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BT Launch Alexa-enabled Home Phone for UK Broadband Users

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021 (10:33 am) - Score 8,064

Customers of UK ISP BT, specifically those who take out their new VoIP style Digital Voice product (typically offered as a phone solution alongside broadband packages), will soon be able to access the operator’s new ‘Advanced Digital Home Phone‘ handset that comes with Alexa Built-in (Amazon’s smart voice assistant).

The Digital Voice (DV) service is a Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) style product that sends the voice transmission over your broadband connection (e.g. no need to retain an extra copper line if you take FTTP). Customers who take this will usually receive a “freeDigital Home Phone, which comes included with support for HD calling, voicemail, call waiting and call divert (on older copper phone services some of these features would cost extra or, in the case of HD calling, were not be available at all). Additional handsets can be added at extra cost.

However, unlike on a traditional line where you connect the handset to a phone socket in the wall (i.e. one installed by Openreach), the Digital Home Phone handset will instead connect directly to BT’s Smart Hub 2 broadband router. The original handsets that BT supplied for this weren’t anything special and indeed that was the plan (affordability and familiarity are often more important for home phone users).

By comparison the new Advanced Digital Home Phone has, among other changes, added a new button for accessing Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant (i.e. users can ask their home phone to call contacts, check the weather, adjust the volume, read out the latest news headlines and even stream music etc.). You’ll also get a 2.0-inch colour screen, ringer volume boost, larger text, a hands-free speaker, 240 hours of battery life in standby, 50 metres of indoor wireless range and one touch access to BT Voicemail.

The handset also includes an enhanced Call Protect service (for tackling nuisance calls), which means that customers can block any number with one touch of the side button, either when the number is ringing, or while on the phone to the number.

Sharon Meadows, BT Consumer’s Director of Propositions, said:

“As our customers’ homes become more connected, we’re bringing our broadband and voice technologies together to improve quality of service, and we’ve collaborated with Amazon to make our latest digital home phone Alexa enabled. During these extraordinary times, a phone call from a friend or family member can make your day, and with our Advanced Digital Home Phone with Alexa built-in, customers can enjoy clearer calls – as well as the convenience and great range of features that Alexa provides.”

As before, the new handset will be included free to customers who receive or order this service from tomorrow (10th Feb 2021), while you’ll pay £44.99 to add a single additional handset or £69.99 for a dual pack (a triple and quad pack also exist for £89.99 and £109.99 respectively).

Digital Voice forms part of BT’s plan to run all landline calls over broadband by 2025. All ISPs that offer fixed line phone services will need to have something similar in place before December 2025 (ideally sooner since the transition has already started in some areas). Sadly, a lot of other provider’s, particularly smaller players, have yet to launch a full VoIP / IP style alternative to traditional phone lines.

Leave a Comment
22 Responses
  1. John says:

    Surely the opposite would have made more sense e.g. enable Alexa to make calls using your bt digital number – same as what EE already allows on mobile contact.

    I rather they just give me the SIP credentials so you can use whatever service you want.

    1. Jack says:

      BT obviously see “Digital Voice” as a money spinner to sell new hardware. Granted you get the first handset free but can imagine they will do different versions with more features, bigger screen etc.

      Agree though just use bog standard SIP and let the customer choose what it wants to do.

    2. I says:

      Digital Voice is presumably a regulated service – i.e. BT needs to prove to Ofcom that it has a chance of meeting expectations for reliability and quality and that you can actually call 999 when you need to. This allows them to commence with the PSTN closure.

      They can’t provide that assurance when using whatever random bargain basement SIP device you’d care to use.

      Not to mention that this is a *consumer grade* service where 99.9999% of users will happily use the DECT/ATA built into their router. There are other options if this does not meet your expectations.

  2. Scott says:

    Integrating Alexa into this isn’t a bad idea, would like to see the option for Google Home (with the ability to switch between the services).

    If this had a decent speaker built into the base unit it then it could a cracking/well used gadget.

    1. Paul. says:

      Perhaps Amazon is subsidising the hardware, hence their Alexa on it rather than both them and Google. Would that be permitted under OFCOM regs?

  3. Amaze says:

    I also think the opposite would have been better. Control the Smart Hub / Control and use BT services using Alexa / Google Home.

    “Alexa, turn off BT Wi-Fi” or whatever…

    I dont think people will want to walk up to their DECT phone, press the button then ask Alexa what the weather is..”

  4. Roger_N says:

    The cost of call on BT’s service (VoIP) is exorbitant, OK you can get a call package and you need to if you use your landline for more than an hour or so a month, on UK and mobile calls but international call rates are the big rip off 90p a minute to Australia, Sipgate charge 1.9p

    1. Scott says:

      SIPGate doesn’t make sense where a BT customer has the phone line provided as part of the package.

