Do you want to see something fun? What we are going to see is that for cost, services, legislation, there is absolutely NO POINT getting a VoIP service in your home… Fun!

Right, now to save recapping our explanations on the first page about technology, what we are going to look at is “If I were a business, how would I approach these requirements?”

To give you a business example

“I Install a Fire Alarm at a business location, how do I ensure that the service works in a power outage?”

Well, it isn’t unreasonable for a fire to result in loss of power as well. So a power surge could cause an electrical device to catch fire.

There are lots of other considerations around this, but this would be the example I would go to for my issue when defining a solution for the business.

  1. My fire alarm should not rely on mains power only
  2. If this is a power related incident, is it just my property?
  3. Does the fire occur when the power comes back on?
  4. Is this a wide area power outage?

So I would take examples like this thinking about what else can go wrong or be impacted by the same issue.

So on todays technology with a PSTN analogue phone line, this is what I can say

My mobile service could be impacted by the same power cut, often power can go off, come back on briefly, then go off again. In that scenario, it could very well be the case that the UPS (Battery Power) on the mobile mast has not had sufficient time to recharge. If my fire is caused by the second outage, then my mobile service may not work.

My landline service (PSTN) should work in the event of a power cut. It should in theory never have an issue, but how would I know if there is a fault on the line? What happens if there is a fault, this could take 24 hours to fix.

So, for a power cut on my line, my PSTN is the most suitable service, however, this can have faults so I need a back up solution.

What happens in this scenario if it is a VoIP solution?

My mobile service could be impacted by the same power cut, often power can go off, come back on briefly, then go off again. In that scenario, it could very well be the case that the UPS (Battery Power) on the mobile mast has not had sufficient time to recharge. If my fire is caused by the second outage, then my mobile service may not work.

My VoIP line could be impacted by the same power cut, both in the cabinet and equipment at my location. Often power can go off, come back on briefly, then go off again. In that scenario, it could very well be the case that the UPS (Battery Power) in my location has not had sufficient time to recharge. If my fire is caused by the second outage, then VoIP service may not work. In addition, the equipment in question for this service, analogue gateway and the Router, could be the equipment that is on fire.

That is generally the approach we take, we identify scenarios where the services would not be suitable, then pass that to the money holder, they then make a decision.

We do that by identifying the points of failure along a chain. So we take a service and we say “Where are the points of failure in X scenario”. So if it isn’t a power related fire, then we could consider that there are multiple places a landline could go down, this could impact the alarm system, if you don’t have a back up service, the mobile service, then we have a problem that we don’t know about until the next time we test the alarm or in some cases when we next visit the site the alarm system will be making a funny beeping sound.

So while the PSTN landline has more chance of working in a power loss scenario, we still have the mobile solutions as a back up for other issues with the PSTN.

The mobile and VoIP scenario however have the same issues, so don’t really offer us any contingency or any substantial benefit. Arguably, we are better off having two sim cards from two different network providers, with two different masts in range to ensure contingency. There is also another option taking advantage of the broadband but avoiding the additional points of failure that VoIP offers within the network side.

But it all comes down to a “Cost vs Benefit” type review, so that is what we are going to do, we are going to look at two ways we can deploy a solutions, we will consider the benefits, we will consider the draw backs, we will provide a basis for you to review where you stand.

So first off, let’s start with this notion

A VoIP service running over fixed line broadband (BT Phone line or Fibre Broadband service)

Ok, for both power and connectivity this is what PSTN looks like

Green = Power Required/Working Infrastructure

White = Power not required (Optional for handset if cordless, but you don’t need Cordless and advice is to have a corded phone for emergencies and power cuts, so lets keep that one white inline with consumer advice)

PSTN Power

So the only thing that MUST have power for your phone line to work is the BT Exchange

A physical cable is required from the handset to the BT exchange, so 1 uninterrupted cable that is joined at multiple places.

Now for VoIP, these are the different independent points of failure for both power and connectivity.

Green = Power Required/Working Infrastructure

White = No power required

VoIP Power

The cost of this is pretty much similar for rental, you will pay for broadband rental and for having a phone service (voice service) as well. More so if you have different providers for the broadband and the VoIP service.

Note: There could be more than 1 ISP network in play.

So in order to make a call, we require power in our property, and at the cabinet, then the exchange, we then require the ISP network to be working and the VoIP exchange to be working.

You would expect them to have some contingencies, however, the VoIP exchange contingencies are the “Emergency Calls” and routing, the ISP network may not honour the same contingency, as you may very well have a different ISP than your VoIP provider. This still comes up quite a bit and companies still get fined, but not really sure who is responsible at the end of the day considering all the new points of failure.

Some people may say “You don’t need an analogue gateway”, partly true.

