Ofcom explores policy position with the shift towards voice over broadband
We have reported on plans by Openreach to withdraw the WLR and SMPF products by 2025 and deliver voice over a broadband connection previously and and in an Ofcom policy positioning paper we learn that Virgin Media is working to a similar time scale for shifting from a PSTN to VoIP type structure.
We prefer the Voice over Broadband naming for this shift, since saying VoIP has lots of historical baggage from the days when using VoIP meant learning all about SIP and NAT settings in your router. Voice over broadband as planned by both Openreach and Virgin Media should be plug and play for majority, the vulnerable and at risk may require someone to visit to ensure everything is plugged and battery backup fitted where needed, plus install broadband for the first time. In broadband USO areas this might involve a 4G router with a traditional socket for a telephone.
The change will offer potential benefits to consumers, such as clearer phone calls, and it will help ensure the UK’s landline telephone services are fit for the future. The transition will be straightforward for most customers but some may require additional support to help them update their services.
Ofcom’s rules mean that phone users must receive equivalent protections, however their landline is delivered. In this document, we explain what changes are taking place, the roles and responsibilities of different organisations, and our expectations of telecoms providers as they make these changes.Ofcom on future of telephone services
The voice over broadband shift is NOT about wholesale ripping out of the copper network by 2025 which we have seen a good number assume, one simple reason being that with only half the UK expected to have access to full fibre by 2025 and for individual operators such as Openreach it may be only one in three premises, so existing copper will still be very important. Another factor is that MPF (full LLU) services are still planning to be operating in 2025, though given the MSAN at the many exchanges they have unbundled will be getting older we may see changes from them in the next few years.
If the 2025 deadline had been back in the days of 2010 the switchover would have been a lot more complex, but with the number of landline calls diminishing year on year as more people rely on their mobile phone for calls, or are abandoning the notion of a phone call totally and just use apps to communicate with friends and family the need for a switch off campaign like we had for the transition to Digital TV is diminished but some form of safety net will need to be in place, even if just to ensure that vulnerable people are not exploited by con artists charging well over the odds just to prepare people for the switchover.