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Understanding SoGEA.

Ready for the PSTN switch off? Dave Hawkins, Head of Nasstar Channel talks through the benefits of SoGEA and how it helps businesses be prepared.

Let’s start. What’s SoGEA?

In really simple terms SoGEA is just FTTC that doesn’t require the PSTN.

The name breaks down into two parts.
SO is Single Order, meaning you don’t need to place a separate order for the copper or WLR service, and GEA is Generic Ethernet Access, which is just an industry term for FTTC.

You can use the same hardware in the property as FTTC, the speeds are the same at 40:10 and 80:20, there’s the same support and the same tests in our portal. You regrade it the same way as FTTC. 

So, if SoGEA is just a different flavour of FTTC, what’s all the fuss about? Why is SoGEA important?

As the Head of Nasstar Channel it pains me a little to say this, but by itself SoGEA isn’t really very important to the average person. To most people the interesting, sexy, fun part of broadband is what you can do with it. Broadband is an enabler, and the things it enables are amazing. 

Online shopping, global logistics, a phone call to someone miles away, or video calling someone you care about. This is what broadband enables and those are super important things. Those are the things that stop broadband being a dull and dry subject. 

SoGEA is a hot topic now because it’s a service that’s been introduced to support the PSTN switch-off. Openreach are withdrawing the PSTN, which is the existing fixed-line voice network used by wholesale operators like us to provide voice services. The PSTN’s getting a bit old and creaky and needs to be replaced. Current Broadband products rely on the PSTN to work, and when the PSTN goes they’re being retired. As you hopefully know; with traditional services you can’t have Broadband without Voice.

SoGEA becomes important because it fixes this problem, and it removes the requirement for that underlying voice service. You still need the copper in the ground between your premise and the cabinet, and you’ll have the fibre between the cabinet and the exchange but the analogue voice service, the PSTN, isn’t required.

So SoGEA’s importance is because it’ll keep working once the PSTN switch off completes. Are there any other benefits to SoGEA?

Spot on. It’s future proofing. That’s the big draw of SoGEA.

It’s also a little bit cheaper and also more expensive, and the same price. It’s true, as mad as it sounds, and it all depends on what you’re buying.

I’ll explain; let’s imagine you’ve got broadband and voice from Nasstar Channel. And why wouldn’t you, it’s great.

Let’s say you pay around forty pounds for it and that’s split twenty-five broadband and fifteen voice. What you might not know is the voice service is made of separate parts that are bundled together. You’re paying maybe a tenner for the copper, the PSTN, and a fiver for the calls element.

With SoGEA that’s shuffled around; you pay for the copper as part of the broadband. So, your Broadband is now about thirty-five pounds. Which, at first glance, is more expensive. But, and this is really important, if you don’t use your fixed line voice service, if you don’t use your landline, you’re saving money because you don’t have to pay for that calls element that you had to have with PSTN, you’re just paying for the data service. You see? More expensive and cheaper.

If you then add an IP voice service on top for say five pounds you’re back to paying the same amount. More expensive, cheaper, and the same price.

A key take-away here is that people don’t use landlines anymore, we use mobiles, and OTT voice services like Skype and Zoom. Between 2012 and 2017 in the UK, landline usage dropped by half, and it’s continued to decline. I talked about enablers earlier and for a lot of people the landline, that voice service, is an enabler for a broadband connection, and it’s just not needed or wanted anymore.

So, let’s recap; SoGEA’s benefit is that your broadband will keep working after the PSTN switch-off, and it might be a little bit cheaper if you don’t use a fixed line voice service. 

Those are the key points. SoGEA is very similar to FTTC. It might be a little cheaper for you, depending on your usage, and most importantly it’ll keep working after the PSTN switch off.

There’s one more important thing that we haven’t covered about SoGEA and that’s ancillary services. Because SoGEA doesn’t use the PSTN, anything that’s reliant on it like fax machines or point-of-sale devices may not work. You need to talk to suppliers and see what options are available for those devices.



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