Ofcom consults on changes for access to emergency services
The withdrawal of WLR3 and the subsequent move to a voice over broadband solution to replace it is prompting Ofcom to reconsider its rules around access to emergency services that currently apply.
To some extent a lot of the proposed changes are already delivered to premises that have no copper telephone line installed, i.e. new build fibre only premises where a small battery backup solution is supplied which is just enough to keep the Fibre ONT and therefore the Fibre Voice Access running for an hour or so without mains power.
Millions of people have perhaps without realising it have made using their existing landline impossible during a power cut as they probably only have a DECT base station in the home which of course needs mains power, the reason this is generally not an issue is that mobile phones are taking over the role and for emergency calls mobiles will roam onto any available network that is on a frequency band that the mobile supports.
The new proposals are therefore more focused on those who would be at risk if they don't have the ability to make a call during a powercut for example those with a telecare system, some but not all of those who are disabled or have accessibility requirements and there are those who do not own a mobile phone (2 million adults live in a home with no mobile and only landline access) or live in an area with no access to any mobile signal.
The proposal is based on providing a minimum of 1 hours backup and for those identified as at risk the supply of a backup power solution should be free. The 1 hour window is a minimum and should allow those at risk time to make a call to seek emergency support if required and is based analysis of hour long power outages are, but the consultation recognises that some areas are prone to longer outages and there operators would be considered to take this into consideration in terms of backup.
The consulation is running until July, so anyone with concerns should head over to the Ofcom site to read the consulation and if their concerns are not raised already make sure they submit their worries.
The WLR3 switch off may not be until 2025, but this is not going to be an overnight event, so we can expect that things will start to change a year or two ahead of then and services like SoGEA are a sign of the changes along with some broadband providers routers including telephone ports but these are not enabled yet.
We should emphasis that the WLR3 switch-off is not going to mean the copper network is ripped up, as there are still a number of MPF providers who will still be using the service, additionally to ensure nationwide coverage of the replacement to WLR3 they will need either fibre or copper to deliver the voice over broadband service.