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Be Prepared for an Emergency: Why New Broadband Means You Need a UPS for Your Phone

Published by Lee Kelly on 25 November 2019

Great news for Internet users! Openreach, the UK’s leading digital infrastructure provider, is installing new technology that will give everyone super-fast broadband. However, the technology behind Full Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) means that in the event of a power cut, you might not be able to make telephone calls. That includes emergency calls. A backup power supply, also known as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), will provide a solution. You’ll be able to make calls from your landline even when there is a power outage.

What is Full Fibre to the Premises (FTTP)?

FFTP is a new network that will provide homes and businesses with better broadband connections. FTTP is currently being implemented across the UK by Openreach, the company that works on behalf of communications providers to build and maintain the UK’s digital network.

Openreach is currently rolling out the technology for FTTP, and if it’s not available to you now, it should be in place in the next 10 to 15 years. But, there’s a problem. The technology behind FTTP involves getting rid of the copper wires associated with existing networks. As a result, it may not be possible to make phone calls from a landline in the event of a power cut, unless you have a suitable UPS in place. Not being able to use their phone could put users in a life-threatening situation.

The Difference Between Copper Wires and Fibre Optics

At the moment, properties in the UK with a fibre package from a communications provider are probably connected via Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC). This hybrid-fibre solution uses both powerful fibre optic cables and copper wires to connect a house to the exchange. The fibre optic cables bring the fibre to the street cabinets, and then copper wires deliver it to the home’s front door.

Copper wires are older, slower and less reliable than fibre optic cables. With FFTP, there will be no copper wires, only pure fibre optic cables, which will make using the internet a better experience for the entire family. But optical fibres cannot conduct electricity in the way that traditional copper lines can, and landlines need copper lines in order to work.

Critical Power Supplies - Fibre broadband incoming connections box.

During the rollout of nationwide coverage of FTTP, Openreach will physically retire, or switch-off, the old copper network. Although the completed rollout could be more than 10 years away, the technology could come to you much sooner, and people who rely on a landline to make phone calls will need to be prepared. They need to know that, should there be a power outage, they won’t be able to make calls from their landline without a UPS to provide them with backup power.

The UK’s Future With FTTP (Fibre To The Property)

Openreach says households can expect better performance, more impressive speeds, fewer drop-outs, and five-times fewer faults than the old copper connections.

Research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has shown that Full Fibre could:

  • Boost labour productivity by nearly £59 billion by 2025.
  • Enable half a million more people to access employment.
  • Facilitate 400,000 more people to be able to work remotely from home.

With more people working remotely, such as carers, older workers and parents, pressures on transport and housing in cities will be reduced.

Kate Milligan, Openreach MD for Customer has said that the new network will place the UK at the forefront of the global digital race, and provide a major boost to the UK economy. It will be the fastest, most reliable broadband there is and will set us up for future-proof connectivity. Households will benefit from ultrafast downloads, lag-free gaming, and less buffering on music or video even when different members of the family are using multiple devices.

Openreach has already connected millions of homes and businesses, and they are currently adding millions more, so eventually, the whole of the UK will have FTTP.

The Future of Telephone Calls

There’s another problem associated with making calls from a landline in the future.

The country’s traditional telephone network is known as the Public Switched Telephone Network or PSTN, and it’s reaching the end of its life. The PSTN has been in place for many decades, and generally includes copper wires and equipment dedicated to supporting call services.

Alternatives to the PSTN include modern internet protocol (IP) based networks and a newer, digital technology known as ‘voice over internet protocol (VoIP). VoIP uses a broadband connection to make calls and relies on the supply of local power to the broadband modem in order to work. VoIP-based technology will not function in a power cut.

It’s a good job, we have mobile phones, right? But a person without a mobile phone and a good network connection – i.e. a person who depends on their landline – could be in trouble in the event of a power outage. Ofcom’s research suggests that 4% of UK adults live in a home with a landline and no mobile phone. Further, although there has been a steady increase in the take-up of fixed broadband, 3% of households have only a landline, without broadband.

The Solution

A small backup power supply unit, or UPS, will keep a router and fibre connection box going for around an hour or more. The majority of power cuts are short, so an hour of backup will be enough protection for most households. You’ll be able to make phone calls and maintain an internet connection. These UPSs are small, light, easy to buy and install, and can be recycled. Critical Power Supplies can advise you on the right UPS for your situation.

Conclusion

Full Fibre broadband is an exciting prospect for homes and businesses throughout the UK, and some will already be enjoying the benefits of faster, more efficient broadband. However, optical fibre is unable to supply electrical power from the local exchange to customer premises in the same way that traditional copper wires are able to. When the old copper line networks are switched off, in the event of a power cut, individuals will be unable to use their landline phone.

A UPS will solve the problem by keeping the fibre live until the power returns or for long enough to make essential calls. In the event of a power outage, households will be able to make calls as normal. That means you can rest easily, knowing that you will be able to access critical services, emergency services and key contacts whatever happens to your electricity supply.