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Latest VoIP News: August 2019


The world of VoIP and business telephony is fast-moving and constantly evolving, against a background of general technical change in the world of communications. Here we look at the latest VoIP news, and what developments there are on the horizon.

5G and VoIP

Currently, smartphones and mobile devices are in the forefront of technological evolution, outpacing other technologies. However, these evolutionary changes do also affect VoIP.

The move to 4G speeds has meant users can access VoIP on mobile devices, and making mobile VoIP applications available across mobile operating systems.

Fast internet is hugely important for mobile VoIP, and it follows that the step up to 5G will enable more efficient and widespread mobile VoIP usage.

With the move to 5G, organisations upgrading to VoIP will not find themselves constrained by internet speeds or bandwidth. This should also mean enhanced audio quality for most calls and expand the overall reach of high-speed internet.

The UK is lagging behind the rest of the world in 5G testing, but last year EE announced its roll out of 5G in major UK cities for 2019: London, Manchester, Cardiff, Belfast and Birmingham. Other companies have been testing 5G technology in selected UK locations.

5G is coming and it will have a positive impact on VoIP.

The Copper Broadband Switch-off

The UK Government has suggested it could switch off every copper phone line in the UK to force the pace of change to faster broadband speeds.

Around 20 million UK households currently rely on copper wires for their telephone and broadband connections. It will also affect businesses in areas where access to faster broadband is currently limited. This would mean a switch to full fibre, or FTTP, and would virtually make VoIP the standard form of phone line in a great many situations.

Currently, VoIP is part of most business broadband packages, but the switch-off of copper broadband should help ensure that it has the internet speeds that will enable it to work more efficiently and effectively for more users across all parts of the UK.

For fibre network providers, this offers both an opportunity and a challenge.

On the one hand, it offers room for growth, on the other, it could mean consolidation for bigger operators such as Openreach, and end up crowding other, smaller competitors out of the marketplace.

An Alternative Approach to Telecoms Regulation

In connection to the transfer away from copper to FTTP, Ofcom has announced it will try out an alternative approach to telecoms regulation.

This approach focuses on Openreach’s new FTTP broadband exchange upgrade in Salisbury. It marks the first real-world testing of Openreach’s upgrade process, and is therefore likely to become the model for a full migration from copper broadband to fibre across the country.

Under current Ofcom regulations, Openreach must provide wholesale access to both standard and superfast broadband on its copper network. In Salisbury, Ofcom is changing these rules, so that Openreach will no longer have to provide access via copper services where it can offer full-fibre services as an alternative.

In effect, this is designed to speed up the process of transferring the local network from copper to FTTP. If it becomes the regulatory model for future transfers, it will have a considerable impact on the pace of change.

This, in turn, should enable more businesses to adopt VoIP, including its mobile variations.

The Fall in Landline Calls

According to Ofcom, in 2012, a total of 103 billion landline calls were made in the UK. In 2017, this had fallen to 54 billion.

This has had a huge impact on fixed line call revenues for operators, with far more people making use of mobile phones, internet messaging and VoIP services.

This change is accelerating with the increased spread of ultra-fast broadband, which will culminate in the wholesale replacement of old copper phone lines (see above). Ultimately, telecoms operators will end up offering broadband by default, and a voice service, via VoIP, will be optional.

The Increase in Streaming

Ofcom’s 2019 Media Nations Report indicates that the television, video, radio and audio sectors, streaming is growing at a rapid rate.

The number of UK households signing up to the most popular streaming platforms, such as Netflix, has risen from 39% to 47% in just a year.

What does this have to do with VoIP? Again, it reflects not just an ongoing demand, but an expectation that high-speed broadband should be the norm.

In these circumstances, VoIP then becomes the logical choice for a phone system.

Is the Switch to VoIP Rapid Enough?

According to Ofcom’s 2018 Communications Market Report, the UK had 33.1 million fixed landlines in 2017, and around 6.4 million of these belonged to businesses.

Furthermore, a significant number of businesses, around two million, still rely on ISDN (Integrated Service Digital Network) technology, even though it is effectively an outdated legacy system.

Why are businesses still using ISDN? Many rely at is as a backup phone system in the event of their main line failing. It is also the best some of them can get, until faster broadband is made available to them.

BT plans to switch off its ISDN network by 2025. Therefore, now is the time for businesses to explore alternatives, and whether they can switch to VoIP technology.

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