06 September 2021
By the end of 2025, BT Openreach will have completed their project to change the UK’s telephone network from old copper wire to an all new fibre network. Additionally, all 2G and 3G cellular phone networks are being decommissioned in the same timeframe.
Although this new network will deliver a huge benefit over voice and internet telephony services, it will also influence remotely monitored services, such as fire and intruder alarms, lift services, CCTV and access control.
What changes are happening?
The network, which has supported traditional phone lines is no longer coping with modern demands and can no longer support our data-hungry culture. From 2025, the phone network (which also supports most broadband services) will no longer be available and all connections will need to be Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) or Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA). 2G and 3G networks will also be decommissioned, with mobile networks relying on 4G and 5G instead.
The implications for voice and internet are clear, but what is less clear is how the change will affect other equipment which is co-opted in to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Most importantly for security and risk, this includes most existing remotely monitored services, such as fire and intruder alarms, lift services, CCTV and access control.
For a more detailed explanation, BT outlines exactly what is taking place and why in their article 'The UK's PSTN network will switch off in 2025'.
A potential security risk
Many alarm signalling systems and speech diallers rely on the PSTN to transmit alerts and checks to the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC). This can include any type of alarm transmission system including intruder, lift, fire or telecare, and even CCTV systems that use Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) to transmit remotely.
On the new all-IP network, many of these PSTN reliant devices will no longer be able to send signals this way, which will put the premises they monitor at risk. There will no longer be a DC voltage on the phone line, which means that where alarms are solely reliant on a PSTN landline, there will be no landline telephony and alarm signalling in the event of a mains failure at your premises. Any telephone extension sockets will be removed and ‘all-IP’ traffic will instead go through an internet router.
Mobile network signalling
Where alarm signalling uses the mobile network, it will soon no longer be able to use the 2G or 3G networks and will need to be able to operate on 4G or 5G. Any services that can only use older 2G or 3G technology, will therefore no longer work on mobile networks once they are decommissioned.
Dual (landline and mobile) network signalling
For many commercial premises there is a requirement for dual path signalling which will usually include a mobile signal and a landline signal. Both will need to be able to utilise the all-IP and 4G/5G networks.
Work to make the transition has already started. In the UK, 60,000 lines a week are being switched over and Openreach will introduce a ‘stop sell’ of copper-based services once areas around an exchange reaches 75% Fibre coverage. This means that by September 2023, Openreach will no longer be selling products reliant on PSTN.
Business Resilience and Security Practice Lead, Paul Evans says, “It is highly likely that alarm companies and network providers will get in touch with their customers to help make sure alarm systems remain able to operate in the new all-IP and 4G/5G world. Many already are, but it is important businesses are checking with their providers to avoid disruption. These changes are already rolling out across the UK and the EU, so it is highly recommended that checks are made as soon as possible as failure to have alarm systems and signalling ready for the new all-IP network may invalidate insurance cover until they are compliant”.
"Failure to have alarm systems and signalling ready for the new all-IP network may invalidate insurance cover until they are compliant."Paul Evans - Business Resilience and Security Practice Lead
National Security Inspectorate (NSI) approved alarm companies and comms providers are working to make the switch as seamless as possible and it is unlikely that many clients will be disrupted. Several alarm systems will already be ‘future proofed’, but to ensure a smooth transition, it is important that the following points are considered:
To determine switchover dates or get a heads up on how soon they are planning to work in a specific area, contact with communication providers will need to be made (BT, Sky or Virgin for example).
- That alarm systems and landline or mobile alarm signalling will be compatible with the new networks
- What IP router and local back-up power requirements are needed in the new ‘all-IP’ world – each system should have a back-up battery for the IP router that will enable uninterruptable power to remain to the landline alarm signalling in the event of a power failure
- The implications of the removal of any telephone extension sockets at the premises
Consider contingency arrangements for switchover dates. Interim measures, such as security guarding may need to be put in place to minimise any security breaches.
Where an upgrade or reconfiguration is required, alarm systems must meet insurance policy requirements and work in the new all-IP and 4G/5G environments. Consideration should be given to reconfiguring to a dual-path signalling system (using both mobile and IP technology) that meets the performance level of DP3 or DP4 as per EN50136-1:2012 (in the UK) and PD6669:2017. Alarm companies will be able to advise further.
If a business is in the process of changing communications providers (as opposed to alarm providers), they may unwittingly be switched to the 'all-IP' network before the alarm system is compatible - so checking with alarm companies before changing may be necessary.
Security risk control guide
Find more risk security advice and guidance in our security risk control guide.
Openreach - the new all-IP world
Find out about key dates for your diary and what you can expect from the project.
Openreach highlight their 'stop sells' on specific products and when they'll be taking place.