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MPs Debate 2025 Switch-off Dangers of Analogue UK Phone Services

Thursday, Dec 14th, 2023 (12:07 am) - Score 4,960
Home phone UK handset in red

A meeting in the House of Commons was held yesterday that saw MPs from different parties debate the forthcoming withdrawal of BT and Openreach’s old copper-based analogue line networks (PSTN phones and WLR) by Dec 2025, which touched on a variety of issues from battery backup to problems with the reliability of digital replacements.

Hopefully by now most people will be aware that Openreach and BT, much like other network operators across Europe with a legacy of older copper infrastructure, are in the process of upgrading all of their old analogue services on to a fully digital (IP-based) network, which is due to be completed by Dec 2025 (the national stop sell has already begun). KCOM are doing something similar in Hull, which aims to finish by the end of 2024.

NOTE: Sadly, it is not economically viable for the operators to retain both old and new networks side-by-side, particularly with customers on the old network being expected to fall to a very low level as the migrations continue.

Just to be clear. Openreach are withdrawing their old Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) products as part of this change, while BT are retiring their related Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) at the same time.

The change is currently focused on phone services, which means that the old physical copper and aluminium lines continue to exist and will be used for broadband, albeit usually only in areas that haven’t yet gained access to the latest gigabit-capable full fibre (FTTP) technologies from Openreach or KCOM. This is important because digital phone services require a broadband connection in order to work (i.e. you plug your existing handset into the back of a router or analogue terminal adapter, rather than the wall socket).

The problem is that the new generation of Internet Protocol (IP) based digital phone solutions do have the odd caveat. Aside from the fact that the setup is a little bit more complicated, the new services are also not remotely powered (i.e. if there’s a power cut, they go down) and often don’t work properly with older alarm or telecare monitoring systems. In fairness, the latter is just as much the fault of telecare and alarm providers (i.e. failing to upgrade their systems).

Some providers have highlighted that mobile operators can provide a useful backup if your landline goes down, but that’s only true if your chosen operator delivers a good indoor signal to your home (not always the case) and mobile networks often go down during power cuts too. But in fairness, protracted power cuts can also affect analogue phone services, so nothing is perfect. In addition, a lot of analogue phone users have DECT systems, which don’t usually work in power cuts either.

Yesterday’s debate – ‘Copper Wire Telecoms‘ – touched on many of these issues and more. The Government’s Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, Sir John Whittingdale, responded by highlighting some of the work that providers have done to address these concerns, while also noting that the old network is “not fit for purpose today … spare parts are difficult to find, the number of outages is increasing and the engineers who work on it are retiring. Not moving away from that to a more modern, resilient network would in itself create risk“.

However, Whittingdale also agreed that ensuring resilience for phone services on the new network was part of the problem, before pointing out that the transition was an industry-level process: “The process was decided and initiated by the telecoms industry. The Government did not ask it to do so, nor have they determined the timelines or parameters for the switch-off.”

Interestingly, the Government claims to have asked “companies to pause forced migrations from PSTN networks” and have also asked if Ofcom can do more to monitor the migration process.

Sir John Whittingdale said:

“Despite the assurances that we were given by communications operators, we have recently become aware of serious incidents of telecare users finding that their devices have failed when trying to activate them. That is completely unacceptable. The safety of vulnerable people has to be our top priority. As soon as we learned of those incidents, the Secretary of State and I met the relevant communication provider and requested that it carry out an urgent investigation to identify all vulnerable customers and make sure that their devices are fully operable.

In addition, we have asked the companies to pause forced migrations from PSTN networks and have asked Ofcom what more it can do to monitor the migration process. We have invited all communications providers to attend a roundtable tomorrow to ask them to sign up to a charter of commitments to protect vulnerable consumers through the transition. That will cover the need to protect vulnerable consumers—particularly telecare users—as well as the need to go further than Ofcom guidance on power resilience for the most vulnerable consumers and to agree a cross-sector definition of vulnerability.

