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The death of consumer ISDN continues
Tuesday 03 April 2007 21:33:55 by Andrew Ferguson

The demise of Home Highway and Business Highway has been on the cards for a long time with our coverage of this extending back to November 2006. BT Retail stopped taking orders for Home Highway in September 2005. It is believed that only a couple of thousand active Home Highway lines are in use around the UK, the majority of consumers have already opted for ADSL or other forms of broadband.

BBC News Online has picked up on the demise of Home Highway, but fails to mention the product by its name. This could give people the impression that ISDN is to be withdrawn from service completely - This is not the case. ISDN2e services for business will continue to be available since they will be compatible with the BT 21st Century Network (21CN).

The BBC item does raise some interesting issues on quality of service when data goes across public IP networks, but already in the UK it is possible for large companies to have private ADSL connections with guaranteed back haul connections from the exchange, though setting up and maintaining this is not necessarily cheap or easy. The biggest challenge facing any DSL technology replacement for an ISDN service is making the DSL service immune to external noise influences. Large spikes in noise can cause both ADSL, SDSL and ADSL2+ to jitter in terms of latency or even drop the link for a number of seconds.

Those remaining Home and Business Highway customers were due to see a change in how they could convert from HH to ADSL by being forced to adopt the Simultaneous Provide (SIM provide) process on 31st March 2007. It seems BT Wholesale has changed its position, which has been highlighted in a press release from Entanet.

Entanet, the leading voice and data connectivity service provider, has welcomed news that BT will not be changing the way that it enables users of ISDN services to switch to broadband from 31st March.

In a short statement to service providers last week, BT Wholesale stated that "due to unforeseen technical problems BT will be unable to replace the existing Highway and ISDN conversion process on 31st March 2007. The existing conversion process will continue until such time as we are able to resolve these difficulties."

Ofcom had previously directed BT to scrap the current system for transferring users from low-rate ISDN services to broadband in favour of the so-called Simultaneous Provide (SIM provide) process without further delay. Entanet believes that in fact, Ofcom has relented on its previous insistence that BT adopt the SIM provide process from the beginning of April.

Entanet believes that a switch to SIM provide would have led to long delays for users trying transfer to broadband and has welcomed the new announcement.


The system already in place for moving customers across works perfectly well and transfers can usually be completed in a single day. The SIM provide process however is complex and there are often delays before lines and services are installed and activated."

Entanet welcomes change in SIM provide for ISDN moves

The SIM provide process which is commonly used by users moving home is one area in ADSL provision where it seems just as likely for something to go wrong as for it to go right. Thus retention of the old conversion process from Highway lines to ADSL should make life a bit easier for a few people.


Posted by irrelevant over 10 years ago
I'm out of the business at the moment, but I used to see ISDN used for a much wider variety of tasks than internet access. The most common was as direct dial between sites as an alternative to, or backup for, a leased line. We did start using VPNs via internet, but latency was much worse, even though baseline speed was higher.

Posted by herdwick over 10 years ago
from what I've seen broadcasters have failed to get their head round the codecs etc to use the internet, hence those crappy videophone feeds on the news. A radio interview would work over VoIP or even Skype but they are locked into the old technology. If I can stream 256k video from the BBC over the net reliably you would think they could stream 128k (same as 2 channel ISDN) between their own locations.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 10 years ago
At least one form of ISDN will still survive. I remember the ISDN service from where i used to work and thought it was superb, it had sooo much potential to do more then just a connection. I hope it lives on even if its just minority connections, be sad to see it go completely, when it first arrived it was way ahead of its time, especially for BT and this country.
Posted by magnay over 10 years ago
The HH situation is more complex than outlined. There were analogues lines attached to them with separate numbers. BT is now advising users that they are not supporting HH after July 07. To get your analogue numbers back you have to pay BT to convert them to PSTN lines, customers are given a "pay up or lose it" scenario,or sign up for five years - seems BT still haven't grasped real customer service.
Posted by alanrwood over 10 years ago
Magnay is not quite right. I fought BT and they converted both my Business Highway systems (4 analogue and 2 digital lines) FREE OF CHARGE into 4 separate lines, all ADSL compatible, and I retained the original 4 analogue numbers but lost the two ISDN digital lines/numbers. However the rental saving more or less financed an added ADSL ISP connection on one of the new lines as a backup to my existing ISP/ADSL connection. I was told that this was current BT policy bu can't guarantee this however I have not had any bill so far.
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