Broadband News

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.

Comments

One hour is totally insufficient. Several areas, including my own, have had prolonged mains power failures in recent years with mobile sites failing rapidly. Vulnerable people should be protected, maybe with a 48hr landline power backup. Making our infrastructure less resilient is hardly sensible

  • alwall
  • 6 months ago

I can recommend "Learning from Lancaster’s power cuts" http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/news/articles/2016/learning-from-lancasters-power-cuts/ and the excellent report by the Royal Academy of Engineering (pdf)
‘Living without electricity – one city’s experience coping with the loss of power’ http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/media/lancaster-university/content-assets/documents/engineering/RAEngLivingwithoutelectricity.pdf

  • alwall
  • 6 months ago

The Ofcom document is seriously flawed as it states "We recognise that most consumers could use their mobile during a power cut". Well, not for long they can't.

  • alwall
  • 6 months ago

In which case make sure you submit a response outlining the need for a much longer run time for emergency phone access.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 6 months ago

One way to avoid the problem with mobiles failing could be to encourage mobile users to acquire power storage devices like the Zendure one I bought some years ago. You do have to ensure that you have the correct connector to your device (particularly if you buy a new phone).

  • mollcons
  • 6 months ago

Having a USB power bank for your mobile is great, but original poster I believe was referring to scenarios where after a few hours some mobile sites have ran down their batteries and go dark during extended power cuts.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 6 months ago

I have an FTTP service. For the moment I can rely on my car to charge my phone and perhaps drive to where I can get a good signal. If I get to the poinrt where I can't drive then maybe a battery backup will be a good idea.

  • Michael_Chare
  • 6 months ago

@michael_chare From the report about Lancaster's power failure, mobile phone networks failed

  • alwall
  • 6 months ago

@alwall I did suggest that the mobile network should have a long battery backup. These days 35% of people don't have a landline in their home. The chances of need an emergency service during a power cut are fairly small, but I am all for the power network being made more reliable where I live.

  • Michael_Chare
  • 6 months ago

The ability to call for emergency services should be provided on a like for like basis as is provided now over PSTN as a minimum. Increasing the battery backup in the users property is only part of the issue, what about the battery backup time in the steet cabients.

I have written to my local MP, and suggest the more this is raised by others the better and safer we can all be if there is an extended power cut in the maybe not so bright future.

  • MrMobile
  • 6 months ago

Actually @michael_chare during an extended power blackout, there is a likelihood of a greater need for emergency services. All those things that many take for granted and keep people safe suddenly being unavailable. See p12+13 of the Royal Academy report

  • alwall
  • 6 months ago

So of those who have posted who would pay £20 extra for say 8 hours of voice availability? Rather than a 'free' 1 hour solution.

One of the problems with millions of small UPS would be maintaining the batteries, particularly once you get to lengths of time not possible with simple AA battery solutions.

Other countries seem to vary between a 1 hour and 8 hour window, but usually on request or payment

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 6 months ago

@andrew I'd be inclined to source my own sealed lead acid cell and suitable charging/regulation, but this option would be expensive for mass rollout compared to the cost of rechargeable AA batteries

  • alwall
  • 6 months ago

One hour seems reasonable to me.

Obviously where there are some genuine issues where this will cause problems they should be addressed but for those us in urban and suburban areas of cities and large towns there is no reason not to get that copper gone and use it to pull the FTTP drop along duct or pole.

Get that stuff outta there. Yesterday.

  • CarlThomas
  • 6 months ago

Copper recovery cannot happen until MPF suppliers agree to it

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 6 months ago

So this evening I had to reset gf's banking passwords as she lost then!
For some reason she only had her mobile registered for contacts and to receive OTA password, this times out after 2mins, it took three attempts before she could get a reliable mobile signal in time and get the code back to me, and even then it took me sitting on drive with laptop on the car bonnet whilst she wandered down the road trying to get a signal on her 'feature phone', and this is seen as a viable option for emergencies?

  • burble
  • 6 months ago

It would be relevant to know the number of calls made by vulnerable people, mainly elderly living alone, who rely on 'a button' (ie pendant connection round their neck, or similar, 24/7) for emergency help after a fall or sudden illness. Has anyone published an estimate of the numbers of likely fatalities resulting from a failure of a button to connect due to the failure of the phone system?

  • bsg017
  • 6 months ago

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