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Are you prepared for digital Telecare and Technology Enabled Care (TEC)?

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The UK’s phone/telecoms infrastructure is changing, by 2025 telecom companies such as BT will have switched off their analogue telephone network and transferred all their customers to digital phone lines. What does this mean for housing providers with telecare services?

 

Many organisations are aware of the impact that the analogue switch-off will have on the reliability of their existing telecare services, and so are planning to move to digital services. The ongoing move to a digital telecoms network means that devices that are analogue and communicate using the PSTN network are likely to be affected by First Time Call Failures (FTCF).

 

How Appello can help

We hope that you will already be aware of these changes, we have run many sessions with the support of telecom providers updating the industry on these changes, we know many of you will have been in attendance.

 

Furthermore, we have been at the forefront of digital telecare for over 5 years. We developed our own digital monitoring platform, CareNet a decade ago to ensure we were best placed to support our customers as this transition took place, and in 2017 launched the UK’s first fully digital telecare offering, Smart Living Solutions. We have further expanded this to a range of SmartTEC devices in 2022 with the additions of SmartConnect and SmartLife, creating a suite of hardwired and dispersed alarm solutions designed for the digital network.

 

These solutions mean that whether you are looking to commence on a digital transformation journey to improve service and meet changing customer expectations, or focussing on maintaining a safe emergency connection, without building disruption we are able to assist.

 

What is a first-time call failure?

In an emergency approximately 1 in 10 calls from analogue telecare equipment are impacted by the digital upgrade of the UK’s telecoms network. This can vary depending on the device and there is growing evidence of certain protocols receiving a higher propensity of FTCF’s.

 

The Telecare Service Association (TSA) cites that providers are seeing a failure rate of 11.5% and rising, and as a result Ofcom and telecoms providers are advising on a move to digital telecare equipment as soon as possible.

 

In a Telecare or Technology Enabled Care (TEC) environment, a call failure can occur in many forms from a complete failed connection to a call with extensive distortion on the line. The impact at worst will result in multiple attempts to reconnect costing valuable minutes in an emergency, at best it could be distortion impacting the ability for the operator and service users to converse and relay important information.

 

Unfortunately, their occurrence is completely out of the control of Appello or any other monitoring centre. In fact, when a call reaches a monitoring centre there is no way to know if it had previously failed prior to receipt. This can only be identified by further analysis following the call.

 

Why has this started to happen?

The UK telecoms network is operated by multiple service providers including BT and Virgin. Due to continued adoption of the internet and its capabilities expanding in the last decade, the requirement for our old analogue Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) has reduced. It has become expensive to maintain, and there is a shortage of workers with the skills to undertake this maintenance.

 

As a result, telecoms providers have been working on upgrading the network to a digital Internet Protocol (IP) network, similar to the change made to terrestrial TV broadcasting at the turn of the century. This is a significant project, and work is well underway all across the country with c300 ‘stop sells’ for analogue line being in place as of April 2022 and this will continue to progress until 2025 at the latest. The impact is already taking affect now though.

 

Call failures occur largely because all parts of the journey from the equipment in the home through to the operator in the monitoring centre, are not speaking the same language. When a telecare call leaves the users home, it travels across many different parts of the telecoms networks in the UK that form the PSTN until it reaches the monitoring centre. It doesn’t matter if that monitoring centre is in the next street it could still travel across multiple networks all over the country finding the quickest and most cost-effective route at that specific time. As a result, there is an increasingly significant chance that an analogue call will touch an upgraded digital part of the network.

 

What makes a call fail?

Older telecare equipment is sending over the network a packet of information in its analogue language, which is comprised of a series of tones and inter-digit pauses, all specifically timed and spaced out. If the packet runs into a digital part of the network, problems are likely to arise. The digital part of the network can misread the tones and pauses which only have a tolerance of 30-150milliseconds, and this results in a failed call.

 

By interpreting any tone or pause longer/shorter than the tolerance leads to the message becoming incorrect. Depending on how badly the packet is misread, will depend on the extent to which the call is either a distorted line or a need to restart the call and ultimately delay the emergency response.

 

Next steps

If you would like to understand more on how the digital upgrade impacts services, and how Appello can support you, please arrange a free consultation by contacting iain.hockings@appello.co.uk

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