BTwatch
This release
: #302
February 2019: 62pp
Releases/year: 10+
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Executive brief

Group

Management update: Q3 FY18-19: BT prepares for a new dawn -- or a false one [p.6]

  • Table: BT Group, financial highlights, 9m FY18-19
  • “That's all folks!” -- Patterson rides off with few regrets
  • Jansen foreshadows new management approach
  • Allera instigating a risky change for BT's highest profile business
  • Divisions: Consumer hot streak coming to an end under operational pressure
  • Table: BT Group, performance by unit, 9m FY18-19

5G: CCS links with BT for trial of gigabit backhaul [p.14]

  • CCS confident in capabilities of unlicensed spectrum for 5G and beyond

People [p.16]

  • Table: People movement highlights

Consumer

Broadband: BT pilots new line speed test for customers [p.20]

Pricing and tariffs: BT Consumer moves towards inflation-linked annual price changes [p.25]

ESN: ESN hit by BT plan to remove Huawei from EE core [p.28]

  • No delays on EE plans
  • Despite BT support, Huawei remains under pressure

Enterprise

Contracts: EE and Enterprise pick up £21m deal from Scottish Police [p.32]

Innovation: Digital Catapult to launch BT-backed Future Networks Lab [p.34]

Ireland: BT promotes FTTP in Ireland [p.36]

  • NBP still offering hope of expansion

Global Services

Contracts: BT provides more fibre to European Food Safety Authority [p.39]

  • … but faces loss of EU contracts after Brexit
  • BT's multi-million pound relationship with Europe's authorities
  • Future not looking bright, but BT battling on

Operations: Global Services secures licence to bill in China [p.42]

  • Building relations with China in testing times

Suppliers: SevOne to provide enterprise insights in virtualised world [p.44]

Openreach

Digital Britain: Openreach wins £22.5m Superfast Cymru Phase 2 deal [p.47]

Fibre First: Openreach names new Fibre First locations, puts FTTP on the map [p.49]

  • Table: Fibre First rollout schedule
  • Fibre map unveiled
  • 3,000 new recruits trumpeted
  • New fibre engineering school opens in Peterborough

Products and services: Openreach promotes new fibre expansion products [p.52]

  • Openreach eyes government funding opportunity

PSTN: Lessons for BT as PSTN switch-off process moves up a gear [p.54]

  • Don't force consumers into it, and work on communications with end users
  • Focus on end-user needs more than technology's capabilities
  • Vulnerable users may need more support
  • A regional approach is best
  • Work closely with Ofcom and industry

Further reading

Index

A

Alphabet

 - Google

  --  Android 33

Apple 22

 - iPhone 22

Aptos 18

ArcelorMittal 16

ASSIA 21

B

Barclays 16

BlackBerry 32

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) 15

Broadband Stakeholder Group 54, 60

BT Group 6, 7, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 30, 47, 54, 55, 58