I have also had meetings in the last 24 hours with Ministers from the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to discuss what more can be done to protect vulnerable consumers and to facilitate data sharing between local authorities, telecoms firms and telecare providers so that we can locate every single one of the people reliant on those devices.

Separately, since 2018 Ofcom has issued guidance to operators to ensure the sector remains resilient to all risks that may affect services. It states that, in the event of a power outage, providers should have at least one telecoms solution available that enables access to emergency organisations for a minimum of one hour. The solution should be suitable for customers’ needs and should be offered free of charge to those who are at risk.”

The good news is that most ISPs with a digital phone solution are now offering optional battery backup options to their most vulnerable customers, but MPs pointed out that, with storms increasing, a backup time of at least 1 hour was “insufficient” (one problem here is that the bigger the battery capacity, the bigger the cost). “Obviously, we face more violent weather events and potentially greater power outages, so we will keep that under review, and we are asking Ofcom to look at it again,” added Whittingdale.

The government also highlighted Ofcom’s new consultation on network resilience (here), which among other things is looking at the issue of mobile operators providing inadequate power backup at network sites. Solving this might help to tackle the problem of mobile connectivity being far too exposed to power outages, although it may also significantly increase the cost of running such sites and other sites may lack the space for such upgrades.

It is right that the industry should seek to switch off the PSTN but, in doing so, companies should ensure that the transition is secure and efficient, and that they protect those who rely on the PSTN for their connectivity. As I have said, we remain extremely concerned that some of the understanding and assurance that we had about the protections being put in place appear not to have been fully delivered,” concluded Whittingdale.

However, it seems as if the MPs may yet not be aware of the latest developments from Openreach and BT, which are testing an additional (SOTAP for Analogue) phone line product that does NOT require a broadband connection to function, is powered (no need for battery backup) and will be targetted at vulnerable and edge use cases (inc. CNI) users – those with old analogue phone lines (PSTN) who would otherwise “face challenges” in migrating to IP based voice solutions by 2025.

The solution, once introduced, would not be available for new service provisions (only existing customers) and is intended to be a temporary product (possibly running until around 2030). In theory, this would allow more time for people and networks to adapt, but it won’t be launched until later in 2024 and is arriving quite late to the party.

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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
71 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    The telecare companies e.t.c. will have had 8 years to prepare for the PSTN switch off. Other countries have already completed this process. Absolutely ridiculous.

  2. Avatar photo Jon says:

    Honestly whoever hasn’t prepared for this deserves the disconnection that’s coming

    Openreach, BT, etc are doing WAY TOO MUCH
    Should be one email, SMS, letter to service address or call at MAX, that says, your service from us will end on XYZ, and will never work again. If you have medicare, contact them about this

    1. Avatar photo Just a thought says:

      I’m sure the elderly widow with dementia who still struggles to remember how the push button phone she has works (she keeps asking why it doesn’t have a dial) will just have just missed that email.
      Her social careers that pop in for the 10 minutes in the morning and evening to make sure she’s eaten today and get her into bed at 19:20 (that’s when her late call is in the rota) have probably told her she’s got post. But you know if you’ve explained what a PSTN is once to someone you’ve done it a thousand times.
      When the SMS was sent to her landline, she did ask the e-voice to “repeat that please”, but darn inconsiderate computer didn’t listen.
      If people like this just hurried off with this mortal coil things would be easier for all telecoms providers……..

      Life isn’t always simple in a caring society

    2. Avatar photo Jon says:

      You don’t need to understand PSTN to understand:
      – Your landline will STOP working on 1/1/2025

      If you use Medicare, your provider should be getting alerted and probably has a much bigger responsibility in that situation than BT/OR

      In these situations, I guess it makes sense to play messages on outbound calls, before they connect, and to play the message to both parties on an incoming call, ending it by asking the person on the other line to repeat it back to the person who it was intended for

      Some people are acting like we need to delay putting a very old technology to bed because some elderly people don’t think they need the “new” stuff, or that some medicare providers are being cheap

      Certainly, it is time the PSTN goes to bed, and we should be doing this switchoff much sooner

    3. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      Wow, I bet I could go into town and speak to hundreds of people, that is if I can find hundreds, anyway, speak to hundreds of people and the majority would have no idea that copper phone system is being turned off.

