Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review – Are your fire and security systems ready for all-IP?

The Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review highlighted that the existing UK analogue Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) was no longer capable of supporting the telecoms infrastructure required for the growing connectivity needs of consumers and businesses.

At the time of the Government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review in 2018, only 4% of the UK had ‘full fibre’ (fibre to the premises) compared with over 90% in the likes of Japan and South Korea.

Openreach has since issued its formal ‘stop sell’ notification advising the communications industry that PSTN services will no longer be sold nationally after September 2023 and closure of all PSTN lines by 2025, replacing it with a fully digital network that carries data using Internet Protocol (IP).

Migration to the IP Network has already began. The programme will be extensively rolled out this year and as early as June 2021 there will be no further new connections available to the PSTN phone network in some areas.

In addition, the Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN) and the 3G mobile network will also be phased out during this period, so any communications systems which operate on these networks will need to be replaced or upgraded.

What is the impact on fire and security systems?

There are approximately 800,000 systems in the UK which require a digital communicator to transfer calls/data via the PSTN to an alarm receiving centre. Many of these are used for fire and security systems, but can also include the likes of Building Management Systems, Lift Alarms, Nurse Call systems etc.

Openreach will continue to support analogue ‘Special Services’ (which includes intruder and fire alarm signalling systems) until 2025, but beyond this, if intruder and/or fire systems are using the PTSN to signal to an Alarm Receiving Centre, it will no longer be able to operate on the digital network.

Communication providers will be migrating customers between now and 2025, possibly earlier in those areas where a ‘stop sell’ of PSTN services has been announced.

If a CCTV system is remotely monitored, it is likely that it uses an ISDN line to transmit data to the Alarm Receiving Centre. ISDN is being replaced with Session Internet Protocol (SIP).

Next steps

In the first instance we recommend business owners  contact their security and/or fire alarm system installers who will be able to advise on the options available. Their equipment may need to be tested to ensure it is compatible with the digital network.

If they need to change to a new IP signalling system, there are a number of new products which have been developed by signalling providers specifically for the digital switch-over.

How will this affect insurance?

New standards have been published to reflect the changes in alarm transmission signalling systems and it is important that any changes to existing signalling systems maintain the equivalent Grading to what has previously been agreed.

This new technology also gives an opportunity to upgrade and improve on existing signalling systems.

The following table gives a comparison between the previous standard EN50136 – 1998 and the new standard EN50136 2018 for fault reporting times on the primary signalling path:

EN50136Grade 2Grade 3Grade 4
(1998)25 hrs30 mins3 mins
EN50136DP1DP2DP2+DP3DP4
(2018)25 hrs30 mins10 mins3mins90 secs

Advice from Industry

NMU is working closely with alarm signalling providers in the UK to ensure we remain updated on the progress of these changes and how they will affect our policyholders. CSL and BT have provided the following statements:

Andy Fyvie, Head of European Customer Development, CSL

“CSL is working proactively with Fire & Security Installers to ensure they are upgrading their systems ahead of time to ensure they are always connected and that no systems fail due to the All IP Project. It is vital that the industry works together to ensure end-users continue to get the professional service they deserve.”

Neil Richards, Regional Sales Manager, BT Fire & Security

“Given the significant number of devices that will need to be upgraded over the next 4 years, it’s important that customers speak to their alarm services provider to see how the switchover to the new digital phone service will affect their alarm signalling.

“If action is required, this gives them time to choose a suitable signalling solution that keeps them protected beyond 2025.

“BT Redcare have a new range of Next Generation products that have been designed based on feedback from ARC’s, Installers and Insurers to cover all risk profiles, meeting the requirements of the signalling market as it changes over the coming years.”

Contact Us

For more information or support relating to these changes, please contact our Risk Control team.

NMU warns of a critical risk coming down the line for many businesses


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