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Feeling secure - December 2018

13 December 2018

As part of a global transformation of telephony services, the UK is undergoing a transformation from an analogue to ‘ALL IP’ platform across the UK, says David Wilkinson.

BT has announced its plans to transition to an ALL IP digital platform over the coming years and expects to complete the change by 2025. In particular BT has been seeking a way to identify its consumers who have a ‘special service’ (such as an alarm or telecare service) operating within their premises, as this may be impacted by the change to ALL IP.

The security and fire industry still has a significant number of customers that rely on analogue phone lines to provide voltage and dial tone to connected alarm devices and this configuration will change with the transition to an ALL IP digital platform.

BT envisages that security service providers will cease buying analogue equipment in the near future, and that they will move to more compatible solutions that are designed to communicate digitally. With the recent announcement of the opening of BT’s digital services lab at their R&D centre, alarm providers (installers and manufacturers) are now able to test both their existing and any new ‘ALL IP’ systems.

BT is keen to work with BSIA and the wider security and fire industry to protect consumers during this transition, by ensuring that those who rely on their current analogue alarm devices move to the new digital phone service in a controlled way, to ensure that alarm services continue to perform their critical role.

Antoine de la Gardette, who heads up the engagement team for BT said, “It’s really important that we get the message of the switchover out to the industry as quickly and as widely as possible. It’s a massive programme of change, bigger than the switch over from analogue TV to digital TV, and we want to make sure nobody is left vulnerable when the analogue systems stop working.”

BT has asked BSIA to contact all of our members, firstly to convey their desire to help with testing of alarm equipment at the BT Labs and secondly to request that alarm receiving centres (ARCs) provide information to help to manage the transition, namely the inbound telephone numbers they use to receive alarm signals. BT will then be able to use this information confidentially, to mark BT’s customer accounts to show that they may have a ‘Special Service’, such as alarm system, and to make sure that these customers are then advised by BT to contact their alarm service provider before making a change.

It is important to emphasise BT is only asking for the phone numbers that alarm devices dial into (ARC receiver numbers) and not those of service users. These ARC numbers will likely appear on BT customers’ accounts and can be used to alert those customers to the need for further checks. Any information that is given to BT will not be used for any other purpose and would be protected and 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 be 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 voice band 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.

The BSIA welcome these very supportive steps from BT, and we recognise their desire for alarm 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 your ARC receiver numbers to BT Consumer or if you have any queries on these issues please contact us by email to technical@bsia.co.uk  or by calling 01905 342020. If you wish to contract BT Consumer directly please contact btdigitalvoice@bt.com  

If you wish to arrange a testing of your signalling equipment (communication using the PSTN) you can contact them on https://www.btplc.com/DigitalServicesLab/index.htm

David Wilkinson is director of technical services at BSIA. For more information, visit www.bsia.co.uk