      What about people who have equipment that don’t work with digital phone lines? Bloated Toad once again is all about how much money they can make, and they don’t care one little bit about their customers, but then that seems to be the norm these days with companies. do what they want, don’t matter about the customers, the people who makes them the money in the first place.

    4. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      no, you’ll probably find it’s the reality where the PSTN equipment is life expired, the people who built and know it best have retired or are shortly to do so, the copper network needs to go, and the vast majority of people want modern services instead. It shouldn’t be held back because of romanticised views of what was never there in the first place.

      “bloated toad” doesn’t even make sense. At least the classics like Micro$oft meant something.

      Lots of other countries have made the migration. Why is it in the UK we get so bogged down? Much like how we can’t even build a railway line while our next door neighbour has an entire high speed network.

    5. Avatar photo Jon says:

      Why is it anyone else’s problem that somebody’s end of life equipment relies on a network that’s going out of service?

      BT/OR should have to maintain it just for you? So you don’t have to upgrade your ancient tech? No.

    6. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Ad47UK: ‘What about people who have equipment that don’t work with digital phone lines? Bloated Toad once again is all about how much money they can make…’

      Also Ad47UK: ‘Considering their size and how long they have been around you would have thought they would be up there in the world of tech, but that is BT for you, charge huge amounts for old tech, after all we had it for years with FTTC.’

      Also Ad47UK: ‘FTTC works for many people and for those of us who have a pretty decent speed, there is little point in changing.’

      I could go on but you get the point. Sure you aren’t just having a poke as you loathe BT and, quote: ‘I am fed up with being lied to, mislead or pushed to use things I don’t want to use.’

      So you resent the PSTN being switched off?

      PSTN is old tech. Continuing to support it indefinitely will make everything more expensive, and make BT more ‘bloated’ having to continue to have copper and fibre engineers all over the place and maintain both networks. As folks move over to fibre copper will go up and up and up in price, else fibre subscribers will have to subsidise it massively.

      Copper gets switched off everything can become cheaper. Compared with how other nations have handled it the schedule Openreach have set is very, very generous and the provisions they made are far more extensive than most.

    7. Avatar photo The facts says:

      AD47UK- what do you propose should happen? What do the FTTP altnets provide?

    8. Avatar photo Jon says:

      Ad47UK, If a better connection was provided to you, on FTTP, for the same price, you still wouldn’t upgrade to it because “FTTC works fine”

      But copper needs to go some day, it is pure entitlement to expect a network to keep providing a copper service to your house when everyone else is on a cheaper, more efficient and better service, just because “it works fine for me”

    9. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Here’s what happens in the USA, Ad.

      https://www.verizon.com/home/fiberupgrade/

      ‘Your Verizon services will be suspended if you do not allow Verizon reasonable access to your premises to install, maintain, or replace equipment and facilities that will enable us to move your service to our fiber-optic facilities. Once your service is suspended, you will only be able to call 9-1-1 and our customer service number, which is 1.800.VERIZON (1.800.837.4966). Approximately 14 days after being suspended, Verizon service at your address will be disconnected unless you allow us to move your service to our fiber-optic facilities.’

      https://www.att.com/support/article/local-long-distance/KM1096816/

      ‘Make sure you check the notice we sent you. It includes the date by which you must transfer your service.’

      So if you aren’t a fan of us being behind you’ll be on board with battery backup for those who need it and the copper going, right?

    10. Avatar photo Fender says:

      “Bloated Toad” – I thought the school holidays started tomorrow?

    11. Avatar photo ItsNotJustAboutYOU says:

      Dear Jon (if only..)
      Other perspectives.
      So when the NHS is sold to US medical ‘care’ profiteers is your approach just pay up ’cause this is the new era’?
      Anything to do with infrastucture in this country is pp, never thought through, communicated or done for end consumers as opposed to parasitic corporations and subs of, and when they cock it up just expecting ‘customers’ to have pay for the negligence, directy or indirectly by government ‘funding’ (from the ‘public’ purse – tax payers money), never by accountability to CEO’s or shareholders who were happy to take the mal administed short term proffits, shareholders have a responsibility too and should be held financially accountable along with Officers of Companies, and ‘consultants’ to.

