Industry news

New BSG Report: Preparing for the UK’s all-IP future

  • 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.”

Read the full report here.

Autumn Budget 2018: Austerity moves aside as discipline takes over

Today’s Autumn Budget announcement yielded few surprises for the telecoms sector. Chancellor Philip Hammond, in what should be the UK’s last budget as part of the EU bloc, revealed that £200 million had been earmarked for programs to drive out fibre networks rurally across the UK (starting with the Borderlands, Cornwall and the Welsh Valleys), in line with the Government’s ambition to see nationwide coverage of full fibre by 2033, with 5G by 2027.

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Regulatory barriers continue to hinder European investment – at the FT ETNO Summit

The mood from The Financial Time-ETNO Summit today in Brussels was one of tentative, if not forced, optimism amongst the background feeling of missed opportunities from the recently agreed European Telecoms Code and the repeated sentiment that Europe is risking its potential for investment from the tech sector with its fragmented regulatory approach and low rates of return on investment.

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Lloyds UK Digital Index 2018 shows reasons behind the digital divide

The third Lloyds UK Consumer Digital Index released today looks into financial and digital capability in the UK for 2018. With a focus on digital skills, financial resilience, and inclusivity the report reveals improvements for those gaining digital skills, with 470,000 more than last year with new skills. Initiatives such as those set up last year by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Digital Skills Partnership have been credited with collaborating to promote best practice through the creation of a network of over 70 cross-sector bodies.

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Ernst & Young Segment the Digital Household

Ernst and Young has published findings into consumer and household attitudes into broadband – including both connectivity and content. The research – Segmenting the Digital Household – follows on from the Bundle Jungle study published towards the end of last year. It details how differences in attitudes might affect customer preferences and behaviours, highlighting where communications providers can engage with and provide for consumer needs more effectively.

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Silver linings in failure: Benefits of the MIP

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.

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BT announces voluntary agreement to legally separate from Openreach

Ending a long period of negotiations with Ofcom, BT announced today its voluntary agreement to legally separate from Openreach. Ofcom confirmed that “it will no longer need to impose these changes through regulation??? as initially proposed last year and welcomed BT’s decision. This is a significant reform for the BT Group as Openreach will now become a distinct company with its own staff, brand and Board which will be able to make independent decisions on strategic investments affecting other telecoms providers.

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Rail passengers are willing to pay a higher fare to access the internet during their commute

The Department for Transport (DfT) yesterday released a study exploring how rail users value and use mobile connectivity on trains. It also shows evidence that passengers are willing to pay up to 17% more on rail fares above existing ticket price for improved connectivity on mobile and internet network access.

This study follows the 2015 Government consultation on improving mobile communications for UK rail passengers, as well as the Coalition Government’s pledge to roll out free Wifi on trains across England and Wales from 2017. The report finds that some groups of passengers would be willing to accept the costs of improvements to connectivity on trains, saving costs for the government and industry. (more…)

BT to Invest Billions More into Fibre, 4G and Customer Service

BT’s has today announced that its Openreach and EE businesses will spend around six billion pounds between them over the next three years, in the first phase of a plan to extend superfast broadband and 4G coverage beyond 95% of the UK by 2020.

The announcement focuses on services, coverage and capacity with the latter receiving the most press coverage. As well as confirming their ambition of supplying 12 million premises with ultrafast broadband, BT announced that at least two million of those to be connected with Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology. (more…)