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The death of PSTN

On 18th April 2018, Openreach wrote to its communications providers about its plans to shut down its Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) – in other words the 6,500 or so exchanges deployed since 1981 to deliver analogue and (later) digital telephony to millions of UK businesses and consumers.  Do you still have a phone at home or in your branch office plugged into a BT socket or a phone system connected to ISDN?  That’s what we’re talking about.

Openreach intends to consult with UK telecoms service providers about the process and timeline for withdrawing Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) services which include analogue telephony, ISDN2 and ISDN30.  According to a report in The Register, Openreach’s letter included the statement that “These changes will affect how you do business with Openreach.” That could be considered a slight understatement.

Over the past decade, the replacement of ISDN with VoIP (or SIP Trunking) led those of us involved in delivering UK B2B telecoms to expect BT to withdraw ISDN.  Indeed, the indication was that it would be gone by 2025.  What we weren’t expecting, however, was that analogue telephony would be withdrawn too, affecting consumers and spelling the death knell for what has been a telephony-lifeline service.

Setting aside whether I believe this is going to happen – let’s assume that it will – what, if anything, should we be doing about it?  As a B2B service provider, we’re interested in how it will affect UK businesses – the B2C service providers can worry about consumers (and good luck with that).  What does the death of the PSTN really mean to us?  Here are 3 examples.

Local power

Analogue corded phones draw power from the local exchange – that’s what makes them ring.  In the event of a mains power failure, an analogue phone can still be used to make and receive calls.  We don’t know yet whether Openreach will create a service like TalkTalk’s which whilst based on VoIP, is delivered as an analogue service. If it doesn’t and the replacement is SIP Trunks over broadband, then we’ll need battery backup to keep the phones and routers going (just in case).  We’ll also need broadband that hardly, if ever, goes down.

Fax

Although some may argue fax is the dinosaur of the comms world, many industries still employ fax as a handy way of providing a hard copy of a document, e.g. contract, patient record or sketch.  Fax over VoIP (known as T.38) works after a fashion, but as service providers, we are unable to support it.  If a fax doesn’t work, the only solution is to try again or print out and send by mail or courier – which isn’t much use if it’s needed quickly.  Fax-to-email isn’t the solution – if it was, nobody would be using fax anymore.

M2M

Any machine-to-machine device, such as an alarm, sensor or franking machine, which is more than a few years old, will be based on a modem.  Unfortunately, modems don’t work very well, if at all over IP.  I’ve had a few attempts at this, experimenting with different modem speeds, but only the very slowest (up to 600 baud) seemed to work.  Any organisation with a large base of remote devices – utilities and energy spring to mind – will need to find a replacement which, given long line lengths (over which broadband doesn’t work) probably will need to be based on 4G.

Given the size of the task ahead, clearly Openreach and its communications providers have a lot to do and, once a solution is agreed, roll-out will be quite a task.  In the meantime, if your organisation is using PSTN services (so that’s everyone really, isn’t it?) and would like to find out more about how to move to a 21st Century solution, get in touch with intercity today or call 0330 332 7933

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Connecting the Future: 7 CCS insight predictions for 2018 and beyond part 2

Continuing with our CCS Insight series, we’re introducing a further 7 predictions for 2018 set to revolutionise the way we live and work. They’re taken from a set of 90 predictions covering connectivity advances, security, regulation, technology developments, shifts in the supplier landscape, new business models and changing strategies.

Internet of Things [IoT]

Companies looking to develop projects for the Internet of things face a bewildering set of technologies and choices. The number of cloud platforms for the Internet of things has grown to more than 500 over the past few years and new ones are still being developed and launched.

There are more platforms than the market size allows, and many are not viable. By 2022, 75 percent of current platforms for the Internet of things will disappear. There’s a wave of change taking place including full system replacements, mergers and acquisitions, especially as customers start to buy platform suppliers. Some platforms will cease to exist and CCS Insight predicts that the total will reduce to about 100 after five years, in addition to the large cloud suppliers like Microsoft, Google and Amazon.