  1. This can be built into the Router, but that will mean the router would require a bigger battery back up.
  2. You can use a VoIP handset
    • This will require Mains Power + a UPS/Battery back up
    • This will require POE power (from the router, only certain types will have it), which will further increase the strain on the router in a power cut.

Any which way you look at it, the power consumption is the same, it just changes with different scenarios.

The one I have picked is the one I see most people ending up on in the short term, without needing to replace their router, BT Fibre to the property has a different solution, but that is only available to 4% of the UK at the time of writing (But really, 4% of Urban England…)

For an emergency call, we still need everything to be up and ready and working to the BT exchange, but we then need at least 1 working route out of the physical exchange, after that point compliance pretty much states an emergency call should work irrespective of supplier.

Any other call for any other scenario, alarm lines, panic buttons, diallers to care in the community services, so vulnerable persons solutions require everything highlighted to be working.

So that is our issue, now how do we approach this where we can reduce the points of failure?

We look at different options, we then see if there are any benefits or additional routes out we can take advantage of.

Mobile Only Solution

Now we will have a look at two mobile solutions, first we need to see the mobile only solution in order to understand another solution we can put in place.

Green = Power Required/Working Infrastructure

Any Call Route = Includes Emergency Services

Mobile Power

So whether it is battery or mains power, we need everything physical to have some form of power and connectivity.

If there are no Masts in range or no Masts with power, we cannot call out.

So as far as 999 or 112 calls go, we have multiple routes out.

But what if we live somewhere where there is only 1 Network provider, or 1 mast in range? Can we get contingency without having to pay for VoIP rental for our landline service?

Mobile Only Solution + Fixed Line Broadband

Now this is where it gets interesting, now we have two considerations

  1. Are Mobile phones user friendly for everyone?
  2. Do we already have Fixed line broadband (Broadband on a phone line)

This is kind of where the whole VoIP solution becomes pointless, more costly and less efficient.

Note, these generally need to be 3G solutions. So your mobile handset has to be 3G compatible (Important note for the user friendly options)

Let’s start with Point 2, then we can come back and resolve point 1 with a minor change to make the mobile phone service user friendly.

This solution would work for alarm systems, for diallers, panic buttons, anything really, there is no finite limitation.

So lets see what we get

Green = Power Required/Working Infrastructure

Any Call Route = Includes Emergency Services

Mobile Gateway Power

So without paying for additional rental for a VoIP service, we can get the best of both worlds here without needing anything above our mobile phone.

A mobile gateway is a little box you can buy from the Network Provider optionally, or they have to give to you if you live in an area with bad coverage and they sold you the service for that area. (Vodafone SureSignal is an example)

User Friendly Mobile Solution

Now, if it is a dialler or an alarm system, often they have a mobile solution built in. What we need here is something that is easy to use like a landline phone for our other solutions.

Anyone who knows an old person, new things are confusing, explaining remotes is difficult enough, so what if we can get a user friendly SIM operated phone but it looks like a landline phone.

Well we can, they exist, they have mains power connection and more often than not a built in battery unit which will work on standby for a period of time, shorter for talk time.

We can use this solution on the Mobile Only option above or the Mobile and Fixed Line broadband option, both of those offer more contingency than a VoIP solution going forward in a power cut.

I will give you a google term to use if you want to search

GSM Landline Phone

GSM Desk Phone

This is an example of one, 48 hours stand by time, 2-3 hours talk time. Mains power supply, sim free and battery unit.

Capture

If you then add the word “Easy” so for example

GSM Easy Landline Phone

You will see something like this, big buttons and then buttons with someones face for speed dialling.

Capture 2

There are plenty of other options, cordless phones, whatever you want, these just formulate the two distinct types

  1. Like a landline
  2. Accessible/Easy use Landline

So far, no reason to use VoIP.

If we need this to operate over a Mobile Gateway (Like Vodafone Sure Signal) it would need to be GSM and 3G enabled, which you can get (the options here are many, I mean you can get one that has a built in touch screen if you really want, they are an available and useful service, just not well advertised).

But ultimately, in all these situations, we have one fundamental problem. If the power cut lasts more than 1 hour, we get no additional connectivity as far as regulations are concerned. But certainly as far as redundancy goes, there is no reason to use a VoIP landline service in the home for the vast majority of people. All it offers above your existing mobile service is additional rental.

If connectivity is a real concern, how can we implement a solution that does not rely on any power source outside the home?

Satellite Solution

So a VoIP solution requires you to have a broadband line, so is there anyway we can avoid that, get broadband a different way whilst getting the most effective connectivity service, where we take responsibility of all the power requirements?

Potentially, but interestingly, this solution actually has to work according to the USO (Governments universal service obligation) or an additional subsidy must be provided for individuals in rural areas to cover the cost of additional fixed line solutions.

