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An Important Message from BT

Please see below a request from BT, in relation to their plans to upgrade their customers phone services from analogue to digital (IP).

 

You may recall that Gordon Cannon of BT presented at the TSA ITEC 2017 Conference on BT’s plans to upgrade its customers to digital telephone services. The first customers will be upgraded towards the end of this year (2018), with the aim for all BT’s customers to be using digital telephone services by the end of 2025.

 

The TEC industry, and Telecare in particular, still has many customers with products that rely on analogue phone lines to provide line voltage and dial tone to connected alarm devices, and this configuration will change with the planned upgrade to digital phone services. A fuller account of these issues and TSA’s recommendations can be found in the recently published White Paper (see www.tsa-voice.org.uk/digital-shift).

 

BT envisages that all Telecare service providers will cease buying analogue equipment in the near future, and they will move to more capable solutions that are designed to communicate digitally. Telecare service and system providers will shortly be able to access BT’s Digital Services Lab at their R&D centre (opening in Ipswich in Spring 2018), to test both their existing systems and any new ‘all IP’ systems.

 

BT is keen to work with TSA and the wider TEC industry to protect consumers during this transition, by ensuring that those who rely on their current analogue telecare devices move to the new digital phone service in a controlled way, to ensure that Telecare services are always able to perform their critical role.

 

A logical first step is to understand which of BT’s customers have telecare services. Therefore, BT has asked TSA to contact all of our members, firstly to convey their desire to help with testing of telecare equipment at the BT Labs, secondly to request that telecare services provide information to help to manage the migration, namely:

  • the inbound dialling-in numbers they use
  • the number of connected service users (as at end 2017)
  • the communications provider contracted by the service

BT will then be able to use this information confidentially, to mark BT consumer customer accounts to show that they may have a Special Service, such as Telecare, and to make sure that these customers are then advised by BT to contact their alarm service provider before making a change.

 

We should emphasise two issues here:

a) BT does not want your service users phone numbers, only the phone numbers that alarm devices dial into. These monitoring centre numbers will likely appear on BT customers’ accounts and can be used to alert those customers to the need for further checks.

b) This information will not be used for any other purpose and would be protected. BT has offered NDA agreements for those who are concerned about confidentiality.

 

It is also worth noting that BT has advised that they would, as an interim solution, provide an Analogue Telephony Adapter (ATA) port with their new home hub, which could help to keep some current products working until they can upgraded or replaced. It should be stressed however that the new home hub provides no battery back-up, therefore phone connectivity will be prevented when home power fails. Any voiceband alarm data exchange could also be affected by the new IP-networks, and so would at least require further testing. Therefore, your alarm systems suppliers should be consulted on how their solutions would continue to operate reliably in this situation.

 

We at the TSA see these as very supportive steps from BT, and we recognise their desire for telecare service providers to identify or develop new digital solutions for their customers, whilst providing additional time for the necessary transition. We continue to work with Ofcom and other telecommunications providers to secure similar supportive measures across the industry.

 

If you are happy to provide the information requested by BT, or if you have any queries on these issues please contact TSA by email to ALLIP@tsa-voice.org.uk or by calling 01625 520320.