PSTN Withdrawal: September 2019 Update

September was a busy month for the DWS product team so we have lots to update you on. Alex Mawson, Product Director, spoke at the Openreach Industry Consultation about the PSTN Withdrawal, while Claire Makin, Voice Product Manager, and James Montague, Head of Connectivity, attended Channel Live to catch up with partners about how they can prepare for 2025.

Watch the video below to hear more from Alex, Claire and James.

Video Transcript

Alex Mawson

Hi there, I’m Alex Mawson and I’m Product Director at Digital Wholesale Solutions. Welcome to this month’s update on the PSTN withdrawal and the Digital Opportunity. This month has been really busy for us, not only have we been to the industry forums, feeding back queries and questions from our partners but we were also lucky enough to be asked to speak at the Openreach roadshow event to let other CPs know what we are doing to support our partners and their customers in this huge change. Channel Live was also really exciting event for us, we had some really good conversations with partners about the PSTN Withdrawal program so without further ado I hand over to our experts and my product managers for more information on our progress – over to you Claire.

Claire Makin

What a busy September we’ve had. Channel Live kept myself and James really busy with one-to-one chats with our partners. We found a real mix of partner readiness, some of our partners were really well prepared and were really keen to get their hands on the new products. Other partners, not as much, so we really encourage you to start watching these videos and engaging with us to get more awareness on the PSTN Withdrawal and the Digital Opportunity.

What we found is that a lot of our partners actually aren’t totally aware that when the WLR line goes, the over-the-top broadband service, which is supported on that WLR line, will also go and so remember no line, no broadband. So even if you don’t have WLR line but are supporting broadband, there are some actions to be taken.

We had lots of feedback and concerns on special services; identifying alarm lines and what is happening to ensure that the equipment that are on these lines will continue to work after 2025. Well fear not, alarm CP providers and payment system providers are already engaged with Openreach. If you support a CPE manufacturer, we would really encourage you and to speak to them and support them if they require access to Openreach testing facilities, engage with us and we’ll open up those conversations with Openreach to ensure that happens.

Moving on, Porting. There isn’t one industry forum that I’ve attended where the “P” (Porting) word isn’t mentioned. It is generally considered a dark art and lots of people have questions on the difficulty of it and a lot of people ask us on a daily basis what exactly is being done to improve the porting process ready for that Digital Opportunity and the move to all IP.

So, what is actually happening at the moment? Ofcom are currently investigating the possibility of using blockchain. What we’re (our industry) actually planning on doing, is using the same data collection technique to hold a central secure database that allows numbers to be more efficiently ported but it also provides some alternative solutions for CLI integrity. This could be used to make sure that those numbers can be easily identified by the owner and identify who the end user is, enabling them to make sure that they’re being used correctly as per regulations and if they’re not then we can quickly identify them and find out who is using them. At the moment, blockchain is just a proof of concept with only the major UK network operators involved in the process. That means, providers that actually run our telco networks, the likes of BT Wholesale, Talk Talk, Vodafone, Virgin etc. They’re trialling the process and seeing how it can effectively work to hold that database of numbers which will essentially make it a lot easier to port. We’re expecting some more updates to follow in December so watch this space.

Finally, the last update from me before I hand over to James. The Salisbury and Mildenhall trial exchanges, these are the two exchanges that have been mentioned in our July and August updates. These are trial exchanges that Openreach intend to have the PSTN Withdrawal complete by December 2022, so much earlier than the December 2025 deadline date. The Stop Sell for these was originally around March 2020 but based on the feedback that Openreach received from the CPs, including DWS, the timescales were just too tight and it didn’t give us enough chance to make sure that we had identified our customers and openly started engaging with them.

So, some great news – the Salisbury Stop Sell, this means no new installations or transfers, in this instance, will be December 2020 and that is for areas that have fibre only, if there is an area in Salisbury that doesn’t have fibre connectivity you won’t be subject to the same Stop Sell. Mildenhall, however, is a site that is a full PSTN Withdrawal it doesn’t have full fibre connectivity but by the time that we roll this out it’s likely that they’ll have the SOGEA replacement products and, ultimately, SOTAP replacement products, so this will be a full trial withdrawal. The Mildenhall Stop Sell will be May 2021 so it gives us a lot more time to bring out those products.

Next month we’ll give you a much bigger update on this because there are lots of things and that we want to discuss and lots of questions that we’ll probably get asked: timelines, replacement products, gathering customer data in those particular areas and tips on how to cover them and how we think Openreach might start engaging with local councils and give CPs some support in rolling this out and with that I’ll hand over to James.

James Montague

Hi everyone, for this month’s update I’ll take it out on the road to the very glamorous location of an Openreach FTTC cabinet, perhaps not that glamorous. It is, however, really important because lots is changing. There’s a lot changing with our broadband which is going to fundamentally affect how those services are provisioned and supported. The single order products, the first one that will be available will be single order GEA or SOGEA, really, for everyone, it’s a single order FTTC with no voice side to that line, fundamentally delivering broadband as a foundational service for all over the top products such as voice, Cloud and any other products that a customer may wish to use.

So just update you on our development, it’s progressing well. We’re in progress at the moment we’ll be planning to launch come January/December time, so over the course of the next few months I’ll be keeping you update on the progress. On top of that, there will also be some changes to Ethernet over FTTC which, of course, will be moved to being supplied using a single order GEA, delivering automation and a faster provisioning times so we’re really excited about all the changes going on and we’ll keep you updated with the progress. Thank you so much for listening.

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