1 – By 2022, 75 percent of current platforms for the Internet of things will disappear

Challenges for Network Operators

Despite the huge — and growing — need for connectivity, network operators will come under pressure in the next few years as their core services become more of a commodity. Many will seek new ways of making money, and a leading Western operator will adopt a radical new business model by 2021.

Hoping to combat stagnant revenue growth, operators will seek to become global technology players offering a wide range of contextual services. They will look to build multiple brand partnerships through revenuesharing agreements, a strategy that aims to better exploit strengths in scale, branding and customer relationships. This new outlook also reflects intensifying competition from Internet rivals and past failures to effectively profit from the huge growth in mobile data.

2 – A leading Western operator will adopt a radical new business model by 2021.

In a precursor of this trend, Russian network Veon (formerly known as Vimpelcom) revamped its business model in 2017 to offer subscribers free network access. Veon has signed deals with advertisers and service providers on its network and receives a cut of advertising and service revenue from these partners.

Network operators’ searches for new business models could be highly beneficial for users. Changing conditions mean that operators are more likely to consider options that would be unthinkable five years ago. CCS Insight predicts that by 2020, a dynamic mobile service will let customers change operator each month to gain the best deal. Prompted by growing adoption of e-SIMs, a virtual provider such as Google’s Project Fi will offer a service that seamlessly switches between networks according to which offers the best deal. The distancing effect of a virtual operator means networks will be less concerned about the potential to commoditize connectivity.

3 – By 2020, a dynamic mobile service will let customers change operator each month to gain the best deal.

Security and Regulation

With greater connectivity comes the need for greater security. In a survey of 4,000 employees around the world, CCS Insight found that 86 percent of respondents regularly use mobile applications for work purposes. In a separate survey, the company found that security is the number one priority for companies investing in digital workplace solutions.

Cybersecurity is a complex area, and those battling online threats are finding their resources stretched thinner and thinner. Security teams cannot keep up with the pace of threats — Symantec said it detected 357 million new variants of malware in 2016, and trained professionals are in short supply.

Artificial intelligence will prove a useful ally in the fight against security breaches, and CCS Insight believes cybersecurity will be the most widely adopted use of artificial intelligence in businesses in 2018. Automation will help security teams turn from researching and reacting to threats to proactive security and a focus on business risk. Cognitive systems will also enhance security by analysing anomalous user behaviour.

4 – Cybersecurity will be the most widely adopted use of artificial intelligence in businesses in 2018.

Biometrics will play a part in efforts to secure connected devices. The use of fingerprints, retina patterns and other physical identifiers is on the rise. CCS Insight believes that people born in 2017 will be the last Westerners to need passwords. By the time people born in 2017 start using authentication features, biometrics will have replaced passwords for Internet services.

5 – People born in 2017 will be the last Westerners to need passwords

Regulation will also play a part in protecting those online. The growth of artificial intelligence will bring several benefits, but bad or self-serving implementations of artificial intelligence will proliferate by 2020. It will be easy to use artificial intelligence as a marketing buzzword, with consumers having no sense of how good the artificial intelligence is behind products and services. The hype, shortage of data scientists and lack of social and regulatory policy for this technology will lead to several unscrupulous implementations. In the wake of some high-profile rip-offs, there will be some consumer backlash, followed by hasty attempts to prevent biases and to police algorithms.

6 – Bad or self-serving implementations of artificial intelligence will proliferate by

As part of these attempts to police the technology, governments scramble to regulate artificial intelligence in 2020 and beyond. The current legislative vacuum stands in stark contrast to the headlong advances being made by artificial intelligence. In an effort to protect citizens from the bad implementations of artificial intelligence that will proliferate in 2020, governments will belatedly rush through legislation to curb an industry that has established systems and business models for cognitive services.

7 – Governments will scramble to regulate
artificial intelligence in 2020 and
beyond

Navigating the Future of Connectivity These predictions give a glimpse into a future where advances in connectivity and technology will change the way we live and work. But steering a course through future trends isn’t easy. You need a guide to point out the pitfalls and the short cuts.

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Enjoy this blog? Read the full article in our latest edition of Intercity Tech, available for free here. Alternatively, In the meantime if you have any questions about future-proofing your own IT networks, get in touch with Intercity on 0330 332 7933