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Broadband ISP EE Quietly Launch UK Digital Home Phone Service

Friday, Aug 18th, 2023 (12:01 am) - Score 10,640
EE-UK-Digital-Home-Voice-Handset

Mobile operator and broadband ISP EE appears to have finally and quietly launched their IP-based Digital Home Phone service this month, which will ultimately replace their old analogue phone service and, perhaps unsurprisingly, is largely just a re-branded variant of BT’s existing Digital Voice product.

Just as a reminder. Openreach’s old analogue phone solutions will be coming to an end in 2025 and thus providers that still sell home phone solutions are slowly moving to IP-based services, which sees handsets being connected into the back of your broadband router (or wirelessly via DECT), instead of a traditional wall socket.

BT currently intends for EE to become their “flagship consumer” brand and recently returned their own Digital Voice product to sale after a long pause, which may help to explain why EE has now followed that by adding an equivalent Digital Home Voice product to their own website. The first version of their related T&C’s for this were published on 3rd August 2023 (here) – credits to Steve for spotting.

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Customers who add this to their broadband package can expect to pay from an extra £5 per month for their “Pay Per Call” (PAYG-style) option on a rolling monthly contract, which rises to £7.50 for a plan with 700 UK minutes (landlines and mobile), £16 for unlimited calls and £20 for unlimited and 600 minutes of international calls to 37 popular countries.

NOTE: Calls to numbers starting with 084, 087, 09 and 118 aren’t included in the plan. They have an access charge of 22.84p per minute set by EE and a service charge set by the company you’re calling.

Key features of the service include Caller Display, Voicemail Essentials, Call Protect, Call Diversion, Call Waiting and Three Way Calling. Customers can optionally pay an £85 one-off charge to get two Battery Back Up Units plus a handset, which they claim will “keep you connected for up to an hour during a power cut.” Alternatively, a pack of just 2 cordless handsets will set you back £33.99 upfront.

Finally, EE appears to be offering a free Home Phone Adaptor, which will enable customers to set up your corded phone or handset’s base station anywhere in your home. We should also add that new customers ordering FTTP broadband are now being sent EE’s latest WiFi6 Smart Hub Plus (SmartHub 3) router, which was soft launched back in June 2023 (here). The new mesh WiFi kit is also available.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
45 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

    My issue with this and something regulator should clamp down on, is that you must use the ISP router for voice because phone plugged into it.

    The BT ONT has a phone port, it should use that so you can easily use your own router for broadband.

    1. Avatar photo Tom C says:

      Some (older) variants of Openreach ONTs do have phone ports, but any recently installed one does not, and any new ones do not. It’s likely due to BT using PPPoE to verify / “log in” the router to their backbone.

      I’ve not seen anyone trying to use a switch to split it off into two connections (eg. one going to the BT hub but with all features except phone disabled, and one going to a third party router), and if it’s possible then that might be the only solution for a lot of people.

    2. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

      My ONT from a few years ago doesn’t have a phone jack.

      The alternatives I’d be happy with would be either they supply an ATA which doesn’t require their router, they supply the SIP details so I can use my own or their routers can go into a ‘modem mode’ which still allows the phone to work as is the case with my parents Virgin router.

      Note: The adapter mentioned in the article likely still requires their router, presuming it’s similar to the BT one I have.

      @Tom C

      One potential problem with this is that there could be issues with double NAT depending on the router/firewall. IIRC one router I had would disable certain features unless it’s configured as the gateway device.

    3. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I think ONTs should just be ONTs, and let other devices like ATAs and Routers deal with IP-based voice and local networking etc. Of course what we have right now is plenty of choice, so if you don’t like BT’s propriety approach, then you can always setup a dedicated VoIP provider and access calls on lots of different devices, however you please. The fact that choice exists means Ofcom probably won’t lift a finger against BT.

    4. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      @Tom C

      Splitting the output of the ONT into 2 routers via a switch would not work as the BT hub initiates a PPPOE connection with BT. If you wish to use your own router your only 2 options are to go broadband only and use a third party void service or connect the wan of your own router to the lan port of the bt hub and set the dmz in the bt hub to your own router so all traffic gets forwarded to it but this may cause double Nat issues.

    5. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      I’m lucky as had SIPGATE a while ago which is closed to new residential connections and existing connections could be terminated at some point or moved to business packages with much higher prices.

      The choice of VOIP suppliers who do SIP to SIP via a VOIP DECT phone for free are getting next to no-one now. Many are expensive tariffs to the point where you say what the hell and stick with mobile. Then there is the growing issue of unencrypted SIP/RTP for most residential packages.

