BT Extends Deadline For PSTN Switch To Digital Landlines

BT Group has confirmed a delay in its nationwide efforts to move the UK from the copper-based analogue PSTN network, onto all digital (i.e. full fibre) landlines.

On Monday BT announced a revision to its timetable for moving all customers off the “increasingly fragile” Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and onto digital landlines.

The migration deadline has now been extended from December 2025 to 31 January 2027.

The deadline extension comes as the former UK telecom incumbent deals with the complexities of properly handling the issue of telecare users (i.e. the elderly, disabled or vulnerable), when their area is selected to move from the PSTN to digital landlines (Digital Voice).

Deadline extension

The deadline extension for both consumers and businesses follows an industry wide pause in the program, as well as the introduction of the Government’s Charter to protect vulnerable customers (i.e. telecare users).

BT said that it’s Consumer division has re-started switching zero-use landline customers who have a broadband connection to its Digital Voice landline service.

It should be remembered that Salisbury in Wiltshire became the first Openreach full fibre city in the UK in 2019.

BT Consumer customers (except landline-only customers, those who use telecare or who have additional needs) will be contacted and offered the chance to switch to a digital landline provided over full fibre broadband, where available.

BT said this deadline extension aligns with its wider strategy to build and connect customers to its full fibre broadband network, which will be available to 25 million premises by the end of 2026. This equates to roughly 80 percent of UK premises (it aims to reach 30 million premises, nearly most of the UK, by 2030).

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

Pressing and complex

The issue of moving telecare users onto digital landlines and ensuring their products and services work seamlessly and correctly is a complex challenge, as there are thought to be 2 million people in the UK using telecare systems.

Unfortunately, in many cases these existing telecare systems are not compatible with IP-based phone services.

And BT has warned this is becoming more pressing, due to the “increasingly fragile” old copper-based PSTN, and thus the digital switch requires collaboration across a range of industries and organisations.

“The urgency for switching customers onto digital services grows by the day because the 40-year-old analogue landline technology is increasingly fragile, noted Howard Watson, BT’s chief security and networks officer.

“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,” said Watson.

“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,” said Watson. “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.”

BT said that 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.

Technical challenges

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, noted the deadline extension, and cited the technical challenges of this UK-wide engineering project.

“This move to digital broadband connected lines will deliver speeds as high as 10 times faster than current technologies – but it’s entirely apparent that the roll-out shouldn’t be at the expense of the needs of vulnerable customers,” said Doku.

“Personal care alarm systems and other devices connected to landlines need to be considered during the shift to digital,” said Doku. “Providers have a responsibility to look after their customers, and must either provide them with time to migrate to other solutions or offer alternative options to allow them access to emergency services directly.”

“Customers may also be able to explore other full fibre providers in their area, though should seek professional help to ensure that any personal care alarm systems which are linked to their landline are compatible with their new supplier if they change provider,” said Doku.

“This is a complex UK-wide engineering project with technical challenges to overcome, and BT’s revisions act as a strong reminder that the landline is used for more than just calls, and access to it mustn’t be overlooked,” said Doku.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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