UKTelehealthcare All IP Article
Rabbits in the Digital Headlights
In 2019 Openreach announced that by 2025 they were moving their landline customers from the country’s traditional telephone network, the ‘public switched telephone network’ (PSTN), to newer digital technology known as ‘voice over internet protocol’ (VoIP), which carries calls over a broadband connection.
Openreach understood that the migration from PSTN to VoIP would impact services such as security and fire alarms, telecare devices, retail payment terminals and equipment for monitoring and controlling networks which rely on some attributes of the PSTN that may not be fully replicated in VoIP-based platforms, and that this could have implications for both domestic and business customers.
Openreach, BT, Virgin and Ofcom have engaged with the telecare sector from the onset of the announcement with Talk Talk, OTA2 and NHSX now supporting both providers and suppliers of Technology Enabled Care Services (TECS). Despite the availability of test labs, online information, fact sheets, webinars and special interest groups there remains an underlining frustration, particularly within the provider sector, of what will or won’t work in the VoIP world!
Early focus tended to be on the compatibly of the home hubs working across the new VoIP networks and, as importantly, the issues around power failures and battery back-up when alarm units were connected to an IP router instead of telephone line. Although the home hubs (dispersed alarms) and hard-wired systems (scheme alarms) will be an important issue to address we also need to consider the issues around Alarm Monitoring Centres (ARCS) and their compatibility with digital protocols.
It is augured that during the COVID-19 pandemic the TECS industry moved forward five years in the space of three months to adapt their services to continue to support current service users, while also providing new services to support health and social care. Given the resilience, innovation and commitment shown by TECS providers and suppliers we should be able to address the challenges that the digital transformation programme will bring as long as we ensure that support, clear and concise information, commitment from central government and appropriate funding is available.
Going forward it is imperative that commissioners, procurement teams and TECS providers ensure that equipment purchased between now and 2025 is compatible with the All IP programme and suppliers need to ensure due diligence in guiding their customers through this process. There is also an important role to be played by the mobile communications providers as the dependency on SIM cards as a back-up become more widely used as a standard.
The impact of All IP on services such as security, fire alarms, retail payment terminals etc. is largely mitigated by the size of these industries and the commercial investment available. The TECS sector relies on a mixture of funding streams, mainly housing and social care, to support 1.8 million vulnerable people and their carers to live more independently, and therefore requires a different approach to ensure this transition is navigated with the minimum of risk and disruption to these services!
UKTelehealthcare (UKTHC), together with a number of other organisations in the TECS sector and the communications providers, have run a number of face-to-face events (pre-Covid) and virtual events since the pandemic to address the issues raised by the All IP transition, but we have to question how much the outcomes from these takes us forward to have a robust plan in which all the TECS sector has confidence.
UKTHC has dedicated our next forum to this subject which will be held on Tuesday 21st September from 11:00 to 13:00, where there will be sixteen industry experts from leading TECS Suppliers, Communications Providers, Mobile Communications Provides, NHSX, Ofcom, OTA2 and Openreach.
This is a FREE and open event which will give the industry not only the chance to question the panellists about the challenges to your services, but also to give us your thoughts and ideas on how we can support the TECS industry over the next three years.
You can find the full programme and registration link for this event here.
Latest Stop Sell Information
Letter from John Livermore – ALL IP Industry Engagement Manager, Openreach
As a key Industry stakeholder we want to keep you informed about important issues concerning the All IP programme.
I am pleased to share with you the latest Stop Sell Exchange List here.
You will note that 86 Exchanges have been added to the list from this month and there have been some changes to the previous list. Some are due to move to stop sell in October this year, moving into 2022.
4 have moved to Jan 2022 and 7 to April 2022. A further 4 have also been removed from the list. This has been where Openreach have had to reassess the provision of full fibre, where CoVID-19 has had an effect on resources.
The updated schedule can be seen below. There are now 379 exchanges affected plus Mildenhall, which is a SoGEA/FTTC Test Site.