      My mother’s BT ONT does have a phone port. If BT & Co can’t utilise those because new ONTs don’t have them, then they should be forced to let you be able to configure the details for your own method of connection to the service.

      It’s all too convenient to try and lock you into them as BB & Phone with the hassle or trying to port numbers etc. by enforcing you to use their ISP supplied router and route the phone through that with them only knowing the connection configuration details. My mother wouldn’t have gone SIPGATE if the ISP phone could be detached and used with her own vastly superior router instead of trying to enforce using an absolute POS router from the ISP that would never be used.

    6. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      the ISPs are not supplying VoIP service, they are supplying a landline service that happens to use VoIP technologies (and for what it’s worth, BT’s version does appear to be encrypted). They are subject to different and more stringent regulations, and part of ensuring compliance is that you must use their hardware (though you can probably pair any DECT handset you want to their router, or of course use the phone port).

      If you don’t like that, they’ll be happy to sell you a broadband only service and you can do your own thing.

      Openreach’s newer ONTs don’t even have voice ports (and remember there are millions of people who do not have FTTP anyway). They clearly don’t want to be involved in that anymore.

      The idea that they’d let random people (ie not the CP who is paying for the service) reconfigure it is just patently ludicrous. Just go and slap a 15 year old, out of support and likely insecure ATA on your line instead.

    7. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

      @anonymous

      Sipgate moved me to their business plan last year with a 12 month discount of £3 iirc, I’ve been holding out hoping Giganet launch their supposedly cheap package but right now Freeola might be an best alternative, but I need to look into them more.

    8. Avatar photo Jan says:

      Virtually impossible to setup your own ata to use vodafones digital voice. Support don’t help with sip config. Suspect this is the same for all the mainstream isps as the voice service is a big chunk of the profit they make on your connection.

    9. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      My zzoomm ONT has a Voip socket, but I don’t know if Zzoomm uses it for their VoIP as their router also has one as well. The propblem with this digital voice is this , “Customers who add this to their broadband package can expect to pay from an extra £5 per month for their “Pay Per Call”
      Home phones used to be part of the deal and now people have to pay extra for them, another money making scam.

  2. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

    @Tom C

    Correction, I misread your post. That said, I’d be surprised if that works.

  3. Avatar photo Phil says:

    So let me get this right, you can buy a SIM card for around £5.00 a month with unlimited calls and text messages, yet EE (who is a mobile operator and already has various routing deals already in place for calls) is going to charge £16.00 for unlimited calls a month on their VoIP. Talk about a rip-off, and they are ripping off the people that are most likely elderly and know no better.

    VoIP is no different from Wi-Fi calling they provide on their mobiles, just a SIP service essentially into the same infrastructure, so how do they justify £16.00 a month for a calls package, on top of the rental charge of £5.00 a month, so £21.00 a month.

    1. Avatar photo Raymond says:

      You are absolutely correct my 80 year old dad still has a landline for a couple of reasons that I won’t go into.Did convince him to stop using it to make calls and got him an unlimited call/text SIM that costs £36 for a YEAR. He is very pleased with that. Ironically the SIM runs on a MVNO which uses the EE network.

    2. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Agreed. The prices being charged for unlimited calls over fixed lines, as well as some VoIP providers, make very little sense when you look at how cheap mobile plans have become – assuming you have good signal.

    3. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      I suspect EE (as it currently stands, not as the future brand for all things BT) would rather you did just that, and this is offering is for those people who have an existing PSTN line and don’t want to lose the number. The real question then is how this compares to existing PSTN prices.

      I’m not sure it’s a “rip off” however. We have a free market, and everyone has the ability to inform themselves on what products and services are available. If EE’s price/services don’t meet your requirements, then don’t use them.

    4. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      @Mark Jackson

      Don’t forget most modern smartphones and mainstream networks allow WiFi calling if your mobile signal is poor.

    5. Avatar photo BTMan says:

      @Raymond

      That would be 1P Mobile – IMHO the best value MVNO there is. I’ve been a customer for many years on that exact tariff

    6. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

      @Mark Jackson

      I’m surprised there aren’t more calls to allow for landline numbers to be ported to mobile networks.

      If it was possible I’d likely have switched to a GSM ATA or something and got a cheap sim.

    7. Avatar photo Jonathan says:

      Hilariously 30 seconds of Googling later and you can get a 4G LTE fixed wireless terminal which has 2 RJ-11 FXS outputs for extensions, and supports VoLTE. Slap in a SIM card and plug in your extensions. Another 30 seconds of Googling later and EE do a “Pocket Landline” which from what I can tell puts a landline on a mobile number.