 - BT Centre 13

  --  BT Consumer 9, 16, 17, 20, 25, 26, 33

  -- BT8500 Advanced Call Blocker 27

  -- BT Mobile 9, 59

  -- BT TV 9, 17, 25, 26, 59

  --  MyDonate 13

  --  Plusnet 20, 21

 - BT Enterprise

  --  BT Business Direct 45

  --  BT Business & Public Sector 17, 45

  --  BT Expedite 18

  --  BT Facilities Services 12

  -- BT Ireland 36, 37

  -- BT Media & Broadcast 17

  -- BT Wholesale & Ventures 17

  --  InLinkUK 33, 35, 59

 - BT Global Services 10, 11, 18, 38, 39, 41, 42, 44, 45, 60

  -- BT Connect 45

  --  BT Enìa 39

  --  BT Italia 12, 58

  --  BT One Voice 41

 - BT Supply Chain 17

 - BT Technology, Service and Operations

  --  21CN 56

 - EE 10, 11, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 32, 33, 59

  --  Emergency Services Network 17, 28, 32, 59

 - Executives

  --  Allera, Marc 9, 25

  --  Anthony, Robin 18

  --  Barlow, Kelly 17

  --  Bird, Matt 33

  --  Bird, Simeon 17

  -- Bohannon, Henry 17

  --  Burger, Bas 42

  --  Cokayne, Paul 17

  --  Cross, Julian 18

  --  Dewnarain, Gyanee 16

  --  Dickson, Rob 18

  --  Evans, Peter 36

  --  Evatt, Simon 16

  --  Farnsworth, Richard 16

  --  Frumkin, Simon 29

  --  Gauterin, Mike 17

  --  George, Tucker 16

  --  Graham, Rachel 18

  --  Hanlon, Peter 18

  --  Hoare, Christina 18

  --  Hole, Brendan 17

  --  Jackson, Brian 37

  --  Junge, Daniel 18

  -- Kearney, Georgina 16

  --  Lowth, Simon 11

  --  Maniar, Tejal 17

  --  Mather, Ked 18

  --  McGarraghy, Sarah 18

  --  McQuade, Gerry 35

  --  McRae, Neil 30

  --  McShane, Paul 16

  --  Parker, James 18

  --  Ravindranath, Hriday 45

  --  Reeves, Richard 16

  --  Reynolds, Richard 17

  --  Richard Mahomed, Faisal 17

  --  Richards, Polly 17

  --  Rider, Daniel 16

  --  Roche, Maurice 17

  --  Ryan, Jonathan 17

  -- Selley, Clive 6, 11

  --  Sherman, Michael 16

  --  Singh, Tony 17

  --  Tate, Richard 17

  --  Watson, Howard 55

  --  Weir, Paul 18

  --  Wimmer, Werner 18

  --  Young, Stacy 17

 - Ex-executives

  -- Bushell, Delia 17

  --  Petter, John 9

  --  Openreach 6, 10, 11, 18, 33, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 60

 - Products and services

  --  One Cloud Cisco 45

C

Cambridge Communication Systems 14

CBRE Group 12

Cisco Systems, Inc. 18

CityFibre 48

CK Hutchison 12

 - Three Group

  --  Three UK 22, 23, 24

Comic Relief 13

Commercial Broadcasters Association 26

Communications Workers Union 12, 58

Credit Suisse 12

Cushman & Wakefield 13

D

Deutsche Telekom 55

Digital Britain 47, 60

Digital Catapult 34, 35, 59

E

Eir 36

Eni 12

Ericsson 29

European Union 26, 39, 40, 41, 60

 - European Commission 40, 41

European Parliament 40

F

Fiat SpA 12

G

Gartner Group 16

Getronics NV 18

Global Wireless Solutions 22, 59

Goldman Sachs 48

H

Home Office (UK) 28, 29, 33

House of Commons

 - Public Accounts Committee 24

Huawei Technologies 28, 29, 30, 33, 43, 59, 60

I

IBM 34

Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) 53

InterDigital 15

ISS 12

K

Kingston Communications (KCOM) 20

L

Leeds City Council 37

Liberty Global

 - Virgin Media 15, 21

M

Mediaset 12

Millicom 16

Ministry of Defence (MoD) 59

MotoGP 27

Motorola 29, 32, 33, 59

Motorola Solutions

 - Airwave 28, 32, 33

N

Nokia 29, 37

O

Ofcom 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 48, 51, 56, 57

 - LLU 60

 - Physical infrastructure access (PIA) 60

 - Wholesale Line Rental 60

Office for National Statistics (UK) 25

P

Pure Telecom 37

R

Retelit SpA 12

Rohde & Schwarz 22

RootMetrics 24, 59

S

SamKnows 21

Samsung 22, 32

SevOne 44, 45, 60

Siemens 34

Sony 26

 - Sony Pictures Television 26

Stobart Group 35

Superfast Cymru 47, 48

T

TalkTalk Telecom Group 20

Technology

 - 3G 23

 - 5G 14, 15, 30, 34, 35, 58, 59, 60

 - Broadband 17, 20, 21, 26, 36, 37, 48, 49, 54, 55, 59, 60

 - CCTV 37

 - Ethernet 52

 - Fibre 6, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 18, 27, 36, 37, 39, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 55, 60

 - Fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) 36, 51

 - Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) 11, 27, 36, 47, 48, 49, 50, 52, 53, 55, 56, 60

 - G.fast 11

 - GSM 16

 - ICT 18

 - Internet of Things 34

 - IP 54, 55, 56, 57, 60

 - IPTV 17

 - LLU 51

 - LPWA 34, 35

 - LTE 34

 - LTE-M 34

 - mmWave 14, 15, 58

 - NB-IoT 34

 - Private circuits 52

 - PSTN 54, 55, 56, 57, 60

 - SIP 41

 - VoIP 55, 56

 - Wi-Fi 20, 21, 33, 35, 37, 44

Telecom Italia SpA 12, 58

Telefónica 15, 22, 23, 24

 - O2 UK 22, 23, 24

telent 33

Texas Instruments 34

Tutela 23, 59

V

Viacom

 - Channel 5 27

Vodafone 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 35, 48

 - UK 22, 23, 24, 35, 48

W

Walt Disney Company, The 26

World Economic Forum 43

Z

Zeetta Networks 15

  • Openreach has the opportunity to learn from other incumbents as it picks up the pace in the PSTN switch-off project.
  • BT Group could benefit from the findings of a new report by the Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG), as the telco prepares for the end of the PSTN.

In an effort to help prepare the UK for what lies ahead, government advisory body the BSG commissioned Plum Consulting to analyse four markets — France, Germany, New Zealand, and Switzerland — that have already begun the changeover from analogue to digital voice, although the markets are all at different stages in the process and have differing regulatory structures. Germany and Switzerland are in an advanced stage of migration, while France and New Zealand are at the start of the process. The report focused primarily on consumers in terms of access to voice and data-over-PSTN services.

Although the report is general in tone, and aimed at all stakeholders in the analogue-to-digital migration, there are some cautionary tales and useful tips that BT could heed when it is transitioning its own services and customers from the PSTN to an all-IP voice and data universe. Indeed, the report warned industry not to be complacent about the challenges that lie ahead.

The analogue phone network is scheduled to be switched off in 2025 and replaced by a single digital network for voice and data services (BTwatch, #296, #297, and passim). Howard Watson, Chief Technology and Information Officer at BT Group, has indicated that the changeover to digital voice will “start in earnest” in 2019, in what seemed to be tacit acknowledgement that progress on Future Voice services has been moving at a slower pace than the telco previously anticipated (BTwatch, #298). The typical migration period is expected to last four to five years.

BT has already implemented practical measures to drive adoption of IP services in sectors that have traditionally been resistant to the end of the PSTN. In July 2018, the telco opened a Digital Services Lab to help special service providers transition to digital phone systems. Furthermore, Openreach is working with the industry on the closure of its PSTN-based Wholesale Line Rental products. However, a great deal of work is still to be accomplished, and the migration process is expected to be complicated.

Don’t force consumers into it, and work on communications with end users

An important message for BT is that efforts in other markets to force customers to switch to IP-based voice services have generally backfired.

The report noted that Germany in particular encountered significant problems as a result of forced migration, mainly owing to poor communication with end users. The issues led to a pause in the migration process, but were resolved following meetings between incumbent Deutsche Telekom and regulator Bundesnetzagentur to develop an improved communications process.

Thus, good communications, with a comprehensive description of the benefits of moving to all-IP voice, appears to be the main cornerstone of a strategy to encourage voluntary migration. BT could adopt suggested tactics such as offering end users attractive products with built-in voice-over-IP (VoIP), as well as providing long notice periods before any kind of forced migration comes into force. Prices should also be kept in line with previous services on the PSTN, and clear communication channels should be provided to help with migration teething problems.

As the telco builds out its Fibre First strategy (BTwatch, passim), it is likely that “coincidental migration” will occur as users naturally move to all-IP broadband and telephony services such as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP).

