Timescale Note: We have not yet set definitive timelines for the actions in this document. We will update this as we progress.
As you have hopefully heard, BT (specifically: Openreach) is intending to retire the old telephone network in 2025. This means that there will no longer be copper phonelines that start in the customer premises and end at the phone exchange for the purposes for making and receiving calls. Of course, there will still be copper lines that start in the customer premises and end in the street cabinet for FTTC and GFast services.
Up until now, FTTC and GFast orders that A&A has placed have been against a copper telephone line with a geographical telephone number corresponding to the local dialling code. With the withdrawal of phone lines with dialable numbers, this process will have to change.
SOGEA means “Single Order Generic Ethernet Access”. The important bit is “Single Order”. Rather than placing separate orders for a telephone line AND for a broadband service, the phone line will now no longer exist, so just one order will be placed, for the broadband service (including copper from premises to cabinet).
Internet Service Providers like A&A have quite a task ahead of them to move customers away from the old “two-piece” services (phone line + broadband) and onto SOGEA services. A&A has thousands of customers; some ISPs have millions!
There are three main groups of customers we have identified, with a slightly different approach for each :
The process A&A intends to follow
A&A will begin with very small numbers of migrations of the first type. Once any problems have been worked out, bulk migrations will take place of all of these services in increasing sized batches. We regard these as the lowest hanging fruit, and these should be done very rapidly and without any problems. We will then move onto those in group 2 and 3.
What do customers have to do?
If you are in the first group, you will not have to do anything. You will be migrated seamlessly and will not notice any difference. You didn’t have PSTN services before, and you still won’t after.
If you are in the second group, we will be contacting you to explain what will need to happen. We anticipate some customers in this group may actually not be actively using, or in need of, their landline number any more. In these cases, the migrations will be able to go ahead similarly to group one. Otherwise, discussions will need to be had relating to choice of VoIP hardware.
If you are in the third group, we will work with you to establish the best course of action for your specific circumstances.
What about ADSL?
This document has mostly related to FTTC and GFast. For customers currently still on ADSL but in areas where FTTC, FTTP, or GFast are available, we anticipate customers migrating to those products unless there is a very good reason not to; indeed the option to remain on ADSL where alternatives exist may not even be offered by Openreach (and by implication therefore be unavailable via BT Wholesale or TalkTalk Business). In places where ADSL is the only option, Openreach has developed "SOTAP"; Single Order Transitional Access Product, specifically to fill in gaps where there isn't an FTTC cabinet yet.
SOTAP is a metallic path (a pair of copper wires) from the customer premises to the exchange, over which ADSL will continue to be able to be delivered. It is worth noting that even in its naming ("transitional") it is clear that Openreach sees this as a 'stopgap' until FTTC or FTTP becomes available in an area. We understand that the long term plan is to try and remove all PSTN-serving equipment in the immediately after withdrawal in 2025, and to remove all ADSL-serving equipment as it becomes possible to do so (following behind FTTC/FTTP upgrades in areas).
Migrations from WLR3 (PSTN lines) + ADSL over the top to SOTAP should be straightforward, and not administratively very different to FTTC migrations to SOGEA.