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Openreach to UK businesses: Switch is about to hit the fan. Prepare for withdrawal of the copper-based phone network now or risk disruption

PSTN to be axed in 2025

UK businesses must prepare for the retirement of the copper-based phone network that may cause devices to stop working.

Or so said BT-owned Openreach as it urged businesses to audit their systems for devices that use the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), which is scheduled to be switched off in December 2025. While some products may function normally after the transition, others won't.

In the case of any ambiguities, Openreach told customers to contact the vendor that manufactured their device and seek clarification. Addressing this issue ahead of the switchover may limit disruption, it said.

James Lilley, director of ALL-IP at Openreach, said in a canned statement: "Ahead of the switch from analogue to digital phone lines, it's crucial that businesses understand their current systems and the implications of the shift.

"This upgrade will provide the nation with faster, more reliable services and will allow devices to become more connected, providing UK industry with a framework from which it can develop innovative emerging technologies. Taking these simple steps now will make the process of upgrading much smoother."

Businesses can also register with a special help service launched by the infrastructure provider, called the "Call Waiting List".

Openreach has set out to retire the legacy copper network so it doesn't have to pay to run two parallel networks. The company has already issued "stop sell" orders in several key areas, which prevents consumers and businesses from buying new copper products, or switching providers for their existing services. Instead, they're pushed towards new fibre-based technologies.

Although it has touted the benefits of improved call quality and reliability, the move to a fully IP-based system has several drawbacks. Most notably, IP devices will lose connectivity in the event of a power outage, whereas those using PSTN will continue to draw a current from the phone network. This extends to phones, as well as other devices, such as alarms.

Last month, the broadband plumber said it would "build like fury" to extend its full-fibre footprint to 25 million premises by 2025. This fibre network will serve as the backbone for both broadband and fixed-line access.

This enthusiasm was no doubt motivated by a couple of sweeteners provided by the Treasury and Ofcom. Openreach owner BT will pay minimal tax in the coming years, thanks to a new "super-deduction" introduced in this year's budget by chancellor Rishi Sunak, which allows companies to write off 130 per cent of the cost of capital investments, such as oh, broadband buildouts.

Additionally, Ofcom has said it will dramatically limit price caps on broadband products until 2031 at the earliest to give the company an opportunity to recoup its costs. ®

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