BT postpones the deadline for switching off the digital landline

BT has extended the deadline for migrating customers from its copper-based Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to digital landlines to give vulnerable people, including telehealth users, more time to move.

The state’s former telecom monopoly had planned to switch customers to internet-based services at the end of next year, but says it will now switch businesses and consumers from the analogue system by the end of 2027.

BT’s Consumer division has already started the transition to its Digital Voice fixed-line service for customers with a broadband connection. The decision to delay the deadline follows the introduction of a UK government charter to protect vulnerable customers, particularly those using TeleCare.

Under that programme, the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Technology has urged all telecom providers not to force vulnerable customers, including the elderly, to make the leap until better protection is achieved.

These provisions include a commitment that no TeleCare users will be migrated until they have a compatible, functioning, equivalent service; telcos will require “at least one hour of sustained, uninterrupted access to emergency services” in the event of an outage; and they will have to carry out extra checks on households that have been swapped to ensure they have no problems.

“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 have switched from the old analogue PSTN by the end of January 2027,” BT said.

BT is working with businesses ahead of the new end date to identify any requirements for “testing existing or upgrading to new equipment” compatible with a digital landline.

A new timetable has been put in place to more carefully guide vulnerable customers into this new world of full-fat fibre.

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

“Our priority remains doing 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 the knowledge with us. phone lines where they know there is a telehealth user.”

The shift to digital broadband connections promises faster services, says Ernest Doku, telecom expert at Uswitch.com, “but it is absolutely clear that the rollout should not come at the expense of the needs of vulnerable customers.”

“Personal care alarm systems and other devices connected to landlines should be considered during the shift to digital. Providers have a responsibility to look after their customers and must give them time to migrate to other solutions, or offer alternative options to allow them direct access to emergency services.

“Customers may also be able to explore other full fiber providers in their area, but should seek professional help to ensure that any personal care alarm systems connected to their landline are compatible with their new supplier if they change providers.

“This is a complex UK engineering project with technical challenges to overcome, and BT’s revisions are a stark reminder that the landline is used for more than just calling, and access to it should not be overlooked .” ®

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