FTTC where the cabinet is less than 1Km away.

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    2. The solution to this is to make sure the mobile telcos install more masts in mobile areas, not to keep ancient technology instead. The voice USO should apply to mobile phone companies. I find it funny I can use my mobile on motorways, B class roads in middle of nowhere etc. yet people in villages complain of no signal, not sure how thats been allowed to happen.

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  8. I haven't managed to get VoIP to work. Need a lot of handholding / sorting-out I expect. I have three AA IP-bonded lines, ultra ultra long ADSL2 4.5mi 65dB downstream attn. speeds are not quite equal. Siemens N300 VoIP box and Firebrick. I just redirect AA VoIP to mobile anyway, so it's fine. Perhaps I should have a go at getting it up and running again.

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  9. I have VOIP but It's not even connected at the moment, These-days almost any mobile plan that contains a sensible amount of Data allowance comes with "Unlimited" calls to the numbers I actually care about calling.

    Will be interesting to see what the mobile carriers do about switching away from circuit switched voice, there is VOLTE but at the moment it requires carrier specific firmware and that's just not a realistic requirement in my opinion.

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  10. " BT plc t/a Openreach will stop selling analogue phone service, and even ISDN phone services, in only 5 years time (2023) and stop actual services 2 years later in 2025."

    Is this a definite roadmap now? For a long time, people were publishing articles claiming BT were removing analogue services in X years time based on a screenshot of one bullet point on a single powerpoint slide from a private briefing they didn't attend. This also led to a lot of claims about loss of ISDN (mostly to flog VoIP solutions) - yet it wasn't that long ago BT upgraded the ISDN cards in all the exchanges.

    Personally I think scrapping the "analogue" network leaves us in a worst state as a country, what with all the extra complexity and points of failure:

    - making a 999 call in the event of a broadband fault (even just the lost seconds if you have to wait for an xDSL modem to resync for some reason)
    - making a 999 (or any other) call in the event of a server/datacentre issue with the VoIP provider
    - power cuts that affect both homes/premises and the nearest mobile basestation
    - careless drivers crashing into poorly sited FTTC cabinets meaning end users lose voice, not just internet

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    1. However, it would mean that xDSL/FTTC outages would be reportable under current Telco licence obligations (especially available of 999).

      I'm not sure BT could offer the level of service needed to fall below the regulatory radar.

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    2. I am surprised people even still use landlines at home for voice, occasionally I read on a forum someone has a voice package on their landline and I sit there thinking "why". A mobile is cheaper now days, works anywhere, and also provides backup internet. Its a no brainer. The only arguments I consider valid are (A) people not having used mobile phones before so a learning curve, but this can be solved by giving them phones with physical buttons like a landline phones, and (b) if they have no signal at home, this is solved by installing more masts. Landlines not only are dated are also just priced so badly, charging for basics like caller display and connecting calls. I feel if they were not required for broadband, they would have died already years back.

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  11. So how is this going to work where no IP service is available due to distance from the exchange?

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    1. It won't. But BT don't seem to understand that. They're too busy filming people wearing name badges staring up at people in helicopters trying to connect to their wifi. Or ruining Dabs.com

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  12. Wow - quite a U-turn from the previous insistence that there wasn't even enough demand to justify offering SOGEA as an option, and now it's to become the *only* option instead?!

    Any indication yet how the new options will compare to your current "scrape existing number off the BT line without breaking it" service? Presumably they'll start offering something similar (port number out to VoIP service, turning the line into SOGEA instead of ceasing)?

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  13. A surprising and drastic U-turn from their previous stance that there was "no demand" for SOGEA - from "not enough demand, so we refuse to offer that option" to "we're dropping everything else, it's SOGEA or nothing"?!

    It's effectively what FTTP already involved, I know - the PSTN ports were just SIP adapters on their own VLAN, so no "phone line" anyway, but still. Not to mention disruptive to their excuse of "the line's good enough for voice, so what's the problem?" line, if the only service they offer now is a broadband one anyway: simpler fault handling at last?

    Presumably there will be something akin to the "renumber with number export" combined with "port GEA to SOGEA" involved, replicating what A&A already offer but as an official BT/OR wholesale service?

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  14. I wonder how they'll cope with customers like my parents, on a DAXed line in the middle of a forest valley with a full exchange and no prospect of BT broadband (she uses satellite broadband: mobile phone coverage is an impossible dream). Given that BT don't seem to know this, or remember it, and have sent her at least half a dozen ADSL routers and not asked for any of them back (though they did ask her for £250,000 to upgrade the exchange: she said no), I am not confident in their ability to remember that they themselves installed DAXes on remote lines and thus stopped broadband working for some subset of their customers. I suspect they'll try to just drop them on the floor... "too expensive to upgrade, sod off".

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    1. Don't worry, Richard Branston will advise them to register on the "Cable My Street" website and if they're lucky they might get cable by the year 2700!

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  15. I've been Voip only for a good few years, but I wouldn't force it on anything 'mission critical', like an elderly relative.

    Far too many things to go wrong. Most importantly you need a broadband connection that you can depend on to not flap around at inconvenient moments, which IMO rules out anything DSL based.

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