How the landline phone will die – Guide

Enter any ordinary looking building marked ‘Phone Exchange’ and see how the world speaks. Inside, the walls are lined with rows of small plastic blocks. On the one hand, the cables go in connection homes and business for the network; on the other, cables connect everyone to the rest of the world. Since 1891, this impenetrable jungle of messy copper cables has allowed people to dial a unique number to connect to anyone anywhere in the world, without the need for a human operator. The cables are the veins of Great Britain’s Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), an analog huddle that connects any landline to an extensive mesh of wires, undersea cables and satellites, cabinets and street poles. And in three years, most of those lines will be muted. Thousands of Openreach engineers are working to replace Britain’s copper telephone network and end the landline forever. Your deadline? December 31, 2025. From that moment, landlines to any home or businesses in Great Britain will only continue to function if they are hooked up to the internet. “Copper net is still the bread and butter of the UK now. This served us well during the pandemic, we kept everyone connected in that network,” says James Lilley, director of managed client migrations at Openreach. “It’s not falling, but it takes more time and effort to keep it in that pattern.” And that effort is quickly becoming unbearable. With the necessary hardware no longer being manufactured and the skills needed to maintain it no longer being taught, the copper network is running out of time. When the change is complete, it will mark the end of the landline domain phone numbers: many will be in disuse, others forgotten. Older devices will cease to function if they cannot connect to digital exchanges and become relics like the rotary phone; and some phones will no longer use tone dialing, the musical sound that since the 1960s accompanied pressing keys to press a phone number. Across the UK, Openreach handles 192 million kilometers of cable, 110,000 green cabinets and 4.9 million telephone poles and junction boxes. Replacing copper with fiber will not make the network smaller, but Openreach hopes it will make it more cost-effective in the long run. This is after an initial £12 billion cost to deploy 1 Gbps fiber to facilities (FTTP) for 20 million installs nationwide. Openreach plans to reach 25 million by the final of 2026 and has already exchanged more than 5.5 million. To do this, engineers need to go to each switch, unhook the copper cables and replace them with fiber until they reach 75 percent coverage. Once they do, they trigger a ‘sell stop’, meaning they stop selling products on the copper platform and direct people to an upgrade to FTTP. On October 5, the first real large tranche of switches will hit the stop-sell barrier – around 1.4 million customers will be forced to switch for the first time when they change providers or request an upgrade of their network. It is the first time this widespread change will take place outside of Openreach’s testing sites in Salisbury and Mildenhall. The challenge, says Lilley, is the fact that engineers need to manage the turnover of people upgrading their services while still serving people using the old analog phone network. “We don’t want to run two grids in parallel, we don’t want to build new things that are really reliable – and then run an aging copper grid next to them.” That’s why people will be forced into the new system when a national stop-sell takes effect in September 2023, affecting 14 million customers who still depend on the PSTN network. Salisbury was the first place in the UK to experience a complete switch to VoIP in 2020, and more than 95 percent of its 20,000 installations now use VoIP. It was the perfect case study, says Lilley, because it was a huge engineering challenge: OpenReach had to find out how to connect the city center without leaving unsightly cables near the iconic cathedral. instead of digging up the cathedral’s stone floor, the 60 engineers on site up technology that would camouflage itself among historic architecture. They were the first in the world to use new super-small connector block terminals (CBTs) that discreetly connect fiber cables to people homes. The thin units, which are approximately the size of a mobile phone, are designed to connect eight installations at once, without the need to erect new posts. More than 200 were deployed throughout the city center, serving around 1,500 homes and business. Engineers also used ground penetration radar, which allowed them to see and map a clear route for new cables without any drilling; and retractable cables, for long areas of terraced houses and storefronts, to avoid excavation. They also went door to door, talking to people who didn’t have broadband and setting up up, connecting your phones on your routers. By 2022, the entire city will have to switch to a full-fibre network. During national blockades, when people were confined to their homes, there was a wave of up at 50 percent in the number of phone calls being made mobile and 30 percent on fixed calls in the UK, Germany and Spain. The risk of overloading the network