Copper Switch-Off threatens business continuity

3 mins read

Everyone understands how modern digital fibre telephone switchboards kept Britain’s businesses alive during covid, with their ability to forward incoming calls to remote workers and facilitate secure video conferencing. And meanwhile, back at the factory or in the quiet plant rooms in the hospitals, schools and town halls, all those reliable fire and burglar alarm call systems, lift call lines and payment machines kept on running just the way they always had -- automatically drawing their 48Volt operating current from the old copper phone lines.

Now all those familiar back-office support services are at risk.

When BT retires the old pre-war copper telephone network in 2025, businesses, public sector organisations and commercial landlords will no longer have a convenient 48Volt DC power supply running down the telephone lines and straight to their automatic diallers. They are simply going to be expected by then to be running all their systems all-fibre, all-IT. Even the ones they haven’t thought about for years.

That means a huge amount of legacy equipment -- from emergency pull-cords in disabled toilets to automatic process overload sensors in factories to overnight computer back-ups in offices – needs ripping out and replacing with new, mains-powered kit. And if you want it to keep working in a power cut, by the way, it’ll need battery back-up as well.

Why haven’t the telephone companies or the government or the regulator told us all about this? They will say they have. They all stuck their names on a website, after all. So it will be business owners, local authorities, commercial landlords and health trusts who find themselves to blame for not having gone and checked that equipment which has been working for decades will keep on working once the networks change the technology goal-posts.

That’s why Britain’s specialist business telecoms providers have launched an intiative to help business owners get the informed, impartial advice they need to assess the risks before the 2025 switch-off deadline.

Fit To Switch is an all-industry, supplier-agnostic campaign from Comms Business, the leading supplier of news and market intelligence to business telecoms and broadband specialists:

· Speaking directly to Britain’s businesses in jargon-free language.

· Persuading directors to double-check their back-office systems are all switch-off ready.

· Pointing to the experience, insight and contacts of industry-specialist communications providers for professional advice and expert consultancy.

“When Britain switched from 2G to 3G, customers just enjoyed enhanced performance and any stranded assets were entirely on the network side,” says Fit To Switch co-founder and industry pundit Adrian Barnard.

“When we switched from analogue TV to digital TV, there were adverts on every channel for months and a £200m marketing campaign to make sure folks would still be able to see their favourite programmes. Now BT’s switching off the copper PSTN network, the silence -- from everybody from the main telco brands to Ofcom to central government itself -- is frankly deafening.”

Fit To Switch moves beyond wishful thinking, noble-sounding but impotent websites and telecoms industry jargon. The campaign carries the message to check and replace legacy equipment straight to Britain’s business-owners and senior managers using the specialist magazines, websites and trade bodies managers trust to provide them with advice and intelligence.

Fit To Switch’s initial test-marketing campaign has already engaged 115,815 factory-owners and senior engineering managers via editorial features and survey questionnaires in Operations Engineer, Manufacturing Management, The Engineer and Transport Engineer.

“Fit To Switch has been two careful years in the making,” says Comms Business publisher Mat Swift. “It started with, frankly, our incredulity that nobody was leading this campaign; it reflected on Openreach’s frustration at the difficulties of influencing business owners; it moved through serious discussions with the big wholesale providers and it ended up with a full-blown sanity-testing campaign with real factory owners. Half of whom don’t even know what equipment they still have plugged into the copper network.

“So we know businesses and public sector organisations have a crying need for impartial advice. Fit To Switch states the problem in language business owners understand, through media they trust. And it points squarely to the professionalism and expertise of business telecoms specialists to help them manage-out their vulnerabilities.”

At launch, the campaign is being funded by some of the UK’s biggest specialist connectivity brands: Daisy, Gamma, Giacom and Sangoma, together with CSL, the internet-of-things specialists and Comms Council UK, which represents some of Britain’s largest suppliers of internet telephony solutions.

This means the website already represents the largest concentration of knowledge and specialist resources on the subject of the copper switch-off. Businesses and public-sector organisations are invited to use the site to assess their own potential vulnerabilities, free of charge.