The UK digital upgrade, are you prepared?

26 April 2021

In May 2018 Openreach, who are responsible for the management of the national telephone network, announced plans to close the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) by the end of 2025.

Computer cables

The existing network is reaching the end of its service life and will be replaced with a new all IP-digital network using fibre to replace the existing copper network cabling. The move to the new digital network will affect all communication providers using the Openreach network, for example, BT, Virgin, Talk Talk and others, and will deliver improved digital services for customers.

It is estimated there are around 16 million telephone lines in the UK. To hit the end of 2025 deadline Openreach will need to migrate approximately 60,000 lines a week between now and then. There is no published migration plan but there will be a withdrawal of Wholesale Line Rental services by September 2023 and some local telephone exchanges are already starting to withdraw the sale of new analogue line based services. When local exchanges withdraw these services for new customers they will give a 12-month notice of closure. Communication providers, such as BT, will decide when to switch to the IP-digital network and will give notice to their customers.

Why does this matter?

The IP-digital network operates differently to the current PTSN network and as a result the alarm transmission systems (ATS) used for your fire, security and other building management systems may no longer work. This might also include personal safety alarms where transmitted over the analogue network. If this happened you would be left without a functioning connection between your alarm systems and third party alarm receiving centres, making your premises vulnerable.

An important secondary consideration linked to the move to the new network is the loss of the existing 50-volt supply currently available across the analogue network. The new digital fibre network will not provide a voltage over the line to your premises so in the event of power failure your network service will be lost, including anything linked to it, like fire and security ATS. This means that unless you have a suitable battery backup supply, your premises could be left without alarm signalling for the duration of any power cut.

To compound matters further, against the backdrop of network migration, the 3G mobile telephone network is going and 2G is likely to follow. ATS will therefore need to be both IP and 4G enabled in the future.

What to do next?

If you have not already heard from your alarm installation and maintenance company about the roll out of the new IP-digital network, and whether it affects your ATS, you should contact them now. It is important that you are covered ahead of the switchover in your area and your system upgraded if required. You can then be confident the signalling to your fire, security and building management systems will continue to work, helping to protect your premises for the future.

Additional information on the digital upgrade can be found on the following websites:

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