has led to industry calls for action to improve voice services to handle increased communications and disrupt issues such as dropped calls and outages. This new system will mean the opposite: anyone who only wants voice services will now have to buy broadband and use it through it. And for many elderly and vulnerable people, landlines are a lifeline, especially if they don’t have internet or live in a rural area with poor connectivity. Joel Lewis, Policy Manager at Age UK, says there are a million people in the UK who don’t have an Internet connection and could end up up very confused. “The fact that it’s happening in different regions, different areas at different times means that we need to target local efforts to support the local population to make the transition,” he says. The big danger in crossover is that devices that rely on analog phone connections to work – like care and safety systems – can stop working without anyone noticing. There are many high-end case systems that rely on the telephone network, which is widely considered to be more reliable than the network, to operate. Alarm buttons for assistance to elderly residents, emergency phones in elevators, the phones at railway crossings, building intercoms, traffic lights and highway signs are just a few of the systems that are in danger of being forgotten or forgotten. And you don’t want to forget about a traffic light. The 2023 national stop-selling deadline is actually the easy part, says Lilley. It’s the peripheral things that use PSTN that can slow things down. “Much of the industry’s focus and collaboration revolves around ensuring these extreme cases are understood and moved in time. I’m not so worried about the high volume of residential customers, I think everything will work fine,” says Lilley. If they miss the deadline, it will be because they can’t leave anyone or anything behind. The market town of Mildenhall, in Suffolk, was next: the stop-sell was triggered on May 4th. It was chosen because it is typical of others in the UK in terms of geography and variety of communication providers offering services. The plan was slightly different from Salisbury’s – rather than migrating customers to fiber services, engineers would focus on migrating customers from legacy copper services to replacement copper services that will support the delivery of broadband telephony services . So far, the trial is going well. It looked very different from Salisbury, says Lilley, because people weren’t getting a brand-new kit. “It’s more of a silent migration,” he explains. “All you can be doing is changing where you connect your phone. ” There are parts of the copper network that have been around for so long that they are clumsy, unreliable, and fragile. The capacity of these wires, which were never really built with the internet in mind, is limited and only allows a lot of data to be transported over a distance. Repairs and upgrades may involve excavation up buried cables to find a fault, which can be expensive. Fiber optic cables, on the other hand, have more capacity than we know how to use. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit digital privacy foundation, calls this the “speed chasm” between legacy networks and fiber networks and says that while upgrading existing copper infrastructure is cheaper, it’s faster than most households. need for Internet connectivity – which surpassed 25 mbps at download in 2020 – means that copper is no longer adequate. Work is long overdue. The UK is lagging behind the rest of the world in broadband connectivity, despite increasing its fiber connections by more than 50 percent in 2020. According to OECD data, Spain, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden are among the countries with the best connectivity, with more than 70 percent coverage. Over the past decade, the mix of different networks has created a peculiar technology mess in the UK, explains Dean Bubley, founder of technology consultancy Disruptive Wireless. someone choosing up a receiver that is connected to a PSTN network and connected up for an exchange, it’s going through many different gateways, boxes, segways, and switches, which means your connection may be going in and out of the Internet multiple times by the time your voice reaches the other end. “Some of them will be IP and will translate back and forth from conventional telephony to IP at these gateway points,” says Bubley. “This is terribly inefficient and also adds sound deterioration.” Part of this infrastructure is useless. The legacy of the copper network are thousands of phone numbers that are foisted on customers who are only interested in broadband and are not used. Since 2000, four million homes completely disconnected the landline, according to a survey by price comparison company Uswitch. Of the 80 percent of homes that still have a landline, a quarter (26 percent) do not have the phone connected to the wall. Thirty-five percent of people said the only reason they had a landline number was because they were required to have a broadband connection. People say they receive more calls from scammers on their landlines than from their loved ones.

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