In the coming years the BT PSTN network will be turning off, this means that your phone will operate over the broadband service in your home, otherwise known as VoIP. At least that is the way consumers are being pushed, you need a VoIP service to replace your traditional landline solution.
Is this true in any way, shape or form?
Nope, PSTN is going, but there are better solutions in the Home than VoIP
So is there any benefit to VoIP? Does it offer anything beyond the services you already have?
Are there are solutions that can be used that do everything VoIP offers but at no extra cost?
Good service for businesses, awful service for residential consumers, pointless I guess is more accurate.
So lets look at why home landline phones are dead and why you shouldn’t invest in a VoIP solution in your home. At the end of this article, there is a petition that links to change.org concerning individuals not being able to dial 999 in a power cut.
1. Additional Points of Failure
The current model in your home looks like this
White = Physical Faults only
Green = Power faults and/or Technical issues as well as Physical Faults
As far as we are concerned as a consumer of a PSTN landline, these are our points of failure.
If something goes wrong in one of these places, we cannot dial out from our landline.
A VoIP solution looks something like this
White = Physical Faults only
Green = Power faults and/or Technical issues as well as Physical Faults
So there is an increase in our points of failure with this service, more things to break, more things to go wrong.
In our homes, there are an additional 2 points, this is what the common set up will likely look like. There are other ways to set it up, but this will be the cheapest option for most people.
2. No Power, No Phone
In the event of a power cut in your home, the requirements and guidance laid out from Ofcom is for the service to remain up for 1 hour, after this, no calls for the vast majority of consumers.
3. No Power, No Cabinet?
In order for your phone line to operate, it requires a broadband connection. Fibre Connections require power in the cabinet.
As it stands, and as far as anyone can tell, people who qualify as ‘Vulnerable’ may have additional hours added to how long their phone will remain powered in their home, but, if the cabinet loses power as it is included in the power cut, then their phones will not work.
So, Lancaster Floods or Themes Floods, or Rural Homes, people who experience wider spread power cuts, no communication of any kind.
But you never know, we may end up with a Tardis on every street, #PoliceBoxes
4. All the same faults, plus some new ones!
PSTN doesn’t have a tremendous variety of faults, they may be common, but there are not that many things that can actually go wrong, Exchange, cut cable, things like that, usually physical, sometimes network.
VoIP will have all the fault potential of PSTN, along with some additional physical fault potential and then some technical fault potential on top.
This could be with the ISP, the VoIP exchange provider, a change or update on your router.
5. Does my router still work?
Yes and no
Physically, any router should work.
Functionally, you need a router with the following services
- Quality of Service
- Device Bandwidth Management
Quality of Service will prioritise VoIP packets over others, BUT, it is all to do with the order that you do things, so if someone is using all your available bandwidth and you try to make a call or someone tries to phone you, the service may not connect, so we need Device Bandwidth Management in order to partition some of the Bandwidth to always be available for the VoIP service.
Routers I buy with these services, decent WiFi capability, usually around £150. Some free ones have it, EE Brightbox 2 for example, but they built Device Bandwidth Management in such a way that it mean you have to purchase more bandwidth to make the services work if you use this, the opposite of what it is supposed to do.
6. I don’t get decent broadband speeds, what does that mean?
Speed, very little, the amount of data the phone uses for a voice call is trivial.
But like Uncle Ben said “With poor speed comes poor stability”, which is where we get wibbly wobbly, techy wecky, terms come up, latency, jitter etc.
So VoIP doesn’t need much data, it does need a consistent flow of data, packet loss, high latency, these are the things that will impact you.
So it is readily accepted that ADSL of significant distance from the Exchange will not carry a USO (Universal Service Obligation) grade phone call.
So if you don’t get decent speeds, then you have probably been waiting for the 2006 USO to be delivered to your property, look for mobile options. Satellite is a potential as well (see below), it is pretty unlikely you will see a fixed line solution until some time after 2035 if at all (that is when the rest of us get Fibre to the Property)
7. But I have a landline for emergencies
You HAD a landline for emergencies, VoIP services offer no additional benefit for emergency calling over a mobile solution.
There is no additional benefit for connectivity, there is no contingency provided.
However, I understand that people like a central phone in a place that has power, or for some people mobile phones can be a challenge.
GSM Landline Phone, works over the mobile infrastructure, that one on the left even has programmable speed dial buttons that you can have faces printed on.
8. But I don’t get any/very good indoor signal?
You can replicate all the functionality that VoIP has to offer with 3G even if you don’t get signal, so for the above example we need a GSM 3G Landline Phone, but you can just use a mobile phone if you are comfortable with one.
What we also need is a mobile Gateway (Like the Vodafone SureSignal), what this means is that in an emergency, or for general phone calls, our set up looks like this
Note: The mobile could be fixed in the home with one of the above, does not change how it will work.
So if you don’t have decent indoor signal, you can run the calls over the broadband the same as with VoIP, but at no extra cost.
In an emergency, you can go outside, even those GSM landline phone example, you unplug the phone from the mains, walk outside, they can come with a 48 hour back up battery, then you can use any carrier in range for emergency calls. You can put it in your handbag if you really wanted, travel around with it, take it on holiday, retro phone friend!
So in an emergency, you have 2-5 potential LOCAL routes into a 999 service for the cost of one mobile device and SIM. VoIP is 1 LOCAL route.
