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Clearing Up Confusion Over the BT FTTP Digital Voice Transition

Saturday, September 26th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 11,520
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Some of those trying to take one of UK ISP BT’s ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based home broadband packages have been left confused by how the provider is handling the transition to their new VoIP style ‘Digital Voice’ service, which stems from the fact that it isn’t yet available to every Openreach based full fibre line.

Until recently if you purchased an ultrafast package from BT over FTTP then the phone service would have often been delivered via a “Transition Product“, which gives customers both the FTTP line and a copper line for the phone. More recently the ISP has launched Digital Voice, which is a VoIP style product that sends the voice transmission over your broadband connection (i.e. no need for an extra copper line if you take FTTP).

NOTE: Traditional PSTN style analogue phone / voices services are due to be retired by the end of 2025, hence the move to all-IP solutions.

Customers who receive Digital Voice with their broadband service will usually also be supplied with a “free” Digital Home Phone (pictured), which comes included with support for HD calling, voicemail, call waiting and call divert (on a old copper phone service some of these features would cost extra or, in the case of HD calling, not be available at all). Additional handsets can be added at extra cost.

However, some customers who live in the exact same FTTP network area have found that the ISP offered each of them a different voice product (with no alternative allowed), despite being nearby neighbours. Essentially, one was only offered Digital Voice for their calls, while the other was offered a traditional copper phone line.

In the above example BT’s support staff did little to help to clear up the reason for this and instead stated that, at present, only those living in greenfield (new build) sites could get Digital Voice with FTTP, while those living in brownfield (existing) areas were told to expect it in the future. But in this example the local FTTP deployment was in a brownfield area and we’ve seen quite a few brownfield customers get Digital Voice.

We’ve since attempted to clarify this with BT (since their FAQ page wasn’t much help) and thought that our readers might benefit from the response.

BT’s Digital Voice Deployment

* FTTP to brownfield (not new build homes) is in the process of a phased launch, meaning that not all customers contacting BT will receive the new Digital Voice service as an option.

* However, we are in the process of scaling availability of our Digital Voice service through 2020, into 2021.

* There are no differences in pricing between our old legacy services and the new Digital Voice services.

So now you know. However, while there may be “no differences in pricing“, you could argue that there is a difference in value, albeit a subjective one (e.g. the lack of a free handset, HD calling and free calling features on their copper phone solution).

On the other hand making calls via Digital Voice is often more expensive than a mobile (priced like a home phone), most of which give you included call allowances (often unlimited). You may also find it much harder to use a different router. We should add that you can also continue to use your existing phone handset by plugging it into the phone port on the back of the Hub instead (BT’s own handset can wireless sync with the hub).

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31 Responses
  1. Avatar John says:

    That added value is subjective.

    For anyone who wishes to use the landline to make or receive calls and also wants to use their own router then Digital Voice is a no go.

    You need to use the BT Smart Hub 2 to use Digital Voice or there’s no landline, period.

    Personally i don’t use the landline, but if i did i wouldn’t want Digital Voice.

    They reactivated my copper line to go with my FTTP rather than giving me DV.
    2 neighbours who ordered the same week both got Digital Voice.

    It’s a toss of a coin which 1 you get and the sales person can’t change it.

    1. Avatar Vishal says:

      looking for Business phone solution?

      http://voip.expertideas.tech/

  2. Avatar Doug says:

    I can’t believe anyone wants to use Digital Voice anyway. I have it, as it was supplied with my fibre connection, but never use it as the cost of calls is absurd compared to using a mobile.

  3. Avatar Henri says:

    Moving to a new build and can only get 150mbps BT or EE through FTTP at £35/mo!

    I was paying £20/mo with Plusnet for FTTC 80/20 since 2014.

    Seems like I’m off to Hyperoptic broadband only.

    As for phones they’re really expensive so I’m moving my landline to Sipgate and using VoIP through a ATA adapter.

    1. Avatar NE555 says:

      > Moving to a new build and can only get 150mbps BT or EE through FTTP at £35/mo!

