Following successful pilots in Salisbury and Mildenhall in 2022 and beginning the first official parts of its action plan starting with the East Midlands in July, Yorkshire and the Humber in August, and Northern Ireland in September, UK telco BT has now revealed the next phase in its plans to evolve its national communications network by switching off the legacy Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) in December 2025 and rolling out its new home phone service, Digital Voice, to UK customers on a region-by-region basis.
Digital Voice will be a service underpinned by the Openreach full-fibre broadband network, and the new roll-out schedule forms part of an industry-wide shift backed by UK regulator Ofcom and the UK government as an important step towards future-proofing the UK’s connectivity.
To realise its plan to switch-off analogue services on a national basis – based on a decision by Openreach in 2019 that PSTN will reach the end of its life by 2025 – BT said it would need to transition more than 14 million traditional lines across the UK onto new digital services.
Following the decision to shut down the PSTN, it was agreed to test processes for migrating customers to fibre services and, ultimately, withdrawing legacy copper services and the wholesale line rental (WLR) products that rely on them.
The programme is intended to result in homes and businesses not being able to buy copper broadband if they are upgrading, regrading or switching telecoms provider, and instead will only be able to order fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP or full-fibre) broadband networks. Going forward, BT voice services will be an add-on to broadband, rather than a service in its own right.
BT expects to see the remaining regions and nations make the switch over the next year. Throughout the programme, BT will also be contacting some broadband customers in England, inviting them to switch their landline to Digital Voice in advance of local and regional campaigning in their area.
As it was making its move, BT said Digital Voice would have no impact on how BT customers use their home phone and will not cost any more than customers pay today. It added that customers would have the same service, and price plans and bills will stay the same.
Initially, BT will not be proactively switching anyone it has knowledge of falling under certain criteria, namely customers with a healthcare pendant, customers who only use landlines, customers with no mobile signal or customers who have disclosed any additional needs.
In addition, and attempting to allay fears of mass redundancy of existing analogue technology, BT assured more than 99% of phone handsets work with Digital Voice and for those that won’t, it had a range of handsets that customers could order.
“Through the work with our Digital Voice Advisory Group and our regional engagement, we’ve held 40 events, placed local radio and newspaper ads, and met over 4,000 customers in person,” said Lucy Baker, All-IP director at BT Consumer. “We understand that any change can be unsettling, and we’re here to support our customers every step of the way. First-hand experience shows that once people have the facts and have spoken to one of our advisors, they feel confident to make the switch.”
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