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Over the next few years, landline telephone services will switch to a fully digital network. This means phone calls will be carried over the internet.

Why are landlines being switched to digital?

Phone companies intend to withdraw the existing analogue telephone system called the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) by 2025. The PSTN is an aging network that is becoming harder and more expensive to maintain. 

The withdrawal of the PSTN is industry-led. Decisions on migrating customers are made by the companies that operate and provide services on the network (for example, BT and Virgin Media).

BT’s new home phone service for digital calls is called Digital Voice.

What will be the impact on consumers?

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom expects that most customers will see minimal disruption. Only a very low broadband speed is required to support voice calls.

Some customers may need more support from their phone service provider. For example, customers with only a landline service may require a phone adaptor to make calls compatible. 

Industry providers have highlighted benefits to consumers of the switch to digital such as improved call quality and cheaper calls abroad.

Ofcom has published expectations for how telecoms companies should support customers during the migration. Ofcom also publishes guidance for treating vulnerable customers fairly

Ofcom’s website provides frequently asked questions about upgrading landlines to digital technology.

What about during a power cut?

Unlike traditional landlines, digital phone lines will not work in a power cut without a backup power source. Ofcom requires providers to take measures to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency services including during a power cut. This could include, for example, a battery supply or mobile phone.

Concerns have been raised about the digital switchover following lengthy power cuts after storms in late 2021 left customers without access to emergency calls, particularly in areas with poor mobile signal.

Following these concerns, in March 2022, BT announced that it was pausing its Digital Voice roll-out for customers that did not want to switch straight away while it worked on a more resilient programme.

What has the Government said?

The Government says that the decision to switch to digital-only services is made and led by industry. The Government says it is working with Ofcom to ensure that consumers and sectors are protected and prepared for the switch.


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