      Given how cheap you can get a “burner phone” which has a slew of features not needed in a mobile to FXS product, surely this would be an ideal solution to the end of landlines?

    8. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

      @Jonathan

      I had a quick look, in the case of EE that’s aimed at their business customers with SIM only plans starting at £15(+VAT) and a post from 2015 quoted £10(+VAT) for the ‘pocket landline’.

      Having another quick look around, ‘Pocket Landline’ services seem to be one of those things aimed more at businesses than your average consumer, much like VOIP.

      That said, I am seeing some potentially viable options such as Onsim, although still at £12pm it’s still more expensive than say the £5pm plan from 1pmobile. So I feel my post still applies since it would reduce costs.

    9. Avatar photo Jonathan says:

      @tech3475

      I was more thinking about what was technically possible. So if I were EE (aka BT) I would have put out a tender for a mobile to FXS box with battery backup. Needs to support 4G VoLTE with fall back to GSM with battery backup. I estimate that a couple of NiMH C cells (long term availability) could provide 2 weeks standby and 24 hours talktime, so power outs in the home are not really an issue. Power supply is say microUSB so you could use a powerbank in an extended outage. Then I would offer a SIM package with a landline number but tie it my boxes and the landline to the appropriate geographic area (you know what mast its connecting to). That’s the whole migration off POTS sorted for 99.99% of the population. Might be an idea for the option of an screw on antenna for weak signal areas, or possibly even external. You are now down to a tiny percentage of the population.

      Offer it as an add on to your broadband packages and as a standalone offering for those that don’t want/need broadband.

    10. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      Jonathan it’s already in progress

  4. Avatar photo David says:

    But will Plusnet get to play with the new toys as well?
    It will be interesting to see if the still have the support of Big brother.

    1. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      No
      Plusnet is broadband only, you need to move to EE or BT for voice

    2. Avatar photo BTMan says:

      No, as above. PN is about to be killed off as they are merging it and BT to EE which will be the only brand on offer

    3. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      BTMan Plusnet isn’t about to be killed off, it’s just had a rebrand to refocus it as budget broadband only. If they wanted to kill it they’d do it at the same time as removing TV and mobile

    4. Avatar photo Friend says:

      @Anonymous

      PlusNet is going no where, its been stripped back and now is a lean budget broadband only brand from the same stable as EE and BT.

    5. Avatar photo BTMan says:

      oh okay sorry. I assume BT wasted their time putting a team together and sending out weekly updates on when this will happen for craps and giggles. Mobile and TV was killed – and the COT team have been told to migrate as many customers to BT as possible whether they want voice or not. There was an update brief at 9L34am this morning but what would I know hey? I only work on the merger team!

      You’ll see

    6. Avatar photo HJ Sax Man says:

      @BTMan If Plusnet is about to be closed, why did they release the rebadged BT Smart Hub 2 to Plusnet Customers with their own firmware last year? Also, I telephoned the customer options team to see about digital voice a month ago and they keep advising me the infrastructure is there and they are hoping to roll it out sometime over the coming year. Also any new products will be well informed to customers apparently. Something does not add up here.

    7. Avatar photo Friend says:

      @BTMan

      It must be “craps and giggles” from you too as why would PlusNet users be moved to BT if BT users are soon to move to EE? If they really were going to be moved it would be straight to EE even an idiot would realise that.

      You say you work for the “merger team” youre kidding.

    8. Avatar photo LongtimeBTuser says:

      Why bother with the bickering?

      Just read about the Plusnet changes on this page here from ispreview, this very website, a few days ago lol

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2023/08/uk-isp-plusnet-launch-sogea-standalone-fttc-broadband-plan.html

  5. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    I remember when satellite TV was getting going 35 years ago an expert predicting that telephones would mostly mobile and TV would be delivered by fixed cables. Pretty much a spot prediction.

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      Cable TV was around then. The problem with having TV by cable is it costs even for the basic channels, Terrestrial will be going for a few more years as there are still people out there that don’t have the internet speed to cope or don’t want home broadband. sky say they are going to stop installing dishes, so what happens to people who want to access sky but broadband where they are is slow?
      Sky is expensive these days, I did a test just to see how much it costs, £31 a month just for more or less their entertainment channels, They still charge for HD and trying to navigate their site is a nightmare. They stick netflix on even if you don’t want it, taking Netflix off should decrease the price. Still pay extra for HD, really in this day and age? That is before you get to the broadband part.

      If terrestrial TV vanished, then all home would have to have a basic broadband service just for TV for free, but I think it will be many years until the time comes where we can’t get TV via an aerial or even satellite for people who have freesat.

