SOGEA service launches after trial period, so goodbye landlines
SOGEA which stands for Single Order Generic Ethernet Access is the product that does away with the concept of voice line rental in addition to your broadband product wholesale cost. The voice line rental vanishes because there is no provision for an old fashioned dial tone and voice calls. The immediate thought for many is this means their monthly bill will drop by the amount the pay to their retailer for line rental which is general between £15 to £19.99 per month, but this is not the case.
So why is SOGEA not a lot cheaper than a voice + broadband product? Well for a start the wholesale cost of the voice line has been under £10/m (excluding VAT) for a long time and the rest of the line rental has been down to billing/support/call bundle costs incurred by the retailers. So getting rid of the old WLR (Wholesale Line Rental) product and moving the voice service to be voice over broadband (VoIP - voice over Internet Protocol) means the costs of delivering the voice service remain similar.
The existing GEA-FTTC 40/10 service is billed £59.97+VAT per year (from 1st April 2020 and there is the voice line rental to add) and the SOGEA 40/10 service is billed at £147.12+VAT per year. So the scope for big price cuts is not there, but as BT, Sky and others adopt SOGEA and deliver the voice service from the broadband router there is scope for improved call quality and a host of other features. Don't panic over the acronym VoIP people will not have to get bogged down in configuration or need a new phone you will simply change where you plug your phone in, some providers may recommend their own DECT/wireless based handsets but from what we've seen so far all the broadband routers with a phone socket will take a standard telephone.
NOTE: 12:10pm The GEA-FTTC 40/10 price is correct, there is a requirement to pay voice line rental, which may be WLR or MPF LLU pricing.
So that is SOGEA covered in three paragraphs so what is happening today? Put simply SOGEA is transitioning from an early market deployment to a full launch and therefore will be available to the full 27.7 million FTTC footprint. The commercial launch means that the product is now set and therefore providers can fully train all its support and sales staff rather than having a small special team handling its trial customers.
The biggest challenges coming up for SOGEA will be the two PSTN switch off trials in Salisbury where everyone will see their service switched to full fibre and Mildenhall which will use a mixture of FTTP, G.fast and VDSL2 with the aim of getting everyone onto the SOGEA products.
Others we expect to see appearing on SOGEA now are people moving into homes that have Openreach FTTP as the only connection option. In the past a service called Fibre Voice Access existed with a telephone socket on the Openreach ONT but that service is now history and the phone socket falls within the retailers broadband product.
Not everyone wants broadband for Internet access and a product with enough speed to support voice over broadband now exists, and this is the SOGEA 0.5 Mbps down and 0.5 Mbps product at £92.44+VAT per year. Retailers selling using this slow speed can provider Internet access if they want in addition to a voice product, the choice is theirs.
The slowest service also exists so that the myriad of devices that use their own dedicated phone line today to send and receive data today. The two PSTN switch off trials are designed to give suppliers of cash machines, traffic light connectivity, alarms, sluice gates and other devices the opportunity to trial their new broadband connected options in the real world as oppossed in the development labs. Aspects beyond introducing a VDSL2 router of fibre ONT and router may be that battery backup for monitors may need enlarging to keep the new hardware running in the event of short power cuts.
The question about backup power for voice lines for the general public during a power cut is very much in the power of the broadband retailers but today large numbers of people rely on DECT handsets in the home without any power backup for the base station. The question is more about the truly vulnerable who are not able to afford or source their own small UPS solution and are not in a location where a mobile phone is a not a suitable backup option.