December 2025 seemed a long way off when Openreach announced the closure of the PSTN network back in 2018. “7 years? We’ll do it next year!”
While many have December 2025 set in their minds, a key date appears to have been missed by many: September 2023. This major milestone will see the nationwide Stop Sell of Wholesale Line Rental (WLR), the service which has underpinned both fixed voice and broadband connections for many years. WLR will no longer available for new supply and restrictions will come into place for the migration of these services. This is not just a significant change for those providing voice services but also massively affects broadband.
But September 2023 is not the only significant consideration for the Channel. Each quarter, Openreach also announce telephone exchanges which will be affected by the early stop sell of WLR due to the FTTP availability reaching 75% of premises served by that exchange.
The race to full fibre is on – don’t get left behind!
With only 12 months to go before the main Stop Sell comes into place, partners should already have switched their new business focus to future-proof services such as SOGEA, FTTP and, where voice services are required, VoIP-based solutions.
Making the change as early as possible reduces the hassle of converting your customers later down the line, plus where FTTP is available for your customer, they can benefit from a consistent and high performing internet connection which could just be the last connection they need.
While there has been a high level of focus on this significant change for the past 5 years, there are still some who may not appreciate the impact and effort required to migrate their customers from the legacy services, but also the extent to which services will be affected.
The closure of the PSTN network not only removes the dial tone and voice from a traditional telephone line, it also results in ADSL and FTTC services needing to be migrated to SOGEA, SOTAP or FTTP as the underpinning WLR service no longer exists. In short, if the customer uses the line for legacy Broadband only, this service will also need converting.
Unfortunately, there is no magic wand when migrating customers from WLR and legacy Broadband. Understanding your customers’ requirements and usage of the service is critical and migrations require careful planning. As part of your migration plan, customers should be consulted to confirm how they use the service and what is connected to it.
There are a number of important questions to ask and consider, such as:
- Is the service supporting Critical National Infrastructure (CNI)?
- Are there alarms or telemetry devices connected?
- Is there a requirement to remain in service during a loss of power? (Non-WLR services no longer provide low voltage power over copper)
- Are there “at risk” users with devices such as alarm pendants or dialysis machines in use?
Building up a picture of your current WLR and legacy Broadband customer base is critical for migration and planning any future move so informing your customers of the changes is important. Many end users remain unaware of what is happening right now. Engaging with your customers as early as possible ensures they receive a consistent message from their current supplier and is likely to give them comfort that you’re equipped to take them on their digital journey.
Recently, Openreach commenced a programme to contact end users via post, where their provider has not yet demonstrated engagement, and offered a migration plan to make them aware of the withdrawal.
An additional consideration in the supply of services is a scenario known as “split CP”, where you are providing one part of the service, for example the WLR, and another provider is managing the ADSL. In these cases, you should be establishing a migration plan with the customer as soon as possible, to avoid losing them to the other supplier.
My advice to partners who are still providing legacy based services and haven’t designed their customer migration plan is to do it NOW. The longer this is ignored, the higher the chance of a customer moving to another provider, or even worse losing service.
Digital Wholesale Solutions have supported the PSTN Withdrawal programmme since its announcement in 2018 and have since been providing our partners with detailed content, regular updates and webinars while also speaking at industry events.
With many years of experience in delivering business communication services to the Channel and by combining our extensive portfolio of connectivity solutions and IP Voice services, we’re able to assist you in migrating traditional services to give your customers an All-IP experience, whether that’s a simple single line journey or a complex multi-site project.