      You can get cheaper services Fibre 1 (50M) or Fibre 2 (80M) on FTTP. If you have no copper at all then Fibre Essential (40M) is also FTTP.

      Depending on coverage, you may also be able to get Sky’s FTTP (80M) for £25/mo.

    2. Avatar cocowalla says:

      I’m also with Plusnet on 80/20 FTTC, and I always get very close to those speeds. I’m paying £25/m, which I feel is great value. Such good value in fact, that most FTTP package prices seem crazy – and you generally need to sign up with 2Y contract too.

  4. Avatar Neb says:

    Anyone know what the starting packages and pricing looks like for their VOIP service? Link?

    1. Avatar Steve Taylor says:

      So prices wise its 20p per minute which I found out to my cost although you can get a price plan although apparently only by ringing BT. They offered me 500 minutes for £5 per month to mobiles or landlines. They also do an unlimited plan but dont know how much that is. The call quality is amazing.

    2. Avatar Neb says:

      Thanks Steve – expensive unless you only call one of the other!

  5. Avatar Meadmodj says:

    These are probably sales process/database glitches, products ordered etc.

    BT’s web pages now show a lot more regarding the DV service now. I note they are also offering two versions of UPS for FTTP/Non FTTP on the BT shop (vulnerable/no mobile signal) which infers that they are preparing for DV in FTTC areas too.

    Whilst they will focus on the new build and Fibre First areas (assisting in copper/FTTP migration) they have a difficult task a head to migrate from the PSTN by 2025 whilst maintaining revenue streams.

  6. Avatar Nobroadband says:

    Oh.. I have Openreach FTTP coming soon..
    I am more confused then ever now!
    How can I find out what service will be available to me?
    I am in contact with BT

    1. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      Ask them whether you are getting Essential or Advanced DV or simply ask what telephone equipment they are supplying. Should prompt some sort of clarification.

    2. Avatar Craig Wilson says:

      Essential and advance are both types of the VoIP phone they are giving you free.

      If you pick the lower grade essential phone you get two handset.
      If you pick the higher spec advanced phone you get one.

      You do get asked what version of the phone you want when ordering Fibre.

      It is really confusing as they also have older copper line phones called the same thing and they look much alike.

      They don’t ask if you want voip it’s a case of your getting it or not.

      Oh and the new voip phone are not for sale just now but you can buy the on eBay. Punters selling them no doubt.

      They pair with the Smart Hub 2 and only the Smart Hub 2.

      If you want to use your old copper line phones you ll need to plug them into the back of the smart hub.

      Crazy but BTS ideas always are and always cod confusion.

  7. Avatar G Cot says:

    What do they do for analogue auto dial systems, like house alarms and help call pendants, if only DV is offered?

    Don’t understand why the option isn’t that all ISPs should offer a router with an analogue and digital connection. Into which you can either plug your analogue phones, a digital IP phone (or switch if you want several). Alternatively if they want to offer something special, like WiFi Calling for handsets or mobiles in the house, an add-on box could be offered that plugged into the digital phone port instead.

    All traffic leaving and entering the house would be IP based traffic so no extra costs involved there. The charges would be for ‘rental’ of a landline number, voice mail, and forwarding charges to other networks/countries. If, like some current ISPs, they want to offer free calls to others on same network, they can. If they don’t offer these services, people are likely to choose a third party VoIP provider and they will loose control and revenue

    1. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      Yes challenging. Particularly in a competitive and discerning market. BT will no doubt emphasise the HD quality and single supplier.

      Their difficulty will be to address for both commercial and customer perception for:
      New New Build with DV as default
      Legacy FTTP with either FVA or Copper
      Fibre First migration with DV as default
      Fibre First migration with FVA or Copper
      BDUK with FVA or Copper

      Added to this is the Exchange migration and the stock availability. For instance if could be that if FTTP Smart Hub 2s are initially limited then they may be restricted to those that subscribe to BT Complete WIFI.

