BT Group is refining its digital switchover program for Britain’s full fiber future

BT Group has announced a review of the timetable for moving all customers – consumers and businesses – from the public switched telephone network (PSTN) to digital landlines. This move follows the introduction of a series of improvements to the program to better protect vulnerable customers and those with additional needs, including telehealth users.

BT Group’s Consumer division has again started switching zero-use fixed-line customers who have a broadband connection to its Digital Voice fixed-line service. This follows an industry-wide pause and the introduction of the Government charter to protect vulnerable customersespecially telehealth users as they transition from analog to digital landlines.

BT Consumer customers (excluding landline-only customers, customers using telehealth or with additional needs) will be contacted and offered the opportunity to switch to a digital landline via full fiber broadband, where available . The move is in line with BT Group’s wider strategy to build and connect customers to its future-proof, full fiber broadband, which will be available to 25 million locations by the end of 2026.

BT Business is urging all its customers to take early action and work with the company before making the switch, especially where it may be necessary to test existing equipment or upgrade to new equipment to ensure compatibility with a digital line.

The revised approach will result in a single switch for the majority of customers (businesses and consumers) – from copper to fiber – with all customers now expected to switch from the old analogue PSTN by the end of January 2027.

Howard Watson, Chief Security and Networks Officer, BT Group, said: “The urgency to transition customers to digital services is growing every day as the 40-year-old analogue fixed-line technology becomes increasingly vulnerable. It is critical to manage customer migrations from analog to digital as quickly and smoothly as possible, while making the necessary accommodations for customers with additional needs, including telehealth users.

“Our priority remains to do this safely and the work we do with our colleagues, local authorities, telehealth providers and key government organizations is vital. But more needs to be done and we need all local authorities and telehealth providers to share with us the phone lines where they know there is a telehealth user.”

The digital transition requires collaboration between a large number of sectors and organizations

During the voluntary break, the company has continued to raise awareness of the digital switchover in Britain, by region, by hosting hundreds of events across the country and meeting thousands of its customers in person.

In January, BT Consumer led the formation of the Telecare Action Board (TAB), which brought together around 30 organizations from government, telecoms and telecare industries, industry bodies, local authorities and regulatory stakeholders to identify and target telecare users and those with additional care needs. to protect. needs before switching to digital.

Coming together was the first step, working together was the second. The entire industry must act now to reach customers in the spirit of the Charter, and provide the transparency that is crucial to the success of this programme. To date, only around a quarter of local authorities and telehealth providers have disclosed which telephone lines have telehealth equipment connected to them; it is now imperative that all these organizations do the same, so that these customers receive the right support at the right time.

A gradual approach to switching

April 2024BT Consumer has resumed non-voluntary migrations for customers who have not used their landline in the last 12 months, do not identify as vulnerable or have additional needs, have not contacted an Alarm Receiving Center (ARC) in the last 24 months and live in an area where a data sharing agreement is in place with the local government or telehealth provider, which identifies vulnerable customers and detects emergency calls. Transfer them to a digital landline via full fiber optic, if available, initially on an opt-out basis.

From summer 2024BT Consumer will ramp up involuntary migrations for customers who do not identify as vulnerable or have additional needs, in areas where data sharing agreements have been signed with the local government or telehealth provider.

For customers who do not use broadbandwhich includes consumer customers with fixed telephony only and business customers with specialized connectivity requirements, including some alarm, lift and emergency lines, ATMs and payment terminals, the company is working on a temporary, dedicated fixed line service1 designed to keep these customers connected while removing them from the analog PSTN.

New equipment will be installed in local telephone exchanges to allow consumers and business customers who do not have broadband to use their landline in the same way as they do now, until a digital solution becomes available or until 2030, whichever comes sooner. Testing has already begun with a nationwide rollout for eligible customers expected this fall.

BT Business is urging all its business and public sector customers to do so register their interest in testing this temporary ‘pre-digital phone line’ product so it can work with them to understand specific business use cases.

From spring 2025BT Consumer will contact customers who identify as vulnerable or have additional needs about the switch in areas where data sharing agreements with local authorities or telehealth companies exist and at-home support for telecare users is available.

All customers will be contacted at least four weeks in advance before switching to ensure they are ready to switch to a digital landline. Technical arrangements will be made prior to the switch and additional support will be provided on the day to ensure customers leave with a working telecare device.

Support companies

The company is asking business customers, large and small, to act now and move to fully digital networks, to future-proof their operations and reap the benefits of being a digital business.

Business customers are encouraged to review their technology footprint and identify what is still connected to the PSTN. BT Business has a team of experts to support it, and any business can do that test their equipment for free at its R&D testing center at Adastral Park in Suffolk. Where possible, they should then move on from existing equipment to an All-IP alternative.

BT’s Business team is also working with Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) customers in sectors including energy, water, transport, healthcare and national security – to seamlessly move them away from the PSTN to more reliable, resilient and future-proof technology.

Towards Britain’s full fiber future

For both consumer and business customers, this one-off UK upgrade will ensure everyone stays reliably connected now and into the future. The future of full fiber in Britain is a national mission, and BT Group is committed to supporting its customers every step of the way.

ENDS

Notes for editors

Ongoing support for customers

The company will continue to enforce its strict policies to protect telehealth users and vulnerable customers when notified of their status, and will continue to provide resilient solutions to customers who rely on their landline. These include:

  • Providing free battery backup units to customers with additional needs, such as those on a health pendant, over 70 years of age or without mobile coverage. Battery backup units enable calls in the event of a power outage and later this year we will launch an advanced battery backup unit that will survive most power outages, with a battery life that meets the minimum Ofcom requirements far exceeded.
  • Offering customers a hybrid phone with eight hours of battery backup and enabling calling over the mobile network in the event of a power outage.
  • Continued investment in our industry-leading 4G network, which is on track to cover 90% of Britain’s geographic landmass by the mid-2020s, building additional resilience in our core network and providing reliable connectivity to rural communities through the Shared Rural Network programme.
  • Technical arrangements for all customers who identify as vulnerable and have additional needs, with the option to nominate a family member, friend or carer to help them through the switch, who will receive all information about the switch on behalf of the customer. Vulnerable customers will automatically receive the equipment they need and will only be replaced after they have spoken to an advisor and made an appointment.
  • Home support for telecare users, known as ‘Prove IP Telecare’, launching in spring next year, where an Openreach engineer will support a customer in switching from an analogue to digital landline and ensure the telecare device is working before leaving the building. If the telecare device does not work, the technician switches the customer back to an analog landline.

BT Consumer will not move any of its customers known to be vulnerable or have additional needs until spring 2025 at the earliest, once the necessary data sharing agreements with local authorities or telehealth companies have been put in place and support at home is possible for telecare users. available.


1 The dedicated landline service is not compatible with broadband and allows customers without broadband to stay connected.

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