Please keep in touch by registering on our Call Waiting List Digital Phone Lines | Openreach
Upcoming Stop Sells
(FTTP Priority Exchange)
(FTTP Priority Exchange)
(FTTP Priority Exchange)
(FTTP Priority Exchange)
(FTTP Priority Exchange)
(FTTP Priority Exchange)
(FTTP Priority Exchange)
National WLR Stop Sell
Trial Managed Migrations
Salisbury & Mildenhall
Salisbury & Mildenhall
Process under discussion with industry.
13 Exchanges enter the ‘stop sell’ phase as part of the All IP (Digital Voice) project
Find out if any of these exchanges impact you!
Earlier this year we informed service providers about the upcoming ‘stop sell’ migration for 13 telephone exchanges, taking place on the 29th June 2021. This process has now been completed and end-users in these areas will now no longer be able to purchase PSTN services. Openreach anticipates this change will impact 170,000 premises across the UK.
This is the start of an exciting period where large scale ‘stop sell’ and migrations become a reality. As we move closer to Openreach’s goal of a full withdrawal and closure of PSTN services by 2025, service providers need to consider how they are going to manage their upgrades from a wired analogue service to a wireless digital service.
Follow the link below to see which exchanges are now in the ‘stop sell’ phase.
The latest exchanges announced for April 2022
77 new exchanges planned for ‘stop sell’
Openreach announced 77 new exchanges to enter ‘stop sell’ in April 2022. This will bring the total number up to 297 – impacting near to 3 million premises across the UK.
latest exchanges announced for April 2022
All IP Working Group Meeting 26th April 2021
Following the meeting on the 26th April, please find a copy of the presentations and contact details for Matthew Evans & Tom Raynsford.
Matthew Evans – matthew.evans@techUK.org – (The UK’s technology trade association)
Tom Raynsford – firstname.lastname@example.org – (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
CSL have recently created a short 2 minute video explaining All IP for the Telecare sector.
Watch their video here.
Please read TalkTalk 21/03/21 updates below.
Openreach Updates 11/02/2021
This set of FAQs’ is based on questions asked on the BT Consumer all IP update held on 12 November 2020. Questions asked have in some cases been grouped together or slightly edited for publication purposes. FAQ’s
This webinar was the latest All IP update with BT. In addition to hearing from BT Consumer there were also 10 minute presentations from Openreach and BT Enterprise with 30 minutes at the end for questions from participants. The slides from the webinar can be found below.
Ofcom All IP Working Group Webinar 26th October 2020
Slides available below.
Letter from BT 17th September 2020
Further to our previous communication of January 2020, we’re writing to you today to advise that from September 2020, BT Consumer will gradually start including Special Service customers into our provision of Digital Voice.
We’re taking extra care to ensure Special Service users aren’t adversely affected by the move to all IP. Customers using Special Services continue to be identified through various means such as Alarm Receiving Centre calls and specific questions as part of the customer order journey.
Where we identify Special Service customers, we will advise them to inform their Special Service provider, be it telecare alarms, intruder alarms or other signalling equipment, to make them aware that their service is moving to Digital Voice. The Service Provider will need to decide what appropriate action is needed.
Intruder alarm users or other special services equipment users will be advised to contact their service provider. Telecare users will be advised to speak with their provider by making an alarm call.
The transition to all IP Voice services by communication providers is in line with BT’s announcement to move all our customers from PSTN to all IP by the end of 2025. Digital Voice is now available nationally to eligible new and existing customers. Digital Voice is not currently being offered to customers requiring a voice only service, they will remain on PSTN for the time being.
Special Services Industry Engagement
M: +44 7710 069270
A webinar was hosted by UKTelehealthcare, BT and Openreach on 2nd September 2020 to update members on the latest IP switchover news.
The presentations can be found on the Members Area and a recording of the webinar will be available shortly.