      BT are balancing a lot of things, time will tell.

    2. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      Copper will remain for those that need it (for a price)
      Expect DV/Mobile hybrid products/packages going forward (forwarding/outgoing etc)
      The BT HD quality will be technically superior to many VoIP offerings but price will play a significant part in whether they can successfully hold on to their current users.
      BT currently only offers broadband with telephony and I do not see this changing. Current line cost is partly OR and partly local PSTN.
      The key for BT is achieve centralisation by 2025 to reduce costs.

  8. Avatar John H says:

    This is like the email address being tied to your ISP, in short do not do it as eventually you will be blackmailed in some way or just turned off. Port your current landline number to a VOIP provider and so separate your data from your telephone, just like using a generic email address and not your ISP’s.

    1. Avatar cdh1981 says:

      Spot on!

  9. Avatar Ronski says:

    We done away with a landline altogether when we moved to Virgin two and half years ago. Landlines just seem so old fashioned now, all family members have their own mobiles and luckily we have perfect reception on all networks at home. Even before moving to VM we hardly ever used the landline, and the only calls we ever received were either the mother in-law or marketing calls.

    1. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      Yes the cost of the PSTN and copper telephony pair has already become uncommercial and hence the belated DV and focus of migration.

      Mobile is currently the best option although operators appear to have become wiser regarding shared data and “family” SIMs. If you have good signal or wifi calling why not. Also mobile will in most cases be an effective in an emergency.

      However, more consumer awareness is required going forward that FTTP and the services it provides ceases if there is no power. In addition people need to be aware how to make emergency calls on each others mobiles. If you wake up in the middle of the night in smoke filled rooms the priority is to get out and looking for partially dead mobiles isn’t one of them.

      For those risk averse my view is a UPS for the FTTP/Router and a corded emergency phone close to an entrance where you quickly dial 999 (by touch if necessary) and leave you can leave it off the hook if needed. A simple FTTP package, UPS, a nil line cost VoIP service and an existing old phone.

      BT don’t appear to be offering such resilience with a crude UPS and cordless phones etc.

  10. Avatar James H says:

    Might partly explain why my FTTP migration to BT has had much difficulty. The original online order allocated DV, but fell over by them trying to migrate a non-existent existing line. I was asked about new build, and it was but FTTP put in five years ago, and it’s a brownfield green belt site.
    After the second failed order, it has now been changed to reinstating the copper landline. Whether DV or copper, I won’t make calls from it in any case.

  11. Avatar Andy Tucker says:

    I moved to FTTP with Zen back in February. I ported my BT landline number to Andrews and Arnold’s VoIP service, and have to pay the grand sum of £1.20 a month for it.

    Zen’s standard Fritz!Box router has an analogue phone port on it and a built-in DECT base station, so no issues there.

    1. Avatar GNewton says:

      “Andrews and Arnold’s VoIP service, and have to pay the grand sum of £1.20 a month for it.”

      But don’t they add per-minute call charges to your monthly bills, too?

    2. Avatar John H says:

      I have a Sipgate Basic account, no monthly charges or charges for incoming calls but they do charge for outgoing calls. In 2 years I have spent 80P on outgoing calls as the mobile covers that. Its really only needed if anyone still has only my landline number, even asking them to use my mobile does not work with the NHS, they are stuck to my landline number like a limpet.

  12. Avatar chris says:

    I have a BT FTTH Fibre one connection. Sometimes it randomly doesn’t connect to the internet.It went down for 40 minutes from 7.50am this morning. Would hate to have an unreliable Digital Voice landline that refused to connect to the router during an emergency.

    1. Avatar NE555 says:

      Keep a fully charged mobile nearby for emergencies. Works in power cuts too!

      FTTP is normally very, very reliable. Does the ONT light remain solid green during the outage? If it doesn’t, then there is a clear fibre fault which can be reported.

