1. Fax Machines – this will just be an analogue gateway device or maybe an opportunity to run it through your phone system, so you get better use of the line and reduce rental
2. Alarm Lines – This is going to be a problem for people, so the changeover is quite simple, that line now needs to connect to an analogue gateway and a router, however, the problem here is around disaster recovery and how long it works in a power cut.
3. Lift lines – Per above
4. Card Payment devices – a lot of people have these on a closed network. If these have to go onto the same router that everything else is using, irrespective of whether there is an analogue gateway in place, this can cause compliance issues with your bank and insurance policies.
What to do in a power cut
There are two big arguments here from Ofcom
1. Phone systems won’t work in a power cut for most businesses anyway
2. We all have mobile phones
So I will give you a few example set ups of how I have operated in the past
Residential Care Home, Care In the community, Foster Homes
If there was a power cut we would divert the calls to the fax line or the payphone line.
Sometimes the mobile, but for talk time these don’t last very long if you are on them consistently, no power, no charging. So it is a very short term solution for mobiles whereas the analogue line would be up for as long as needed.
That is true for any business, your mobile lasts a long time because you are not using it constantly, if you are on it constantly, you need to charge it frequently.
Now it does depend on your set up and the extent of the power cut to what you can actually do
Short term short distance power cut
If you have a service that is using an analogue gateway and a router, then you can get a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) to power the router and the analogue gateway. In theory, this would give you calls for a couple of hours.
A mobile will still be a couple of hours if you go down that route anyway.
Lift Lines – these will require an Analogue Gateway and Router connection of some kind, if you put them through your phone system, the UPS requirement will be quite significant as you need to keep your phone system powered.
So chances are these still need to go separately, but for most that would require a UPS to handle at least 1 switch, the router and the analogue gateway.
They do have a GSM backup option, which would last in theory but depends on how long the power is out.
Alarm Systems – per above
Card Payment Devices – UPS for analogue gateway and router or mobile sim card back up.
Short term long distance power cut
Long distance here is your property to the mobile masts in range or the local cabinets for BT or Virgin.
This has a caveat, so Fibre services for broadband, which is essentially what we are all shifting to, require the local cabinet to have power. Now unless all cabinets are fitted with a significant power supply OR a generator, it may make no difference to what UPS you have installed on site and mobile alternatives may be the only viable option.
However, one thing Ofcom fail to consider is how long mobile services last in a power cut.
As far as I can tell by trawling through their documentation, the only requirement is 1 hour. Some are 4 hours but that was due to old requirements, it is very difficult to tell.
What that does mean is, if there is a power cut and the mobile masts are impacted there a few potential issues
Most notably, your provider may not have a UPS service on the mast that lasts long enough for your requirements
So lift lines and alarm lines present a risk here.
The only regulatory requirement concerning communication in a power cut is that we are able to dial 999 in a power cut, anything else is an aside.
But that subsequently means your lift line and your alarm line as well as your card payment devices may not actually function due to the network you are on if that network does not have a sufficient UPS on the local mast. True a sim card will roam, but your dialler for these services likely goes through to a number that is not 999, so these calls will not route even if the mobile service roams.
Then obviously your business as usual calls have the same risk.
Short and sweet is, there is no solution provided as yet as to what can actually be done
An uninterrupted power supply on site for communication will last only as long as the mobile mast UPS and the local Cabinet UPS, no one knows how long this is.
So your alarm, lift line and anything else may have 8 or 12 hour batteries for their diallers, but may only work for 1 hour after the power cut irrespective of what you do.
So where we say “you can use a mobile” it all depends on the extent of the power cut, if mobile is suitable, why do we bother with both mobile sims and analogue lines on some of these services?
Long Term Long Distance power cut
No communication services available after somewhere between hour 1 to 4.
It won’t matter whether you have a UPS, every cabinet, mast, exchange and local device will require power, generators, longer term UPS, for any solution you put in place to operate.
Compared to today, where only the Exchange must have power in order for any form of communication to continue.
If we could say confidently that we had not had a long term long distance power cut for several years (remember that distance only needs to cover your property, mast and cabinet) then we could expect low business impact.
Lancaster shows us that this is not the case in recent years to a significant extent.
So at the current rate, the next Lancaster type event will mean no communication of any kind for anyone in the area impacted.
Last thing to think about is around Insurance
So, will your insurance cover these scenarios as it stands?
I’m sure if the insurer is reputable, they have already looked into the PSTN switch off to see how it impacts their customers and whether there are any UPS requirements needed on site to meet the insurance requirement for liability, property and business interruption policies.
However, I imagine a lot of it right now is
1. Analogue alternative
2. GSM alternative
Take an alarm for example
If you just had an analogue line, then if there was a fault on the line, you may never know until somebody triggers the alarm and it doesn’t work, so you have a GSM backup.
In the event of a power cut, the GSM service may not work, but the Analogue service should work.
So for an alarm, the time from the power cut and your alarm going off, due to say someone breaking in, have no relationship to how long the Mobile mast has power for.
In a power cut though, there would likely be a relationship between how long the power cut lasts increasing the risk of a break in, traditionally called “Looting”
In any case, if your insurance states “Alarm Monitoring System”, is there a clause around it having GSM and an Analogue connection, then is there a requirement for the alarm system to have a battery unit that lasts a certain amount of time?
If that is the case, then you may not be able to provide a solution that meets the clauses of the policy. As while the alarm may have a battery, it can no longer be assumed that the phone line will work for the time of the alarm battery back up.
If all insurers were the same and offered the same thing, we would not have more than one, but these are things you will need to check as part of moving from traditional solutions to VoIP services for certain line types.
We haven’t had to check it to date, as most of our lift line and alarm line services stayed on Analogue solutions, even when we moved everything else to VoIP, this was not a requirement to move as there was no benefit or gain in doing this.
The only thing that comes from moving these types of lines to a VoIP service is a negative impact, not positive, no benefit of any kind whatsoever.
I actually worked on a project a few years back to move all the lift lines and alarm lines for a Managed Office company off of VoIP and back on to Analogue as it was the cheapest easiest solution to the problems they were having when there was a power cut. The alternative that may apply now wasn’t practical then.
We wrap up on the next page