BT wants to close traditional phone services

Saturday, June 27th 2015

BT, the telecoms giant of UK, wants Ofcom to relax regulation so they can close down the traditional phone service and migrate customers to an internet-based system for their voice calls. Ofcom has made BT, through the Universal Service Condition, obligatory to supply PSTN/POTS connections for voice telephony throughout the country. They also provide internet connections alongside.

In anticipation of Ofcom's once-in-a-decade review (Strategic Review) due later in the year, BT is pressurising the regulator. They believe eventually all customers would move over to a portfolio of IP services, which includes not only broadband but voice and TV also. The service condition requires BT to provide connectivity to the public telephone network. Therefore BT must maintain over most of UK, their copper lines, at exchange or cabinet level with hardware to support a PSTN/POTS voice call from a traditional phone, plus DSL equipment for IP traffic and also maintain supporting PSTN systems. Even considering supporting regulation could be relaxed, the government is deliberating a 5Mbps broadband USO. Again the telco is likely to have an obligation to provide some level of internet connectivity to customers.

So, a line coming into the premises would still be required even if the regulation is relaxed, or removed, for the voice side of service to be flexible to support solutions of the VOIP/SIP style.

BT can cut operating costs if allowed to use their central data centres to control and regulate the network. But Ofcom requires them to keep such data physically separated to ensure that BT's other business interests would not gain undue advantage, which is fair enough.

On the other hand BT's rivals, in the industry, particularly TalkTalk and SkyBroadband, wish to have BT's Openreach division completely separated. Openreach maintains and controls the phone and broadband network of BT, nation-wide. However based on Ocom's new CEO's remarks, the regulator's Strategic Review may only soften the regulation.

Considering the government's 'Digital Communication Infrastructure Strategy' of last year, it seems to hint a direction further than the relaxation. BT is wanting to considering the switching-off of copper networks in future. But there's still a very long way ahead and considering the trials of broadband technology, copper could be still be around for a long time.

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