BT updates UK digital voice switchover plan after deadline extension

bt_digital_voice_alexa_handset
bt_digital_voice_alexa_handset

Telecoms and broadband giant BT (EE) has this morning announced a revision to its timetable for moving all customers from the old public switched telephone network (PSTN) to digital landlines (Digital Voice), which follows last week’s confirmation (here and here) that the deadline for migration had been extended from December 2025 to January 31, 2027.

BT’s consumer division officially restarted the migration process for certain customers in April 2024 (details below), which followed an industry-wide pause in December 2023 and the introduction of the government’s charter to protect vulnerable customers (here), particularly telehealth users. as they made the switch from analogue to digital landlines.

REMARK: Nearly 2 million people in the UK use vital telecare systems (e.g. elderly, disabled and vulnerable people), which are often incompatible with modern IP-based telephone services.

The new approach is designed to align more closely with Openreach’s national rollout of gigabit-capable broadband using Fiber optic to the site (FTTP) technology, which is expected to cover 25 million premises (over 80% of the UK) by the end of 2026, before increasing to 30 million by 2030 (nearly universal coverage).

According to today’s announcement, the newly 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 move from the old analogue PSTN by the end of January 2027.” To be clear, copper broadband and telephone services (IP-based telephones) will continue to be available in areas not covered by their FTTP network.

BT’s revised timetable for digital voice

In 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 – ​​which identifies vulnerable customers and detects emergency calls – has been signed with the local government or telehealth provider. Switch to a digital fixed line via full fiber optic, if available, initially on an opt-out basis.

By 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 broadband, including consumers with only landline telephony 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 service. [SOTAP for Analogue] 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 landlines in the same way as they do now, until a digital solution becomes available or until 2030, whichever comes first. 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 to test this temporary ‘pre-digital phone line’ product (free) so it can work with them to understand specific business use cases.

By 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.

Howard Watson, Chief Security and Networks Officer at 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 doing this safely and the work we do with our colleagues, local authorities, telehealth providers and key government organizations is critical. 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.”

In addition, BT’s Business team works with Critical national infrastructure (CNI) customers in sectors such as energy, water, transportation, healthcare and national security – moving them away from the PSTN towards more reliable, resilient and future-proof technology.

The operator added that they will also continue to provide additional support and services to customers who rely on their landline, which remains largely the same as before (see below). But at this point it is often wise for consumers in such a position to contact their provider and check their status as “vulnerable”customer is recognized, because it is not always easy for providers to do this.

BT’s support for vulnerable digital voice users

➤ Providing free battery backup units to customers with additional needs, such as those with 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.

➤ Offer customers a hybrid phone with eight hours of battery backup and enable 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 mid-2020, building additional resilience in our core network and delivering reliable connectivity to rural communities through the Shared Rural Network program.

➤ 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 with the switch, who will receive all information about the switch on the customer’s behalf. 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 property. If the telecare device does not work, the technician switches the customer back to an analog landline.


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