So there are very mixed views on Satellite as to whether Voice would work and how well it will work.

Now I did look into this, or at least try, I personally cannot see that the Latency would prevent VoIP from working on Satellite which is the main argument, it could make a noticeable gap, but that in my opinion would be where a Satellite Broadband VoIP service is talking to another Satellite Broadband VoIP service or to a mobile phone service. Satellite Broadband VoIP to Landline VoIP, probably not an issue, as the latency is one sided as opposed to both sides being impacted. So for a real time service, say your voice to my ear, you add the legs of all the latency together. I think at worst I would say it would be like when you dial an international number on an analogue phone, there would be a bit of a delay. Probably more like mobile to mobile calls though, not really noticeable.

Fortunately though, my opinion of this solution and technology is irrelevant

There are service providers who offer VoIP for Satellite broadband, which means they have the same obligation as everyone else concerning emergency calls. This obligation would essentially mean that their service would work as long as you have power at your location.

So on that principle, we have a solution. Ideally we need to pressure Ofcom to investigate VoIP and Mobile services running over Satellite broadband and the USO obligations required. But assuming it works, our set up looks like this

Satellite Power

Now as far as communicating with the outside world, we don’t actually need to talk to someone, we need to notify someone.

So, something like a dialler or an alarm system can work on the following principles.

  1. Automatically Dial Someone
  2. Automatically Text People
  3. Automatically Email People

It can work on that principle, so as far as least points of failure and most likely to succeed and work in a power cut, this seems logical to me.

We need power for the Analogue gateway and router, but then we also need power for the Satellite Dish from our location. But the additional power we add to our home devices actually means something of value in a power cut scenario.

However, I would think that unlike a router or analogue gateway, in order to power a satellite dish we would need a reasonable UPS, whereas the other two could easily, like really simply, be built with decent battery units (like a laptop or a tablet)

Satellite broadband solution with a mobile back up

If that works, then this should work.

In this scenario, the handset is interchangeable, could be an alarm, a dialler etc.

For emergency calls, that would be Any mobile mast and provider network

Satellite Power with Mobile

Mobile Solution with Satellite Broadband

If VoIP can work over Satellite as advertised, then there is no reason to believe that this solution would not work.

So, from a rental perspective, for the cost of a SIM card, you can have quite a significant service available, arguably better than what you would get from the PSTN.

So it is possible to utilise technology in a way that provides a suitable service or even better service at a reasonable cost.

Mobile with Satellite

Lost Power Scenario

So, which solution covered so far works best in the following scenarios (assuming VoIP works as advertised over Satellite Broadband)

  1. Only my property has lost power
  2. The power cut encompasses my property, the local masts and the local Cabinet area
  3. The power cut is a wide area, it encompasses my property, local masts, cabinet and exchange, along with all other critical service locations (Lancashire Floods, Themes Flooding, the big ones)

Well the only one I can control the length of time it will work for is the Satellite option.

It is the only option available today that I can compare with the PSTN network.

It is the only option where the length of time I have power to my own equipment will impact how long the service works for.

So remember, the local cabinet requires power going forward for our broadband services to work (Fibre services require power in the Cabinet), something like the Lancaster floods, or even an outage that results in your local cabinet losing power, means that it doesn’t matter how big your battery is within your location, the service will stop working.

The mobile mast will last 1 hour, that is all we can bank on, some may last longer, so it doesn’t matter how much charge is on your phone, if the mast has no power, you cannot make a call.

The residential VoIP solution has the most points of failure (bad thing) for both power and connectivity.

The mobile solution has the least points of failure and the most contingency in developed areas for Emergency Services calls.

The Satellite solution is the only solution where the points of failure are within the control of the individual.

So ultimately, what is the point of a VoIP landline solution? It increases rental, it doesn’t offer contingency over any other service, it is more likely to be impacted by power outages and there is no way to ensure that the service works in a power cut at all.

So even if you have broadband, what value do you get from a VoIP landline solution over just having a mobile phone? None, as you can operate your mobile over your broadband for voice calls.

What value does a VoIP landline solution offer to vulnerable people who rely on landline communications? None. Especially considering that Ofcom report that 99% of residential locations have working in door mobile coverage, and the only real solution to this issue so far provided by Ofcom is “Use a mobile phone”.

Even if you do not have good indoor signal, you can still operate your mobile phone over your broadband service for voice calls.

So, in short, don’t waste your money on a VoIP landline solution, it is not needed anymore and essentially offers no real benefit. There are user friendly alternatives that adhere to the recommended solutions by Ofcom, if you require further contingency, there are still better solutions that paying for a VoIP landline service.

We summarise on the next page.

Previous PageNext Page

Back to Residential Information