      Neglecting serving infrastructure, failing to prevent it becoming decrepit or spun as ‘no longer’ being ‘fit for purpose’, is scant excuse for rolling out new, at further cost to ‘customers’ and proffit for corps is a pp way or runing a country for its inhabitants, of future coherrent ‘national’ infrastructure in inclusive of (all) society.

      For those not addicted, media marketing sheep, to mobiles or the ‘internet, noting thay are both additional costs to consumers, there is nothing wrong with just having a tellephone that works to speak to people, friends, familly let alone health and emergency services that works even if (when) there’s a powercut, or require charging etc and does not force additional running costs etc or learning (from the hard copy media NOT provided – not everyone wants to be addicted to a mobile screen or computing device) is not exactly considerate. Oh or of course directly or not forcing; nay coercing, corralling and or bullying a population to have to pay for mobile or internet services is exactly socially responsible. But it does make governments more revenue from tax and lobbyists etc – shoch horro all having to be paid for by ‘consumers’ being ‘positioned’ whether they like it or not and or financially excluding those running out of funds.

      I have a vulnerable neighbour, his considerate energy company sent him a text, he has a mobile phone, a real mobile phone, not data ‘consumer’ profiling ‘smart one’, with a meessage link to a web page on how he can find out about help provided to vulnerable customers…, no contact number provided and of course it was one of these talk to the hand communications not having ears, you know they type oc communication all mouth and no ears. Only he doesn’t have internet, the sms didnt accept replys, so what type of considerate ‘communication’ to a known vulnerable person was that (other then perhaps the type you’d spout)?

      I supose you don’t give a s-1- about such people? Are you in uk government or a ‘consultant’ to by any chance.

      There’ alyays another view, try and be considerate and embrace others opinions you know there may something in them to enrich the outcome.

    12. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      “Neglecting serving infrastructure, failing to prevent it becoming decrepit or spun as ‘no longer’ being ‘fit for purpose’”

      But they are renewing that infrastructure to provide the services people actually want. I suspect if you asked people whether they want fast, reliable broadband or a landline, they’d pick the former.

      “even if (when) there’s a powercut”

      but not much good when the mains powered cordless phone is inevitably plonked on the end of it

      “to have to pay for mobile or internet services ”

      [citation needed]. I don’t think BT is targeting landline only customers at present, but I would be surprised if they pay more than they do now. Even if their bill contains the word “broadband”, or even if they technically have broadband service but used solely for landline delivery.

      They’ll get a router, they will plug the phone into that (or use the new one), and life will go on.

      “excluding those running out of funds.”

      aren’t pensioners – in general – among the wealthier in society these days?

      “There’ alyays another view, try and be considerate and embrace others opinions you know there may something in them to enrich the outcome.”

      No, it’s just reality. This plan has been years in the making and it’s not going to be halted now. Copper is on its way out. Traditional landlines are on their way out. Get a battery backup unit and move on.

      (and FYI long winded, meandering posts like yours are hard to read and unlikely to elicit much of a response)

    13. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Actually ‘ItsNotJustAboutYOU’ the way for BT Group to maximise profits would be to continue to sweat the copper and not roll out any fibre at all. £15 billion is not an insignificant sum and BT saw their share price take a hit as a result of announcing it: the money markets would’ve preferred they sit on their copper and keep raking in the cash, moving a customer from copper to fibre makes them very little money month on month and takes a while to pay back.

      I’m curious how you are expecting BT to prevent infrastructure becoming decrepit when the parts aren’t available to maintain it. They could of course have them custom made but that would cost a fortune. Who’s paying for it given your complaints about people being charged more?

      Talking of charging more I, and I imagine you, both remember how much it used to cost to make a phone call. A website kindly preserves it for nostalgia: https://telephonesuk.org.uk/nostalgia-documents/call-charges/

      Even without inflation it doesn’t take many minutes of calls at 50p a minute to reach the costs of an Internet plan.

