Farewell to Landlines

Ever since the Internet stepped out of large business and into our homes it has always piggybacked onto our telephone lines. It was an easy choice with BT cables running to almost every house in the country and, for most of us, only used for very short periods of time as we chatted to friends.

Over the years POTS, (Plain Old Telephone System), was beefed up to cope with the reliability requirements of an always-on network over which everyone wanted to go faster and faster. And as we all switched to mobile phones and email the telephone system became less and less important.

The new style of communicating with things like Skype, Zoom and FaceTime also eroded our use of telephones even though all these new digital services are still being delivered over the same old copper wires. Or are they….? Technically, once the cable connecting your house or office arrives at the local exchange everything is converted to shiny, new, 21st Century optical fibres and it all suddenly moves at light speed and that presents a real problem – how do you cope with the step change in data speeds without losing any information? The real answer is to speed up the slow section between you and the local exchange. This is called Fibre to the Premises, (FTTP), and provides a seamless, ultra fast link between your computer and the server which might be around the other side of the World.

This probably all sounds very fancy and modern but where does it leave the good old POTS system which is still rooted in the early part of the 1900’s and struggling to be noticed in an ecosystem where we all prefer the convenience of pocket sized mobile phones? We’ll BT have answered that question too – they are just dumping it!

Don’t panic just yet as the turn off isn’t scheduled until the end of 2025 but some of the changes are starting to occur already. Anyone who has recently had FTTP installed will discover that although they can move their Internet to the new much faster system it’s almost impossible to switch the phone line too. This means you end up paying for two connections if you’re not careful – read the small print.

What’s occurring is a total turnaround of the phone system. Instead of your Internet connection sitting on top of the telephone line the phone runs over the Internet connection – sounds simple if you say it fast! Basically your phone will now plug into the back of the router and it’s signal is converted to a digital one so that it can use the new optical fibre. And if you are worried about the sound quality of your voice calls remember BT have been doing this conversion at your local exchange since the 1970’s so it’s a well proven technology.

There’s only one downside to this analogue switch off and it could be a rather large one in certain circumstances. Currently if you have a power cut an old style telephone will continue to work courtesy of a huge battery room at your local exchange. Now if you have cordless phones they will stop working as the base station relies on a power supply to broadcast the signal inside your house but a basic phone, which just plugs into the telephone socket, continues to work. In an emergency that facility could be critical. Some alarm and monitoring systems also depend on this functionality. The big switchover only works if we all have mobile phones available whenever there is a power cut.

This is a huge change and, within the industry, talked about for several years. However the end of 2025 will arrive sooner than you expect and could throw up some unexpected issues for anyone unknowingly using equipment based on the older analogue phone lines. For the moment the inconvenience of being able to keep your Internet and phone together on a new, fast fibre connection will only effect a small percentage of users but it’s an indication of the unexpected problems this ‘upgrade’ will no doubt throw up over the coming months.

If you think you may be effected by the analogue switch off or any other computer or Internet problems give us a call at DISC on 0191 236 7839 and let’s see if we can make things a little clearer.

UPDATE 15 December 2023
We have now started this process with Vodafone and are disconnected for the second time. Initially it took them 11 days for our network connection and landline to be migrated. That worked for exactly 7 days is is now off again. You’ll have noticed we’ve changed the landline number to a mobile while this connect/disconnect business has been happening. Vodafone now think everything will be sorted by the 5 January 2024! We’ll keep you posted……

UPDATE 15 January 2024
Vodafone still have us disconnected with no broadband or landline. To make matters worse they are now saying they do not have enough capacity to reconnect at the local exchange.

UPDATE 29 January 2024
After struggling with Vodafone for just over two months we have now split our broadband Internet connection and telephone services to two new providers. Our connection is now FTTP – Fibre to the Premises – which has resulted in a much faster and so far more reliable connection. The landline telephone service is now fully digital and supplied by Virtual Landline. This allows us to easily change things around as necessary in the future. And it’s also worked out a lot cheaper!
Apologies to anyone who has had problems trying to contact us since the end of November.

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