After the usual consultation process Ofcom has announced the minimum requirements for battery backup on Fibre to the Premises (FTTP/FTTH) products. Currently the number of FTTP installs are so small that this is not much of a problem, but with some of the BT £2.5bn investment going towards the full fibre solution, and other players like Hyperoptic, Fujitsu, Virgin Media, CityFibre also starting to move into this arena it is something that needed addressing. This also affects community solutions, particularly if in a rural area where power cuts are more common, e.g. use of overhead power cables. If plans come to fruition we are looking at some four million FTTP properties in the next few years around the UK.
The current situation is that with the delivery of a massive chunk of broadband and telephone services over a pair of copper wires that in the time of a power cut, a non-powered telephone will continue to work and support lifeline services (999/112). For households that have moved to embrace DECT cordless handsets remember that if the power to your property fails they will not work unless you have your own battery backup for the basestation.
"Our consultation therefore proposed the following principles, applying to both new-build and 'overlay' FTTP deployments:
- A battery back-up should always be provided to support publicly available telephone services (PATS) provided over FTTP.
- The minimum duration of the back-up facility should be 1 hour.
- Communications providers should take appropriate steps to ensure that the needs of vulnerable consumers requiring additional protection, who depend on 999/112 to a greater extent that the majority of the population, are addressed."Ofcom guidelines on the use of battery back-up to protect lifeline
The issue of identifying vulnerable customers is important, as it means FTTP providers need to ensure that they either supply several battery size options, or provide a larger backup solution to all customers. A key point is that the guidelines are there to ensure access to lifeline services, thus premises hardware that can intelligently switch to a low power mode to pro-long battery life may help to avoid bulky hardware.
To date, the general solution to the issue of lifeline services and fibre to the premises has been for people to retain their copper landline, but with the new guidelines, the scope is increased to remove the copper network in an area, or at least reduce its footprint massively. In terms of rolling out fibre networks, this can help to free up space in ducting, and carries the prospect of reduced network maintenance.
Those readers with longer memories may recall in 2008, Ofcom talked about expecting a four hour backup for new build FTTP properties. The difficulties in providing this in terms of cost, difficulty to install and the issue of maintenance has led us towards todays issuing of a new guideline.