      The comparison with the NHS is facile and invalid.

      Any point you may have had is completely undermined by phrases like ‘media marketing sheep’, ‘a real mobile phone, not data ‘consumer’ profiling ‘smart one’’ and ‘Are you in uk government or a ‘consultant’ to by any chance.’. The comment about how people should be open to other points of view was pretty good by the way given those.

      It’s not just about your neighbour, either. Infrastructure is built for generations to come, and the sooner current generations get their heads around that and stop with their own short-term demands for lower taxes, less inconvenience, etc, the better. Working taxpayers are already paying way more in tax to support the elderly and, no, they haven’t and will not have paid in enough to cover it.

      If you’re so angry about your neighbour I would’ve thought you’d be helping them navigate this and perhaps ensure they have the most resilient service available to them through battery back-up and the interim product Openreach are proposing rather than expecting everything to revolve around the increasingly small number of people relying on telephones exclusively with no Internet access or ability to make calls to any extent via mobile.

      You could, perhaps, even do what we did here with my mother in law and introduce her to smartphones, ensure she’s access to basic WiFi and, in time, maybe they’ll want to follow it up. Or you could warn them off it telling them they shouldn’t become a ‘media marketing sheep’ and should keep their ‘real mobile phone, not data ‘consumer’ profiling ‘smart one’ which is potentially what you’ve done if you are using such language here. She makes occasional use of social media, uses WhastsApp, takes advantage of some online services but certainly isn’t permanently attached to a device. Best of both worlds some might say.

      As a general rule we look after our most vulnerable, exceptionally, and make allowances for them as much as possible but progress. It’s not about one person for sure, but why should the vast majority pay more, see more inconvenience and go without for the sake of the minority? The middle way is possible and, frankly, we’re already quite far enough behind in retiring this legacy, outdated, expensive and now pointless infrastructure. Overbuild is the only way to make it fit for purpose and that’s what must happen. Sooner the better, while minimising risk to the vulnerable.

  3. Avatar photo Bob says:

    The telecom provider may not know that a subscriber has a telecare service so are dependent on the subscriber informing them as for the battery back up an hour should be more than adequate. They should be told though n the case of a power cut to not use the internet and only use the phone in an emergency until power is restored

    Generally the BT exchanges no longer gave back up generators so rely on the batterers during power cuts they give a maximum of 24 hours power in theory

    1. Avatar photo Mick says:

      All BT exchanges still have diesel backup generators. They have 1hr battery to give generators chance to start.

  4. Avatar photo The facts says:

    All this applies to anyone living in, or moving to, a new build with only FTTP. How do they manage?

    Saying the PSTN is being switched off is confusing. With an adaptor, or plugging the phone into the router the service continues.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Yes, but that service isn’t the PSTN, it’s a different digital/IP one under the hood and sold via retail ISPs rather than the network operator.

    2. Avatar photo The facts says:

      @Mark – what here is sold via the network operator to the end customer in the home?

      What do people with telecare do when they move to a new build FTTP area?

    3. Avatar photo Roger_Gooner says:

      It depends who your ISP is. For example, BT’s Smart Hub 2 has a phone socket that the Careline unit can be plugged into.

    4. Avatar photo Bob says:

      No BT no longer have diesel generator in local exchanges. They do as far as I know still have them in some key exchanged. All the exchanges currently have battery back up typically giving up to 24 hours back up. This gives time to move a mobile generator set in should the power cut be for a longer duration

      They used to an nay still have the ability to mass cut off subscribers to conserve power for essential users such as emergency services hospitals etc

    5. Avatar photo The facts says:

      Virgin Media do not offer a phone service with their new FTTP system.

    6. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      are you sure they don’t? they’re moving their cable customers to VoIP delivered via the hub, and it appears the FTTP router “hub 5” has phone ports too. There’s no reason why they could not offer a landline service this way.