      I don’t watch any terrestrial TV myself, but then I don’t have a TV licence, which if we go all online for TV, would have to go

      Mobile phones, I can understand why people use them and not bothered about a home phone these days, the problem with mobiles is it is possible to forget to charge them, misplace them, and they rely on a network that may not be the most reliable, certainly if out in the sticks

  6. Avatar photo Friend says:

    This is a prerequisite for the pending switch of all BT retail customers to the EE brand.

    Wait and see.

  7. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    To Ivor:

    “The idea that they’d let random people (ie not the CP who is paying for the service) reconfigure it is just patently ludicrous. Just go and slap a 15 year old, out of support and likely insecure ATA on your line instead”

    Who said out of date ATAs? A Siemens Gigaset VOIP DECT phone or similar that is still patched. You can use your own router no matter how old and still connect via PPoE with username – so how is this any different then?

    Compliance – I laughed at that. You mean “lock in”, money to BT, the bottom line. Please don’t now quote compliance for 999 calls because decent VOIP providers can do this even SIPGATE.

    1. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      I actually happen to have the Gigaset unit, but realistically it’s more likely to be an ATA though, probably a cheap Cisco one, cheap because there’s a security flaw that they aren’t fixing because the older models are long EOLd.

      Since you mentioned 999, it’s clear that Ofcom treats the two types of services differently, e.g. https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2022/07/ofcom-monitors-uk-internet-phone-providers-over-999-concerns.html

      As for routers – I don’t recall Ofcom having such stringent regulations on availability/uptime for individual internet services and as such the ISPs don’t care too much what you do there. However, if your misconfigured device has become part of a botnet or is doing other dodgy activities, don’t be surprised when they do say something…

      OTOH they do have to prove that their phone service is up to scratch, so they’re going to insist that you do use their router. This also eliminates fraud concerns (eg if someone’s SIP credentials got leaked by third party kit).

      Ultimately you can do what you want to do – cancel BT’s voice service, plug your own kit in and use Sipgate or whoever you like. BT has decided that their voice service means their equipment, and that is that. You’ll find almost every other ISP doing the same.

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      also, it’s amusing that you talk about equipment age and yet you called it “Siemens Gigaset”. Siemens sold it off a very long time ago, and the N300IP (and its pro counterpart) are just Gigaset branded. I hope you’re not using an ancient base station…

  8. Avatar photo Andrew Porter says:

    We dumped Landline when we went to fibre. Keep the mobile charged up and we have everything we need.

  9. Avatar photo LongtimeBTuser says:

    And yet despite having been using Digital Voice from BT since pre release trials for it, and along with having multiple Essential and Advanced with Alexa digital phones dotted around our house.

    Going through the order process from for EE to look at EE pricings for this etc and to look at getting new Smart Hub, it always returns with the message that we can’t have EE version of Digital Voice.

    Can understand being told we have no landline with us already on BT Digital Voice, however it is stupid we can go from BT to EE Broadband and yet we can’t simply go from BT Digital Voice to EE Home Phone equivalent.

    Maybe, once the new higher tiers are released to the public, I will try testing order again and see if available then.

    1. Avatar photo LongtimeBTuser says:

      Eventually, we will just go fibre and mobiles, however for the time being we need a landline for various reasons.

      So, it is stupid we can’t just order basically the same service from EE that we get from BT already.

      Knowing our luck, we will be told we can’t port over our existing BT Digital Voice number, which was originally our landline number too

    2. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      I suspect it will be a simple rebranding exercise and existing customers will just continue with their existing equipment and pretty much carry on as usual. They recently sent me the keep connected unit which was branded as EE but it worked with my BT SH2 just fine.

  10. Avatar photo Keiron says:

    You’ve got that wrong. It is not a the new WiFi6 smart hub. It is the current hub in new shell.

    1. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      The gigabit package has the Wifi 6 Smart Hub Plus router, the others just have the Smart Hub

  11. Avatar photo Miachel says:

    What I find hilarious about this is EE, claims they know nothing about it, yet it’s on their own website, and the only way to get digital voice is to become a BT customer, shut down your old internet, and switch over.

    The article, and the website link, the PDF etc , EE employees claims doesn’t exist, yet when you give them link, they act dumb.

    See since the whole BT/EE merger thing, EE’s entire company has gone down the proverbial drain.

  12. Avatar photo SomersetBob says:

    Expensive for what it is. I get 300 minutes for £5 with my ISP and we only have the landline for elderly relatives who won’t answer our mobiles :-). Also use my own router for internet but the ISP’s for phone with their router in modem mode.

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