WLR Stop Sell, time flies…

Posted on: 19th September 2023, by Magrathea

When BT announced in 2017 that they planned to close down the PSTN, with a stop sell date of 2023 and a final withdrawal date of 2025, these deadlines seemed a lifetime away, ‘plenty of time to prepare ourselves and they’ll probably push the date out anyway’ I can remember was quietly muttered by plenty around the industry.


Little did we know we were in for quite the wild ride over the next few years with more than one or two distractions from readying the industry for the deadline!


GDPR day in 2018 kept everyone fairly busy, 2019 was peppered with the distractions of the Brexit negotiations, and then Covid…. – no need to rehash our collective memories of that era but safe to say that those of us in the communications industry had plenty of challenges to distract us from preparing for the seismic shift that the PSTN switch off would bring us.


2022 saw the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia and then the celebrations for the late Queens 70th Jubilee and then sadly her death later in the year send us all a bit topsy turvy while we navigated our way through the period of National mourning – the figures around the impact of productivity on the UKs economy vary wildly depending on which publication you are reading but what is true is that whether you had an office full of Royalists or not, it was certainly a slow couple of months while we got our heads around the change and then caught up with ourselves!


And of course, who could forget the uniquely turbulent period for government that led to no less than four different prime ministers and all the economic instability that comes along with such uncertainty and drama.


During this time, Ofcom have kept the consultations rolling to keep us all busy. There have been major industry changes implemented or considered starting with the ‘future of numbers’ in 2019.  Implementing the EECC in 2020 led to the massive task of introducing One Touch Switching and the Wholesale Voice Market Review, also in 2020, shaped how carrier networks evolved in this current landscape.  The introduction of origin based surcharging, greater restrictions to the use of CLI and the crackdown on nuisance and scam calls in more recent months all have contributed to the extremely busy and challenging times we have endured.


None of this is meant to excuse for a lack of readiness for stop sell, there is no ‘dog ate my homework’ going on here, we have been quietly working in the background with our WLR customers and readying our wholesale solution for fibre connectivity as well as working hard on our core telecommunications network to establish a full IP framework in preparation for the removal of TDM.


Back when the PSTN switch off was originally announced there were over 16 million WLR lines, rumour has it that there are still over 10 million lines still live, so with stop sell now active and the withdrawal looming, there is still lots of work to be done.


BT are holding firm that their deadline of December 2025 is still on course and the PSTN network will begin to be shut down. Through our work with CCUK, we continue to lobby for improved communications and have recently become supporters of the Fit2Switch campaign.  We continue to push for a government led awareness campaign however, as we feel the communication of this change to end users leaves many in the dark – especially smaller businesses customers and vulnerable and elderly residential customers we can foresee being left behind with this.