- The UK is moving to an all-IP (internet based) network for voice services
- The current analogue system, the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), will come to the end of its life in the mid-2020s with transition also needed to prepare for our full-fibre future
- As well as providing voice services, many other applications, such as social care and security alarms, use the PSTN
- The report provides lessons from four international case studies which are further along their migration path, giving evidence on how the UK can prepare for a successful and seamless migration from the PSTN to all-IP networks.
The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) has published a report on “Preparing the UK for an All-IP future: experiences from other countries”. It outlines the lessons the UK can learn from four international case studies as we migrate from the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to all-IP voice services and networks.
The PSTN provides voice and some data services within the UK. It is nearing the end of its life and is increasingly expensive to maintain. A move to all-IP networks lowers costs, brings additional benefits to voice services and helps prepare for the eventual retirement of copper networks – a necessary move as we forge our full-fibre future.
The migration is necessary but raises two particular challenges. The first is the continued provision of voice services, in particular, resilient access to emergency services in the event of a mains power failure which is especially important for the vulnerable and those who are landline-only users. The second is around the data services that use the PSTN. Some of these will not be compatible with an all-IP system as they rely on the analogue capabilities of the old network.
In order to ensure that the UK’s migration is as seamless as possible, the BSG commissioned Plum Consulting to analyse four international case studies. Germany, France, Switzerland and New Zealand were chosen due to the different stages of their migration and their differing regulatory structures.
Guidance on how to communicate and protect vulnerable consumers who may be particularly dependent on voice services is a key feature of the report. As the migration will be led by individual communication providers, it is essential that the industry effectively coordinates its messages to both consumers and providers of services that are dependent or reliant on the PSTN. Other insights focused on the benefits of minimising the forced migration of users away from the PSTN as well as the potential technical challenge posed by the UK’s approach to number portability.
Richard Hooper, chair of the BSG, said: “The UK is well placed to manage a successful migration from the PSTN to all-IP networks. Industry is already taking measures such as providing test facilities to companies that provide data services. However, this report makes clear that we need to continue to strengthen this work to avoid the pitfalls other countries have made and protect vulnerable consumers. It is particularly urgent that industry works together with Ofcom and ensures that the messaging to consumers from communication providers is consistent.”
The Government last week published the Statutory Instrument (SI) covering the telecoms regulatory framework under the EU Withdrawal Act.
The affirmative SI will need to be actively approved by both Houses of Parliament and is largely technical in nature – correcting references or processes in legislation (eg Communications Act 2003) that were established to ensure a harmonized application of regulation across the EU. Naturally, as the UK will no longer be in the EU these are being removed.
However, there are some amendments which are more significant. In particular Government has decided that it does not need to replicate the EU Commission’s oversight role of Ofcom with a new third-party body. In the explanatory notes the Government explains that they understand the Commission’s role to be one of ensuring a standardized application of regulatory approaches across member states. Although most in industry would suggest that such an oversight body (rather than the Commission per se) provides a useful and cost-effective route to providing a challenge to regulatory decisions.
This goes against the recommendations in the BSG’s Brexit paper in which we argued that such a review process allowed for proper scrutinisation of decisions and helped maintain quality decision-making by Ofcom. It was assumed that the Competition and Markets Authority would be a suitable body, but Government has felt that this was unnecessary. Given that industry’s preference is to prevent a cliff-edge exit of the EU it is unlikely that these concerns will turn into full-blown objections but depending on the nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU it will be interesting to see how thinking on the regulatory framework develops.
In terms of Ofcom’s interaction with BEREC, full membership is restricted to the regulatory authorities of EU member states. Whilst Ofcom would be allowed to be an observer, Government has also made clear that it would be open to Ofcom participating further should this be made possible under the new BEREC Regulation.
The report illustrates the level of public and private sector investment into the UK’s key infrastructure sectors, extending out 30 years in some sectors. For Digital Communications it sets out investment for the next three years which aligns with current Government funding programmes and given that most companies have not made public commitments beyond then.
An appendix to the report contains further details of individual company’s commitments – such as Virgin Media’s Project Lightning – through to Government projects for clearing the 700MHz spectrum band.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on these funding commitments next year as the need for Government investment increases in order to deliver the outside in approach for full fibre investment outlined in the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review.
The BSG welcomes a joint statement that has been published today between the telecoms sector and the landowners community. (more…)
The Government has announced the conclusion of its Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review. The Review which was announced in the Industrial Strategy sets out the targets and overall policy framework for the sector for the next 15 years.
The headlines are a confirmation of the Government’s targets for full fibre coverage to reach 15 million premises by 2025 and full coverage by 2033, with 5G coverage by 2027. The targets and accompanying policy shifts – in particular the change in competition models – mark a significant evolution in the Government’s approach.
Commenting on the publication of the report the BSG’s Chair, Richard Hooper CBE, commented “The BSG welcomes the Government’s publication of its Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review and is pleased to be playing a useful role in barrier-busting in implementing fixed and mobile networks, and in PSTN switch-off which is the important precursor to fibre switchover.”
The Broadband Stakeholder Group has published a report on ‘Lowering barriers to 5G deployment‘. It outlines the challenges and solutions to deploying new mobile infrastructure necessary to meet the UK Government’s ambition to be a 5G leader.
The report – ‘Lowering barriers to 5G deployment’ – is the outcome of a study by Analysys Mason researching barriers to 5G deployment from both industry and local authority perspectives in the UK, identifying key challenges faced during the deployment process. The report aims to assist the UK Government in delivering its ambition to be a 5G leader by identifying and proposing solutions to current and potential barriers to network deployment.
The UK telecoms industry is awaiting Government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review which we expect to see over the next few weeks. Whilst it is still unclear what the precise measures will contain the recently published National Needs Assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission offer a few clues.
Their headline recommendation was to call for a National Broadband Plan. So what might such a plan look like and what would it mean for Government policy in telecoms?
The Government has published the Terms of Reference for a review into future investment into the UK telecoms sector, led by DCMS. The cross-government Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review will explore what makes investment in full fibre and 5G networks attractive, and what actions Government may need to take in order to deliver on its vision.
I’ve written before about why the Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) failed to live up to its expectations. In summary, building infrastructure is hard in any case and it’s even harder when neither the problem you want to solve nor solution are agreed upon by the parties involved. Last week though the Government published the Mobile Infrastructure Project: Impact and Benefits Report so it’s only fair to pay attention to the benefits that it delivered too.