BT Updates UK Digital Voice Switchover Plan After Deadline Extension

Telecoms and broadband giant BT (EE) has this morning announced a revision to its timetable for moving all customers off the old Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and onto digital landlines (Digital Voice), which follows last week’s confirmation (here and here) that the deadline for migration had been extended from Dec 2025 to 31st Jan 2027.

BT’s Consumer division officially re-started 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), especially telecare users, while making the switch from analogue to digital landlines.

The new approach is designed to align more closely with Openreach’s national roll-out of gigabit-capable broadband using Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology, which is expected to cover 25 million premises by the end of 2026 (80%+ of the UK), before rising up to 30m 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 fibre – with all customers now expected to have moved off the old analogue PSTN by the end of January 2027.” Just to be clear on this, copper broadband and phone (IP-based phone) services will continue to be available in areas not covered by their FTTP network.

BT’s Revised Timetable for Digital Voice

➤ In April 2024, BT Consumer resumed non-voluntary migrations for customers who have not used their landline in the last 12 months, who do not identify as vulnerable or have additional needs, have not contacted an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) in the last 24 months and live in an area where a data sharing agreement – which identifies vulnerable customers and detects alarm numbers is in place with the Local Authority or Telecare provider. Switching them to a digital landline provided over full fibre where available on an opt out basis initially.

➤ From Summer 2024, BT Consumer will ramp-up non-voluntary 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 authority or telecare provider.

➤ For customers who don’t use broadband, which includes landline-only consumer customers and business customers with specialist connectivity requirements, including some alarms, lift and emergency lines, ATMs and payment terminals, the company is working on an interim, dedicated landline service [SOTAP for Analogue] designed to keep these customers connected while moving them off the analogue PSTN.

➤ New equipment will be installed in local telephone exchanges that will allow consumer and business customers who do not have broadband to use their landline in the same way as they do today until a digital solution becomes available or 2030, if that comes sooner. Trials have already begun with a nationwide rollout for eligible customers expected this Autumn.

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

➤ From Spring 2025, BT Consumer will contact customers who identify as vulnerable or with additional needs about the switch in areas where data sharing agreements with Local Authorities or Telecare companies are in place and in-home support for telecare users is available.

➤ All customers will be contacted at least four weeks in advance before making the switch, to ensure they are ready to move to a digital landline. Engineering appointments will be made ahead of the switch and additional support will be provided on the day to ensure that customers are left with a working telecare device.

Howard Watson, BT Group’s Chief Security and Networks Officer, said:

“The urgency for switching customers onto digital services grows by the day because the 40-year-old analogue landline technology is increasingly fragile. Managing customer migrations from analogue to digital as quickly and smoothly as possible, while making the necessary provisions for those customers with additional needs, including telecare users, is critically important.

Our priority remains doing this safely and the work we’re doing with our peers, local authorities, telecare providers and key Government organisations is key. But more needs to be done and we need all local authorities and telecare providers to share with us the phone lines where they know there’s a telecare user.”

Breaking news.. more to follow..

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