      If it remains solid green, then the fibre is working fine. This really leaves only two possibilities:

      1. Problem with your local router (e.g. wifi interference; software bug causing it to lock up)
      2. Problem with your ISP’s backhaul or transit – not normally a problem with BT.

      Wifi interference can be tricky to locate – it could be a neighbour with a faulty piece of equipment – but you can try using a wired ethernet connection instead.

    2. Avatar Scott says:

      At the point you acknowledge you have an unreliable connection and concerns over access to emergency services then it becomes your responsibility to report it and push for it to be repaired.

      The hubs have a large amount of logs to help support and identify issues. BT have a specialised team to investigate so start the process and gain the peace of mind required.

      It’s not really helpful to falsely speculate on unreliability of a service when the actual service with the problem is not actually the DV service.

      nb. IIf this is also the case then you would also made contingencies to have a working mobile phone within reach.

  13. Avatar Jacob Kelly says:

    It’s great BT are moving to a full FTTP away from copper but this digital voice system is flawed by the fact you’re required to use BTs terrible Smart Hub. They should sell an adapter which can work with any router, I’m looking forward to FTTP as its being installed in my area but I’m not looking forward to being stuck with the Smart Hub.

  14. Avatar MilesT says:

    Will there be a low cost way to have a simple power-safe landline for safety related needs? The transition product meets that need well, should be able to request it over the VoIP product

  15. Avatar Richard says:

    I recently upgraded to BT’s 1GB fttp, and received an HD voip phone, which was great news as our copper landline has always been problematic. However, due to a clerical error by the BT operative who took the phone order, they didn’t activate the VOIP part of the order. So when FTTP finally went live (after over a month of issues with installation) it was discovered that the VOIP part wasn’t active. I imagined a call to BT would suffice – apparently not. If both FTTP and VOIP are activated at the same time then it is seamless. If they need to activate VOIP separately, then you have to have both internet and landline switched off for 3 days, and you lose your existing landline number. Shambolic.

  16. Avatar James S says:

    I’ve had a very similar experience to Richard. The bureaucracy and support systems are impossible. I ordered 1GB ftth on 21st August. Today is 26th October and I’m still waiting for a fully functional phone service from BT. We didn’t have the option of a copper analogue line as we had been with Telewest/Virgin for about 20 years. I placed an order by phone as I wanted to ask some questions about the handsets available. That was my mistake.

    The short version of the story is that we now have a very good and stable internet connection, but after two months still don’t have a fully working BT line or any handsets from BT. The order is not showing up on their systems as having been completed so the “fancy” services on Digital Voice (voicemail, Call Guardian, etc) don’t work my old DECT system. The handsets, unbelievably, are out of stock.

    Having to use the BT Router was a pain too, though the idea of bundling it all together in a combined router/DECT base station is probably good for those who want a simple set up which works (or should work) straight out of the box. I wanted to use my existing mesh wi-fi and the only way to do this was to set up the mesh system in Access point mode only and connect to the BT Router. This was a pain to set up, involved more ugly boxes and cables, but (apart from a fully functional phone)it worked.

    Last week, in despair at BT’s inability to complete the order I realised that as the order was still showing as “not completed” BT’s billing systems weren’t working either. I ordered a Gigaset VOIP/analogue DECT system from Amazon, managed to divert all BT calls to a Sipgate VOIP number, took out the BT router and connected the TP-Link Deco mesh system directly to the ONT. Bingo! A fully functional phone at last.

    Siplink allow you to substitute a presentation number in place of the number they allocate to you. I’m now receiving calls on the BT network, diverted to Sipgate and received using a “normal” VOIP service, which means that I can receive calls on my landline on my mobile or anywhere in the world that I choose, as well as get the essential things such as voicemail and being able to configure how long the phone rings before diverting.

    I’ve given up chasing BT. For now at least I have a great 1GB internet connection and fully functional phone service which costs me £9.95 per month for the all UK landline and mobiles inclusive package from Sipgate. No bills from BT until they sort their systems out.

    If BT want to make a success of FTTH and Digital Voice they need a good kick up their back end systems first.

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