SJUK Exclusive: Phone line future lies in digital – not copper

August 1, 2022

The change from copper wire phone lines to digital technology will have a major impact on security, says CSL.

In December 2020, the closing down of the UK’s existing copper telephone network kicked off with a trial in Salisbury. The plan is to replace the old network with a new IP service known as ‘All IP’ or ‘Digital Voice’. All services will work over the internet instead of copper lines, which is more suited to the requirements of consumers today.

Following the success of the trials, the upgrade programme was rolled out across the country in phases leading to a nationwide ‘stop-sell’ in September 2023.

‘Stop-sell’ essentially means that Openreach (the owners of the cables, cabinets and exchanges) will no longer allow telephone network providers such as BT, TalkTalk and Sky to purchase new copper lines for their customers and in turn, they will begin migrating their customers to new internet-based services.

So far, nearly three million premises in the UK have entered the ‘stop-sell’ phase and in August another 97 exchanges (the largest single tranche to date) will bring this total to 3.5m. At this stage, the total number of impacted exchanges moves to 348. Although ‘stop-sell’ means that Openreach gives service providers 12 months’ notice, they are free to control their upgrade schedules for their customers and we’ve seen examples of as little as seven days’ notice in the worst cases.

In most instances, residents in the impacted exchange areas receive a letter from their telephone line provider, informing them that the local exchange is being upgraded to All IP/Digital Voice and that they will soon be receiving a smart router.

The smart routers are plugged into the master phone socket in these premises, affecting anything that currently uses the existing analogue telephone line, including many alarm signalling devices. 

CSL has been working with Installers and the wider industry to help prepare for this landmark change. In line with Openreach’s advice, the leading trade associations and Inspectorates are all advising Installers to get prepared now. The reality is that Installers shouldn’t be using the 2023 date as a guide – it might be the given date for Nationwide notice but what the Telephone Network providers do once notice is given is anybody’s guess!

There might not be as much time left for Installers to upgrade their PSTN-based products to an All IP compatible alternative as they think.

Industry Advice

British Security Industry Association (BSIA)

David Wilkinson, Director of Technical Services, BSIA, said: “We have been keeping our industry sector up to date with the changes as they have developed and given the recent announcements from Openreach, Ofcom and communication providers, our message has escalated to a ‘call to action’ asking installers to take proactive steps to mitigate the risks of systems that may fail to operate if left unchecked.”

Fire Industry Association (FIA)

The FIA recently released advice to Installers Fire Alarm Signalling Systems, recommending a series of actions that they should undertake as we approach 2025. Installers have been advised to identify which products are currently installed in their existing customer base and which products have been installed by technician engineers. They should then contact device manufacturers and alarm receiving centres, to find out what products and services are All IP ready.

Most importantly, they should stop installing any systems that use technology (PSTN) that is unsupported on an All IP network. Finally, the FIA encourages Installers to plan to replace unsupported products as quickly as possible. There are several future-proof, All IP compatible solutions that use SIM cards to send a signal instead of a phone line.

National Security Inspectorate (NSI)

Meanwhile, NSI issued several mandatory requirements to their approved companies concerning All IP. Customers with equipment installed utilising the PSTN to communicate to an ARC must be informed of the All IP rollout, the timeline and the potential impact on their current signalling solution. The NSI also made it clear that making it clear that Auditors would require evidence of this process being completed.

Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB)

Similarly, SSAIB has also been urging installers to act swiftly in identifying the products that will be affected on their existing bases and passing on updates from Openreach and Telephone Network providers.

Upgrade Opportunities

In recent months, we have many examples of letters from telephone network providers to end-users, via our Installers, where they have suddenly been informed of an upgrade to their services.

Installers who have had the most success with their upgrade programmes and minimal disruption to their day-to-day business, have acted before the providers have made any changes. It takes the pressure off their upgrade schedule and keeps their customers happy.

Our step-by-step plan enables installers to easily navigate each obstacle throughout the upgrade process.

What is more, our latest All IP upgrade options come with specific products and connection costs to maximise your options.

GradeShift Pro 2 – dual-path alarm signalling

Part of the DualCom Pro 2 Range, GradeShift Pro 2 is the evolution of the widely popular GradeShift Pro. CSL’s dual-path signalling solution utilises a combination of two Radio paths or one Radio and one LAN path to signal an alarm. Each SIM operates on an independent network from the other, for total resilience.

DigiAir Pro 2 – single-path alarm signalling

DigiAir Pro 2, also part of the DualCom Pro 2 Range, is a single-path signalling solution that utilises a 4G Radio path or a LAN path to signal an alarm. The Radio variant also comes with a standby SIM as a backup to safeguard a system. Both SIMs operate on an independent network from the other for total resilience.

Both solutions are compatible with CSL Live and the My Base App. Since its launch in 2019, the DualCom Pro Range has been trusted in over 100,000 professional installations across Europe.

MiniAir 2 – the Ideal Mobile Upgrade for Digital Communicators

The brand new MiniAir 2 has been specifically designed as the ideal mobile upgrade for Digital Communicators. Older PSTN-reliant signalling systems need to be upgraded as part of the UK’s All IP Project. MiniAir 2 provides a cost-effective, future-proofed, radio signalling solution. It is a single-path signalling solution that utilises a 4G/LTE-M path to signal an alarm from a protected premise to an ARC.

It comes with a standby SIM as a backup to safeguard your system, if the active SIM fails. Both SIMs operate on an independent network from the other for total resilience. It is designed for both residential and commercial premises as an affordable upgrade from a digital communicator to secure signalling.

Moreover, utilising these upgrade options gives installers the ability to connect to legacy and new control panels for upload download capabilities, remote servicing and full diagnostics.

The unanimous message shared by the industry is to replace unsupported products as quickly as possible. Currently, there are over a million alarm systems in the UK that are reliant on the analogue network, with an estimated 800,000 being digital communicators. That’s a lot of systems to upgrade in a year or less.

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This article was originally published in the August 2022 edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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