Focus on end-user needs more than technology’s capabilities

BT could consider the “PSTN emulation” approach as an interim step (also termed “passive migration” in the BSG report), as opposed to going straight to full VoIP, whereby it moves customers to an all-IP network without them needing to do anything to preserve their fixed voice telephony services.

The BSG report defines PSTN emulation as supplying the core set of voice telephony services and features, but not necessarily all services currently provided on the PSTN.

Going straight to full VoIP would require significant changes, and may need users to replace routers and buy new IP telephones.

Vulnerable users may need more support

BT also needs to consider what are described as “vulnerable end users”, defined as people with disabilities, the elderly, those on low incomes, and those living in more remote rural areas.

This also applies to the 1.5 million landline-only customers in the UK. Ofcom covers this issue in its guiding principles, and aspects such as ensuring an uninterrupted power supply and continued access to emergency services come into play here. On this point, BT would certainly need to ensure that its communications strategy is robust and provides support to users that wish to check devices, particularly devices that use data services over the PSTN such as alarms.

The four sample markets in the BSG report are said to have all experienced some level of difficulty with data-over-PSTN services, while there have been relatively few issues with maintaining access to voice services during migration.

BT is already tackling some of the expected issues with data-over-PSTN devices at its Digital Services Lab (BTwatch, #298), and the challenge of switching to IP for non-voice services is one BT has been aware of since the early days of 21CN, which had envisaged a PSTN switch-off a decade ago. Further down the process, and as the migration process progresses, suggestions to resolve problems with data services include: the provision of written recommendations for end users; setting up test centres to enable device suppliers and special service providers to test equipment on an IP network; and the availability of special service providers to advise on how to handle migration problems for each of the main categories of data devices.

The BSG report identified two categories of devices that send data over the PSTN, and which might not work satisfactorily over an IP network: devices provided by a special service provider such as one offering security, fire alarm monitoring, remote health, or social care; and devices that end users have purchased on their own initiative, such as machines and devices to monitor elderly relatives living independently.

One notable point here is the requirement set out by Ofcom to ensure service continuity in the event of power outages. Questions have already been raised about whether Openreach will continue to supply battery backup units for FTTP cabinets installed within the home (BTwatch, #300).

A regional approach is best

BT would be well served to pursue a regional approach for the migration from PSTN to all-IP services. Such a strategy enables lessons to be learned along the way. BT has a good role model here as the UK digital switchover from analogue to digital television services was carried out region by region to ensure a smooth transition. The BSG report also noted that it is more cost effective to close down and remove local exchanges on an area-by-area basis.

Work closely with Ofcom and industry

Ofcom has provided guiding principles to protect consumers during the transition to all-IP services, but has broadly left it to BT et al to manage the process. Individual communications providers will be able to decide on the closure date.

The regulator is, though, leading two all-IP working groups to support an orderly migration while ensuring safeguards are in place for consumers. One group is to deal with technical issues and the other consumer communications.

Of the four sample markets in the BSG report, only France has established a common date of 2030 for the closure of the PSTN. There, the regulator Arcep also holds regular meetings with all the main operators.

Ofcom’s consumer protection principles for the transition to all‑IP:

  1. Emergency services access should be provided in accordance with operators’ General Conditions.
  2. Technical solutions for ensuring reliable operation of new voice services, for example during localised or widespread power outages, should provide levels of protection equivalent to that provided by traditional means.
  3. New voice services will maintain existing protections for vulnerable consumers in a manner that is appropriate for the technology they employ and their usage.
  4. Equivalents to the current social phone tariffs will be applied to future voice services where appropriate.
  5. Before and during any planned withdrawal, providers of existing voice services will work with third-party service providers that rely on them, in order to minimise end-customer disruption.
  6. Providers of traditional voice networks must give reasonable notice to their wholesale customers of any intention to withdraw relevant voice services, or to replace them with alternatives based on different network technology.
  7. Customers who do not migrate on a voluntary basis should be no worse off than they were before migration.
  8. Vulnerable consumers must receive any assistance they require for the migration process and continue to receive a service they recognise as a telephony service.

Image: Karim MANJRA / Unsplash

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