The more masts in your area, the more chance that one of them may last up to 4 hours in a power cut.
9. What about a really robust service, I want everything in case of an emergency!
Well, VoIP is sold to work over Satellite, it is debatable as to how well this works, but as it is sold it must adhere to the same rules as everything else for Emergency calls. All routes out must work.
Satellite currently offers speeds up to 30mbps, but it does have high latency, but that does not suggest it has high packet loss, so there is no reason to think that VoIP should not work (we need Ofcom to do some due diligence with this service anyway, as this will be the only option for some people due to where they live).
Bad weather could be an issue for this service though, but it is possible to gain other contingencies using mobile services.
So if VoIP works over satellite, in theory this should work
If not then this should work with a dual handset (SIM and Phone line connection), 999 calls on the below would work for any provider in range for the mobile service
So that is still 2-5 routes out to emergency services in either scenario.
This is the only way of operating a service I can find that has the potential to work in a long term or wide area power cut.
So if the power cut encompasses your home, local mobile mast and local cabinet, mobile and VoIP only have the potential of working for 1 hour. It doesn’t matter whether you have a back up generator or UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) in your home, if the mobile masts and the BT cabinets lose power, your service cannot work.
If however you can power the Router, Satallite Dish and Gateway from a local source (Battery Power or Back Up Generator) then there are no other Geographical power requirements needed for your area.
Pretty cool huh gang!
10. Don’t Bet on a Dead Horse
Maybe not the exact expression, but still applies.
The money you invest in technology goes towards competition and evolving that technology.
Fixed line voice services in the home offer no additional benefit going forward over other more robust solutions.
Airwave (what the emergency services are using) is going, being replaced by 4G, that will have issues, it requires investment, money going towards that technology enables more people to have easier access to the digital age, whilst improving the capacity of the services and the emergency services rising technology.
Me, I want to see mobile services grow, potentially Satellite as well as this opens up doors both in parts of this country and in countries where there is no real infrastructure to rely on.
Mobile has a lot more potential to offer than fixed line services, any movement of market towards those services should only be beneficial to everyone (in my opinion of course).
With the rise of Fibre we went from a competitive market back to a 2 man race, all Fibre services offered by BT are BT wholesale, Virgin is the only other unique infrastructure that is available to a wide area of consumers. The controls given from BT to their re-sellers can only really be used to limit your service as opposed to improve it, so fixed line is currently moving backwards for consumer services.
I have more reasons for not getting a VoIP landline solution, it is just there seems to be this unwritten internet rule that it has to be 10, so I’m going with it.
But lets end with some statistics from Ofcom, these particular statistics are used to justify that a VoIP landline solution does not need to last more than 1 hour in a power cut.
Warning: No statistics from Ofcom that related to emergency services and power cuts were used in their justification…….
In 2017 94% of adults personally used/owned a mobile phone
In 2016 73% of total call volumes were made from a mobile
19% of consumers live in a mobile only household
67% of Consumers who have a personal mobile and a landline see their mobile as the main method for making and receiving calls
2 Million adults have a landline only solution (no mobile Phone)
99% of residential premises have indoor coverage
So what do we need to do?
So, we need to shift 27% of calls to mobiles instead of landlines
19% of consumers we do not need to do anything with.
We need to convince 33% of users who have a mobile and a landline to consider their mobile device as their main form of contact.
We need to find a solution for 2 million individuals who have a landline only solution, assuming they are not comfortable with mobiles as part of that solution.
We need to plug the 1% of premises that do not have indoor connectivity for mobiles (But if they are having VoIP, they would need a fixed line broadband anyway)
This solution covers all of the requirements listed, if VoIP landline over broadband works, this works.
No Signal, route calls over the broadband, get a better more robust service for a similar cost.
These can be used to replace the mobile phone in the above diagram OR can be in addition to the personal mobile phone. It would just be like you having a normal landline phone.
Ultimately, there is no sensible reason to invest in a VoIP residential solution.
All you can really achieve by using VoIP is limiting the routes out that you can have to emergency services and reducing the potential for the service to remain up during a power outage.
So say everyone in your household has a mobile, then you have a landline just in case.
The above set up with a GSM enabled phone means that the phone that is there in your home “just in case” has 2-5 local routes to the emergency services dependent on how many providers are in range.
For the 2 million individuals with a landline phone only, it is possible for them to then take this outside to connect to other available networks not visible to the device indoors if there was an emergency.
If you are concerned about your network going down, there are no rules that say you cannot have mobiles with different providers, so the GSM landline above could be with one provider, your mobile device could be with another.
Landline Voice services in the home are dead, VoIP offers no residential benefit over other more robust solutions, just remember that much, anything else is a sales pitch.
Anyway, I hope you found this article helpful, if you are interested in reading about this changeover in more detail, we have another article on this link PSTN switch off and what it means to you, this also has a petition in change.org around consumers being stuck without communications in the event of a power cut when the PSTN network goes (VoIP landlines last 1 hour, mobiles will last ‘1 OR 4 hours with no way of knowing’, NOT ‘1-4 Hours’ as Ofcom are miss-informing people)
Or check out our Cyber Crime section, where I show you how I would go about committing cyber crime, then show you how to prevent it.
We also have a petition on Change.org to spread awareness around the PSTN switch off and have MPs interject before it becomes an issue (issue in this case being loss of life or reduced quality of life)