The All IP Working Group (Ofcom, Openreach, OTA, NICC, BSG and Virgin Media) has published their latest updates 28th May 2020. Read the report below:
The latest on BT’s all IP plans and how they’ll affect telecare users, particularly ARCs.
In 2017, BT announced their intention to move all voice communications to IP, a move that will have implications on our industry.
Similar to when the UK switched to digital TV a few years ago, we’re now looking at the same kind of switch for telephony services to an all IP network. But this means many existing telecare devices may not work as they have done in the past
Whilst 2025 is the proposed end target, digital services will likely start to roll out soon and consequently signalling systems could be affected before the 2025 date.
How can Alarm Receiving centres help ensure their users aren’t left without service?
BT Consumer is asking ARCs to provide their incoming telephone numbers (the number the telecare device dials). They can use this number to see who has a special service on their line and make sure no one is left vulnerable or without service from the switchover.
- BT will look for these numbers in their calls records to identify the customers who have dialled them in the last 12 months and will put a marker in their account. (It’s reasonable to assume that any calls to this number would be from a device of some sort)
- They won’t note the supplier, type of service or make/model of any special services device on those customers’ lines, just the fact that it’s likely there’s a special services device on that line
- It will allow BT to take extra care with those customers at the time of upgrading them onto digital voice services
- No numbers or customer information will not be shared with anybody else and BT Consumer will put in place a Non-Disclosure Agreement if required.
You can provide your incoming telephone numbers or request further information from BT by email at: email@example.com. With Openreach trials planned for Salisbury and Mildenhall next year it’s really important all ARCs provide numbers as soon as possible.
Update October 2019 – Read about the latest Virgin Media Trials
September 2019 Technical Working Group Update – All-IP (Voice) Technical Working Group 240919
Read the latest August press release from Openreach here
Ofcom’s recent publication on the Salisbury trial specifically related to some regulatory changes necessary to allow the move to fibre to take place can be read here.
Changes to telephone networks – initial advice to potentially-affected sectors
Why is there a change from landlines to voice calls over the internet?
- The UK’s telecoms networks will undergo substantial change in the coming years, as the companies that run them upgrade their technology. Some phone companies are already gradually moving their landline customers from the country’s traditional telephone network – the ‘public switched telephone network’ (PSTN) – to newer digital technology known as ‘voice over internet protocol’ (VoIP), which carries calls over a broadband connection. This means that some businesses and individuals in your sector may already be using VoIP technology, rather than a landline, for their voice calls.
- The change will offer potential benefits to consumers, such as clearer phone calls, and it will help ensure the UK’s landline telephone services are fit for the future – including because the PSTN itself is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to fix, and it will cease to be reliable over time. The transition will be straightforward for most customers but some may require additional support to help them update their services.
- This change, from PSTN to VoIP, is being driven by the telephone companies.
How might this have wider impacts on the telehealth and personal care alarm industry?
- This change is not just about making calls on landline phones:
- Over time, many other services and pieces of equipment have come to use and rely on the technical characteristics of the traditional PSTN phone network – like its ability to transport data encoded in voice band ‘tones’ (which, for example, fax machines use), and the fact that it can carry power to facilities and devices that do not have a mains power supply. Equipment or services that rely on these characteristics may need replacing, upgrading or reconfiguring. It is possible that some facilities that your sector uses may be affected by the transition. Based on our engagement so far – with telephone companies, wider communications providers and stakeholders – we think these could include:
- Telehealth and telecare services, such as monitoring systems and personal care alarms;
- Internal telecommunications systems, such as voice services and fax machines;
- Other products and services which rely on telephone line power.
- In addition, the ‘PSTN switch off’ will also lead to the cessation of ‘ISDN’ (Integrated Services Digital Network – a pre-broadband approach to providing digital connectivity) services. While ISDN use is limited these days, when it is used it can be for specific purposes or in specific circumstances which may be more difficult to replicate or replace. So, while many organisations in your sector may not be affected, any that are may need tailored solutions.
When is this happening?
