BT Openreach has announced they are closing the copper wire telephone network across the UK for homes and businesses. This is causing a lot of businesses to panic and find themselves signing up for expensive telephone plans and long-term contracts when they don’t need to.
Our aim in this blog post is to fill you in the facts and let you understand your options.
What are we used to working with?
For over 20 years we have been using the traditional telephone network for our home and business calls, and more recently our internet. This network uses copper wires to transmit analogue and digital signals.
For this set up the user has a traditional phone line (PSTN), and then to get internet access either an analogue ADSL line (mainly for home and small business use) or a digital ISDN line (mainly for business use).
What is PSTN?
PSTN is short for Public Switched Telephone Network. It is basically a traditional telephone line using copper wire to transmit voice communications. It is the simplest phone set up and what a lot of people have at home or in a small business. A PTSN phone number is equivalent to one phone line. This is now considered to be old technology as it is inflexible and serves only one purpose.
What is ADSL?
ADSL stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. It currently accounts for approximately 50% of the UK’s broadband lines. Using your PSTN, it uses standard copper wire telephone lines. But, with the addition of a microfilter on the line, it allows users to make a phone call and surf the internet at the same time. This is an analogue solution and the speed of the connection is based on how far the line is from the telephone exchange. It is also considered to be old technology because of the speed issues and lack of reliability.
What is ISDN?
ISDN is short for Integrated Services Digital Network. It came about in the late ’80s and has been a good choice for businesses because it supports voice and data communications. It also uses traditional copper wire telephone lines but sends a digital transmission instead of an analogue one. This makes it a quicker solution than ADSL. It was a step forward and allowed video conferencing to take off. But now, there are much quicker alternatives using fibre lines and cloud communications instead of copper lines.
What is changing?
BT Openreach has announced that by 2026 they will have started the shutdown of the ageing copper wire telephone line network. Current copper wire networks using ADSL or ISDN are being replaced by fibre optic networks.
The download speeds users experience with ADSL or ISDN vary depending on how far their premises is from the phone exchange. And, reliability also varies, with connections dropping out very easily.
In 2000, we saw the start of the fibre optic broadband rollout. This network uses underground fibre optic cables to transmit data much, much quicker and with fewer reliability issues than copper wires.
Fibre also gives users much more flexibility because of their breadth and speed. Meaning you can do more; cloud computing, video conferencing, internet phone calls etc.
Where are we at with the switch to fibre?
Some users currently have fibre cables to the exchange cabinet and then copper wires from the exchange to their premises, this is called FTTC (Fibre to the cabinet). Some have fibre cables to their front door, this is called FTTP (Fibre to the premises). And some don’t have fibre at all yet, relying on the copper network.
The rollout of fibre across the UK has taken longer than anticipated but now BT Openreach has announced that 2026 is when they will start to close the copper network; they are going to have to work very hard to complete the implementation.
Copper will be being phased out altogether from 2026. So even if you have an FTTC set up, this won’t be enough. All homes and businesses will need to have FTTP.
Margot James, UK Minister for Digital until July 2019, commented that “We’re building a Britain that’s fit for the future, and our plans for a national full-fibre broadband network underpin our modern Industrial Strategy. Upgrading to gigabit-capable connections will benefit homes and businesses all across the UK”.
What do you need to do?
This is such a huge undertaking for BT Openreach and with a large knock-on effect for businesses, and this is why BT Openreach has made the announcement with a six-year lead-time, to allow you to prepare for the switchover.
When the deadline arrives in 2026, nothing will just get turned off. You won’t be left with nothing. There will be a phased approach and interim solutions to keep you working.
However, because of the positives in moving to web-based technology, it might be best for you to start doing your research now.
What to think about:
You need to understand your current set up, what you’ll potentially need to change and what you might be able to change now. Plus, if you are thinking of changing anything anyway or you have contract end dates coming up, now would be a great time to explore future-proofing your business.
- Check your current phone system; what have you got and how does it work?
- If you are not already using a VoIP telephone system, check if your current internet connection is able to support VoIP? A VoIP provider like ourselves will be able to advise you on this
- Is your current phone system fairly new and you’d like to keep using it but it isn’t s VoIP system? A SIP solution might be able to work your business. Read more on this below
What is VoIP?
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It is basically a way of running and managing your phone system, and making calls, over the internet. You don’t need an incoming phone line to use VoIP, you just need a good enough internet connection.
Having a VoIP phone system gives your business lower call costs and more business flexibility. Once set up, you can access the system, view data and make calls from your desktop PC, laptop, mobile and tablet.
Plus, you can be anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection. Meaning this is a great solution for workers who need to travel, work remotely, or for a growing business.
Using a management dashboard, you can centrally manage your team, call routing, availability and more. A VoIP system makes day to day business easier and gives your customers better user experience.
Some of the benefits of our VOIP packages from Agenda IT:
- Lower call costs
- Real-time user management
- Scalable solution for businesses of any size
- Spread the cost of your hardware
- Reduced call costs compared to a traditional phone system
- Your phone system isn’t anchored to a specific location
- Quick to set up
Some of the features of our VOIP packages from Agenda IT:
- Voicemail to email
- Fax to email
- Management reporting
- Outlook diary integration
- Call recording
- IVR for customer-led call routing
- User distribution groups for call management
- Instant messaging between teams
- File and desktop sharing
- SMS sending service
- Voice and video conferencing
- Plus, many more
At Agenda IT, we can help you decide if moving to a VoIP phone system is the right move for your business.
What is SIP?
If you are a small business and have a current phone system that works very well for your needs. And you don’t need all the features of a full VoIP system. There is a way to keep your existing set up with the use of SIP trunking.
A SIP set up is considered to be a hybrid, combining traditional technology with internet technology. The SIP trunking sits between your copper wire or fibre lines and converts the connection to work with your existing phone system.
This is a great solution if you have recently invested in hardware and are happy with your current set up but are looking to future-proof your business.