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What Does the Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) Withdrawal Mean for Your Business?

The wholesale line rental (WLR) withdrawal comes after the planned PSTN and ISDN removal in 2023. With the scheduled PSTN switch-off and inevitable ISDN switch-off, there is another withdrawal you need to be aware of. What does this mean for your business? We delve into the news surrounding the future of VoIP and other business telephone options.

Key Takeaway

The Wholesale Line Rental, or WLR, withdrawal means that the WLR products used by residents and businesses may no longer be accessible by the end of 2025. The WLR Withdrawal will significantly disrupt communications coverage for businesses and households without alternative communications plans by 2025.

What Is Wholesale Line Rental?

Wholesale Line Rental uses copper phone lines on the Openreach network. It’s an Openreach product operating on the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). WLR enables competitors to rent incumbents’ lines at wholesale rates and sell consumers retail subscriptions integrated into a single bill that includes both line rental and call charges. Subscribers can be acquired this way even if the provider does not have an access network. This service eliminates network asset maintenance and operation and its associated stresses.

WLR Products

  •   WLR3 ISDN2 (Integrated Services Digital Network)
  •   WLR3 ISDN30
  •   WLR3 analogue
  •   LLU SMPF (Local Loop Unbundling for Shared Metallic Path Facility)
  •   SLU (Sub Loop Unbundling) SMPF
  •   Narrowband Line Share
  •   Classic products

WLR products allow residents and businesses to communicate using analogue and broadband technologies. Upon the closure of the PSTN, these services will no longer be available.

What Is WLR Withdrawal?

In 2017, BT Group announced that it would shut down the PSTN by 2025. Since WLR relies on the PSTN, Openreach will no longer provide WLR services in 2025 in favour of new internet-based services like SOGEA (Single Order Generic Ethernet Access), SOGfast and FTTP (Fibre to the Premises).

Withdrawal of WLR services means the copper phone line services will end in 2025. Openreach across the country will withdraw more than 16 million copper phone lines. At the end of 2025, a significant portion of the phone lines will no longer be functional without replacements.

Although PSTN services have been utilised for decades, the technology is ageing and costs more to operate and maintain. The WLR withdrawal is expected to cause significant disruptions for businesses and households that did not implement an alternative by the end of 2025.

Openreach is updating its copper infrastructure, replacing it with cutting-edge VoIP and hosted services. Aside from being costly to maintain, copper lines offer a poorer level of reliability compared to broadband and fibre-optic connections.

The sale of new WLR products in the UK will cease in September 2023. As part of its modernisation strategy, Openreach plans to invest more heavily in modern technology, thus building fibre networks and ensuring network resilience throughout the country.

As part of the preparations for the digital upgrade, analogue line sales will cease nationwide in September 2023. This means that in areas where Openreach is installing FTTP, they may stop selling WLR.

What Impact Will the WLR Withdrawal Have on Businesses?

WLR withdrawal started in earnest in 2021. Between 2021 and 2025, there are several key dates to keep in mind:

May 2021: Mildenhall stopped selling WLR + Openreach began testing SOTAP (Single Order Transitional Access Product)

September 2023: No new supply of WLR will be sold

April 2025: Phase of orphaned assets

December 2025: Withdrawal of WLR, end of PSTN service

This timeline will be updated over the coming years, and the information is also subject to change.

In most cases, the most significant impact of WLR withdrawal and the big switch-off will be the migration of businesses’ phone services. With the WLR withdrawal, users of traditional voice services must migrate to SIP and IP voice services soon. Otherwise, they cannot receive any PSTN-based services or use their phones.

Companies may not realise, however, that the WLR withdrawal will affect more than just voice lines. Many businesses, especially smaller ones, continue to use analogue telephone lines for other services, which must also be migrated before 2025. A point-of-sale machine, for example, is crucial for small businesses. Some companies still rely on analogue phone lines to handle credit card transactions and collect payments. It is, therefore, necessary to upgrade them if firms want to continue doing so. In response, some firms are implementing IP-based systems. However, for those who have not modernised their technology, time is running out for them to switch to more advanced technology.

Despite seeming like a couple of years away, WRL Withdrawal is fast approaching. Being prepared and future-proofing your business is essential to prepare for withdrawal. You don’t want your business without a reliable phone line.

As traditional phone lines transition to digital services, consider an alternative suitable for your business. Alternatives to conventional phone lines exist for businesses. Besides acting as alternatives to traditional phone lines, they can be more useful, improving productivity. Examples include:

4G and 5G: You can communicate primarily through your mobile phone instead of a landline.

Session Initiation Protocol: SIP allows users to send and receive media files.

SOGEA: Broadband internet access is available wirelessly.

Voice over Internet Protocol: The VoIP technology allows users to place and receive phone calls online.

The VoIP technology allows users to place and receive phone calls online.

Landlines, as well as wholesale line rental services, have long been essential to businesses. Copper wiring is, however, reaching the end of its lifecycle and needs to be replaced by 2025. With a proactive assessment of future voice and data needs, companies can ensure that they are ahead of the game and equipped with modern telecommunications systems before eliminating wholesale line rental services.

How Can Businesses Prepare for the BT Wholesale Line Rental Withdrawal?

In preparation for WLR withdrawal, businesses and homes must switch to digital phone services to remain connected and avoid significant service disruptions.

While preparing for the WLR withdrawal, business continuity planning can be challenging. Your business will benefit from IP systems in the long run, but it may be overwhelming initially.

At Phone Numbers Store, we would be more than happy to guide you on how the WLR withdrawal will affect your phone service and find the best solution. Call us today to learn more.