- Initial migrations will start this year (2019), where customers opt to use the new services, with completion by 2025 when the PSTN is expected to be switched off. However, different telephone companies are at different stages of managing their switch from PSTN to VoIP, leading to differences in both the particular approach each company adopts, and the timescales over which their migrations take place.
What actions do organisations need to take?
- Telephone companies will generally not be aware of all the services and equipment that their customers are using which rely on the old PSTN technology. To ensure smooth transition, the communications regulator Ofcom is encouraging organisations to contact their telephone company, and also any suppliers of services they use that rely on the telephone network, as early as possible to discuss the changes and plan for any potential impact on the particular services and equipment they use.
- Ofcom recommends the following action:
- Establish if any services/technology that you or your contractors use rely on the PSTN or ISDN, and make sure you know what and where these are, whether they use the PSTN’s voice/or data capabilities, and if they rely on power through PSTN lines. Investigate widely within your sector – be aware that not all services obviously relate to landline voice calls
- Contact your communications provider(s) to discuss timescales and the potential impact of the move to IP services on you or your business
- Contact your service and / or equipment suppliers to see if they have conducted any testing or already offer alternatives that will work with VoIP services. Consider whether your equipment needs to be upgraded, re-configured or replaced and plan appropriate action
- Consider whether it may be beneficial to schedule or bring forward any necessary modifications/upgrades in advance of the move to VoIP to build in optimum time to make changes
- Ensure that other stakeholders/arms-length bodies are aware of the change and can begin engaging with their communications provider and suppliers
- Please let Ofcom (FutureOfVoice@ofcom.org.uk) know if you become aware of any additional services that could be affected by the change which have not been identified in this note.
Where can I find out more?
- Ofcom’s policy positioning statement on migration to VoIP – The future of fixed telephone services – sets out the changes, describes the roles and responsibilities of different organisations, and establishes Ofcom’s expectations of telecoms providers
- Openreach, which runs the network infrastructure for many telephone companies, has also produced a short video to explain the changes
- Contact your communications provider(s).
- Telephone companies are working together to develop a website that will host information about the change.
- Ofcom, working with the telephone companies, will continue to work with affected stakeholders and sectors to ensure there is widespread understanding of this change. With good planning, citizens and consumers can be protected from unnecessary disruption.
 This list is not exhaustive – there may be other applications within your sector
Virgin Media, in common with other Communication Providers, is updating the way we deliver our telephone services. These services will no longer be delivered over the technology of the past, but instead will be delivered over IP Voice technology that is designed for the future.
These changes may affect you and your customers if the products or services you supply rely on the legacy public switched telephone network (PSTN), which is the case for many tele-care providers.
We need your assistance to identify customers that are common to our respective services to ensure that the appropriate support can be provided during this transition. Specifically we would like you to provide us with the telephone numbers that your solutions use to call your Alarm Receiving Centres.
Further to this, we would like to understand if your ARCs have different telephone numbers depending on the purpose of the device or solution. For example, we would like to know if tele-care devices call a different number to security alarms.
This information should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
With BT Having announced its intention to move all voice communications to an IP platform by 2025 we’ve created a new blog on our website dedicated to the all IP rollout that they and most Communication Providers (CPs) will be implementing.
For users, the key change is that telephone services will run over broadband. Phones will connect to a broadband router instead of being plugged into the phone socket on the wall. Exactly how they connect (i.e. if they are plugged in or work wirelessly) will depend on the type of phone being used. This means that any ‘Life Line’ device that currently plugs in to the phone line in a similar way will need to be tested to ensure it will work on the all IP network.
BT will continue to provide regular updates in the coming months and they’ll be contacting many of our members to talk about testing equipment and identifying users of telecare systems. In the meantime take some time to read their information leaflet and meet the team working on the project. btplc.com/DigitalServicesLab
We also welcome similar posts from other CPs and will be actively encouraging participation in this blog to ensure everyone is fully aware of developments.