A successful Golden Triennium (2023-2025) will depend on how efficiently and quickly the channel migrates customers to all-IP ahead of the 2025 PSTN switch off. And to help catalyse action on this critical issue, Zen Internet’s Voice & UC Portfolio Manager Lee Houston (Comms Vision Platinum sponsor) looks at the scale and complexity of the task and offers solutions for a successful migration plan.
As an industry we have been talking about the end of PSTN since it was first announced and we had seven years to migrate 16 million WLR lines. The scale of the task had many speculating that it would never happen, or that it would be hampered by significant delays. We achieved four million migrations in those first five years, leaving us with 12 million for the coming three. That translates to migrating a service every eight seconds! Even for a smaller player with 1,000 services, that would mean migrating one service every working day between now and end of life.
Yet here we are at very different stages of the migration process and with no cross-industry approach to reference. Many in the channel have yet to formulate a cohesive plan, and more again have not actively engaged with their customer base. We have a duty to our customers to get this right, to ensure they are equipped with the information they need as well as the products and services that will best suit their requirements.
We have a duty to our customers to get this right, to ensure they are equipped with the information they need as well as the products and services that will best suit their requirements
On a positive note, there has been a significant reduction in the new installation of ISDN services, but what we are yet to see at the scale required to meet the 2025 switch off deadline is enough services being migrated.
Planning the transition
We know what we have to do, and that is to migrate millions of customers to new products and services within the next one to three (absolute deadline) years. But what do we migrate them to? How do we pick the right product for the right customer? And what are the challenges we need to consider? Many in the channel have been supplying IP-based telephony solutions such as unified communications systems for some time now. However, a particular concern is the small business or SME market, which predominantly resides on PSTN. In the current cost of living climate making connectivity changes will not be a priority for them – they will be getting by just fine with what they have.
Without the right approach, these customers run the risk of being left behind. Our industry must offer strategic counsel and build awareness levels that will help future proof a business using suitably designed connectivity solutions. Essentially, we need to make sure all of our WLR customers transfer to the next generation of products, and we need to get moving on it as a top priority. Once in a stop-sell exchange any premise move, provider switch, or new line installations will no longer be possible on the older technology. A customer will only be able to take either FTTP or SoGEA.
At Zen, we are already encountering customers wishing to add to their telephony capacity in stop-sell locations. We are working with them to find newer solutions that will best meet their needs. Everyone should be proactively cross referencing their installed base against the Openreach stop-sell list. This will equip your business with the insights to lead on a proactive approach and mitigate the risk of customers not being able to make agile changes to existing solutions.
A fibre first approach
Now is the time, if you haven’t already done so, to analyse your base and identify customers that are already FTTP enabled. Put simply, if FTTP is available at a customer premise, then prioritise these migrations. While doing so, consider the service overlays you can offer with the added benefit of this extra bandwidth. Package up the benefits in layman’s terms for your customer to really understand the future proof technology now available to them. This needs to become always on activity. As soon as another customer becomes FTTP enabled, start the migration.
We need to make sure all of our WLR customers transfer to the next generation of products, and we need to get moving on it as a top priority
The stop-sell works at an address level: If an address can get FTTP then that will be all that is available to them. In some locations (circa two million premises at the time of writing) FTTP will very soon be the only option. By May 2023 there will be 580-plus exchanges FTTP enabled, giving our industry plenty to go after. What about customers that are not FTTP enabled? That is where SoGEA comes in, doing a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to getting customers onto all-IP technology. If your customer will be FTTP enabled in as little as three months then plan that migration now, but don’t move them to SoGEA in the first instance or you will have a double migration in quick succession, impacting your costs and resource while also disrupting your customer base.
Identify those customers in your installed base that can only move to SoGEA for the foreseeable. At Zen this customer type comes under our Managed Migrations umbrella. Start looking at your portfolio of products that can accommodate their needs while also considering your migration timeline. Here the customer insight piece will be crucial to your migration plan.
Engaging your customer base
You will encounter customers with complex and intricate solutions, which require time and a great deal of thought on the best approach to migrating them to a future proof solution. Trying to do this in a short space of time with a pending switch off/loss of service puts your customers at greater risk. This is why we must engage early to allow enough time for the transition. And that is why you must formulate your plan with a key focus on reducing costs, maintaining revenue streams and reducing churn.
One of the biggest threats with this programme is churn, particularly for channel partners who have split services. There is no coordinated industry approach to marketing the change and therefore individual providers need to be educating their installed base on the upcoming changes. Having those conversations with your installed base to demonstrate the future technology available has become an urgent matter. Because mark my words, if you’re not talking to your customers about this already, someone else will be.
This should also help with the planning process and building an understanding of your customers’ requirements: What products are they on? What products do they need to move to? And what insight is your frontline gathering? Armed with this information it is time to compile your migration matrix. This will also involve a portfolio review so you can identify gaps: Do you already have future proof products you can move your customers to? If not, what do you need to do to bring them into your portfolio? How will you package them up for differing requirements? Can you generate up-sell and cross-sell opportunities to your existing base while doing so?
Things will go wrong along the way. We keep hearing about the land grab opportunities full fibre presents, but we must acknowledge the scale and complexity of the task at hand. At Zen we firmly believe that people, processes and systems which are all underpinned by an exceptional customer experience will be key to success.
It takes Vision to be a leader
Comms Vision is the leading annual leadership forum for CEO, MD and CTO delegates making up the major league of the UK reseller community. Places are limited and by invitation: If you would like to join us this year, please register your interest to attend at www.commsvision.com