      The SipGate basic package is going to cost £9.95 before the call costs.

      If you are a BT customer then the international pack is £8.61 with 10hrs of calls included and for many residential customers and that’ll be enough.

      Like for like 10hrs of calls to Australia with BT is £8.61 vs SIPGate costing £11.40 (before £9.95 basic package costs). Most people don’t want the hassle of having to deal with another company or ATA adapters.

      I think you tried to make a fair point and did reference BT’s call package but you missed out the basic costs for Sipgate which i reckon for many will then negate any savings.

    2. Roger_N says:

      Sipgate basic is free you just pay for your calls, I only make a few international calls a year so paying BT £8.61 a month is a none starter, when I can pay 1.9p a minute when I want to use it.
      I would have gone with this method from the beginning but I was with Plusnet and your account with them is linked to your phone number, so getting the change of provider with a number transfer to happen on the same day seemed like a none starter so I transferred it to BT.
      I will take out another number with Sipgate to make international calls.
      The point I was making is the unnecessary charge BT are making for International calls.

  5. Yatta! says:

    No thank you!

  6. Andre says:

    But they are still going to charge a phone line rental for a phone line you dont have.

    1. Roger_N says:

      Sorry who are you referring too?

      I will use BT line for UK calls to land line and mobiles, £7 for 700 mins.

      Sipgate don’t charge for line rental on the basic package.

  7. Kathh says:

    How’s this going to work when you have a poor Internet, sometimes below 1 mgb and no mobile phone signal?

    1. Scott says:

      VoIP calls require a small amount of bandwidth.
      G711/G722 codecs with signalling overheads should under come under 70kbps.

      Pretty confident it would work on a 1meg line.

  8. Nick Roberts says:

    SH2 has a built-in DECT Base Station and the handset connects by DECT signals to the SH2. Done-to-death here:-


    People with chronic medical conditions in rural districts, where mobile signal is poor are concerned with what happens when the 21st century “World Beating” flown power supply goes down.Will BT supply FOC, an Iridium type connection to one of the low orbit satellites ? . . . In my dreams.

    1. Roger_N says:

      I’ve had no issues receiving calls or making them, my FTTP line went live late December.
      The DV phones BT supply are DECT phones the SH2 router has a DECT antenna built in as said before, they done not use the WiFi from the router (mines turned off) you have to register the phones with the router using the WPS button on the router.

    2. Roger_N says:

      Sorry NIck posted to wrong comment.

  9. ToneDeaf says:

    So, at the moment I can pay Zen a fixed price for FTTC broadband (inclusive of line rental) and my household phone is available for incoming calls at no extra charge.
    Once the nation moves to FTTP, it looks like the phone line facility becomes an additional charge over and above broadband, should one wish to retain a traditional phone facility.
    I would think that the majority of households would simply relinquish the household phone and simply use their mobile handsets with only elderly users, connected house alarm owners and those with poor home mobile coverage then taking up these digital voice services.
    Appreciate that mobile VoWiFi is a solution also.

    1. Scott says:

      I think you are probably right for a fair number of people – especially for those who come after millennials and don’t have a tie to their landline to the same extent middle age/older customers do.

      I think there’s a significant customer base for BT’s digital voice (and other providers equiv service) who will still look to retain their geographic number after migration.

      I thought your comments on charges were interesting. As it stands line rental covers physical infrastructure and basic PSTN provision so i suspect the cost of providing DV will be absorbed into broadband packages. I think most ISPs will offer no cost benefit to users opting “not to take” a voice service. BT’s order journey doesn’t seem to charge for DV last time i looked.

      I suspect the idea for many ISPs will be to obscure the cost and offer it for free in the hope the up-sell of call packages and occasional calls will create revenue.

    2. ToneDeaf says:

      Ok @Scott says, I wasn’t aware that BT were possibly offering Digital Voice at no additional cost.
      I simply looked at Zen’s offering which is an additional £7 per month irrespective of whether the bundled minutes are actually used.
      It will be interesting to see how various ISPs market this.

  10. David F says:

    There seems to be a fundamental problem with Digital Voice. As part of a Community Fibre Project seven local households (including me) took DV – all seven installations fail to operate correctly. Currently only our DECT/analogue phones will receive calls made from analogue phones. After 5 months of trying BT have been unable to offer a quick fix other than changing telephone number – possibly permanently. I have seen reports on other forums describing the same issue and suggesting that, at least for the time being, Digital Voice is not being offered. Currently I’m not sure whether that is true or not. My case is now with the Ombudsman. Little or no transparency from BT.

    1. Roger_N says:

      See my comment above I posted to Nick by mistake, I don’t know if you are aware of the info I’ve mentioned.

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