Ensuring no one is left behind as UK landlines go digital
Author: Lucy Baker, consumer all IP director and Vicky Hicks, head of engagement, digital voice and gender equality network chair at BT Consumer
The landline is here to stay, but the technology used to make calls is changing from analogue to digital as part of an industry-wide shift.
The decades-old analogue network has become increasingly unreliable, and by December 2025, most calls will be made over a broadband line.
BT is rolling out its new home phone service, digital voice, on a region-by-region basis. For most customers, it’s as simple as plugging their existing home phone into the back of their broadband router rather than the socket on the wall. The new digital service provides clearer call quality and prevents most scam calls.
As part of the rollout, we will visit every nation and region in the UK to raise awareness of the changes and to ensure all customers get the support they need to make the switch.
We’ve already visited the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, Northern Ireland, the North West, and London. And the remaining regions and nations will make the switch next year. In spring 2024, West Midlands, South East, East Anglia and Wales. In summer 2024, North East, South West and Scotland.
Throughout the programme, BT will also be contacting some broadband customers in England, inviting them to switch their landlines to digital voice in advance of local and regional campaigning in their area.
Customers will be contacted four weeks before making the switch, and those customers who have disclosed any additional needs, have a healthcare pendant, no mobile signal, or only use landlines won’t be proactively switched over during the initial stages of the rollout.
Ensuring no one is left behind
We understand that for many, particularly people with additional needs, the landline is a lifeline, and we want to be sure everyone remains connected.
We’ve established and continue to work with our digital voice advisory group – an association made up of charities and representative groups – who’ve been advising on the needs of customers most affected by the switch. Feedback from this group and its members has helped shape BT’s approach.
Through the digital voice advisory group, we’re working with organisations like the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), and Rural Services Network (RSN) to ensure rural communities get the support they need and remain connected.
As well as charities and community groups, we’re also working with the government, Ofcom and local authorities to ensure customers get the help they need to make the switch.
Additional support and services are available, including the ability for customers to nominate a family member, friend, or carer who will receive all the information about switching on their behalf. And when customers with additional needs start to make the switch, they’ll automatically receive equipment and an engineer appointment.
For peace of mind in the event of a temporary power cut, BT will provide additional resilience to those who need it most. Free battery backup units are available for customers with additional needs and/or who live in an area without a mobile signal, and the units provide at least one hour’s talk time. For customers without a mobile phone with access to a 4G signal, a hybrid phone that can switch to a mobile network and has an in-built battery is available.
Customers without additional needs can purchase a battery backup unit or a hybrid phone.
The very small percentage of the population without access to broadband or decent mobile coverage will continue to use their service the same way they do today. BT will ensure these customers have the connectivity they need and will contact them when they can move to Digital Voice or an alternative service. If customers have any issues, questions, or concerns, they should please get in touch.
We recognise that local councils are at the heart of their communities, and we look forward to working with them to ensure our customers stay connected now and into the future.
More information is available on the digital voice website.
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