    7. Avatar photo 125us says:

      Bob – every exchange has a generator. Why on earth would BT re-engineer the power systems in 5,000 exchanges when they will be turned off in a few years? The expense of providing enough battery capacity for 24 hour backup in each site when a generator already exists and works is mind boggling.

      Who is telling you all this stuff?

    8. Avatar photo 125us says:

      The ability to remove service from users – which still exists today – is entirely a congestion prevention measure and has no effect on power consumption.

  5. Avatar photo Sam says:

    Personally I feel the UPS being offered by BT for example should be free to disabled and vulnerable people. Charging £85 is unfair. Also providing a landline style phone that can use a mobile network in case of an outage should be free to these people too. I have said it before and I will say it again. This has not been thought out at all and a lot of people will be detrimentally affected.

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      This is BT for you, don’t care, as long as they are getting their millions. Seems to be the norm these days.

    2. Avatar photo The facts says:

      What do people in places with only FTTP do?

    3. Avatar photo 125us says:

      @ad47

      How is that you think BT will make millions from this?

      The PSTN is now very old. The newest exchanges in the local network were installed in 1998. The manufacturers either no longer exist in the case of GPT/Marconi or stopped selling the product 20 years ago in the case of Ericsson. No manufacturer sells circuit switched analogue exchanges any more.

      If the PSTN isn’t turned off soon it will fail, irreparably, and then you’d really be complaining. That’s why every other country in the world has done or is doing this. That’s why every telco in the UK has done or is doing this.

      Do you complain to the manufacturer of your freezer or TV about them not working when the power fails? Or do you consider that a problem for your electricity provider to solve?

    4. Avatar photo Blake says:

      Virgin Media O2 don’t charge for the battery back up when switching to VOIP service. Any customer who’s vulnerable can ask for the back up landline phone for free. Has battery within and an O2 sim card in it, Motorola branded I believe. Surprised BT don’t ask customers if they require a back up as a matter of course and provide it for free.

    5. Avatar photo Mick says:

      BT do offer a battery free of charge for vulnerable customers.

      https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/money-legal/consumer-issues/changes-to-landline-telephones/

      “Free battery back-up units for Digital Voice customers with additional needs, who identify as vulnerable and/or live in an area without mobile signal. Customers without additional needs can also choose to purchase a battery back-up unit.”

    6. Avatar photo SiC says:

      Lets face it teh public service behind this, teh ‘government’ have been rather invisible in publishing any of it – How about Public information broadcasts on TV, and a ‘Important Notice’ letter? What the government actually communication about such things they are allowwing, Could be a revolution in public engagement. And of course how about how emergeny/ service / organisationss will be contactable (without further consumer forced costs, just go and buy a mobile / ups/generator and wiring) during power outages. Just imagine when your granny, possibly on a way below national living ‘wage’ / pension can’t call 999 and dies as a consequence, swallow this.
      Change is only good when it is; a good beneficial change, well communicated, and well executed, any of these missing then it is not a good change.

  6. Avatar photo Ivor says:

    It is amazing how everyone suddenly believes the landline was the pinnacle of reliability and resilience, when it never was (as anyone who’s had a crackly like can tell you). Not to mention the reality that most people who still have them plug mains powered phones or devices into them anyway. Including telecare devices with limited battery backup.

    Really not sure what the ISPs – especially BT – could do more of at this point. BT in particular has had a test lab for years to allow the industry to test their stuff & it has long agreed to provide battery backups to vulnerable users.

    I’m sure those same MPs are happy to promote the faster and more reliable internet that the PSTN closure is helping to fund to their consistuents, though. (yes I know it’s not the same project, but it is a key enabler to dumping copper entirely)

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      Nothing is perfect, but looking at VoIP and what it has to go through to work, I am amazed it works at all sometimes, but then that is the same with the internet. I have had times when my phone went down. well once and my broadband went belly up at the same time, that was a strange fault.
      My parents had a problem with their phone line now and again, mainly due to water, but that was because the GPO did not waterproof the connections well enough. Eventually they sorted it and they never had a problem again.

      The problem with digital voice, it relies on the user having power, I know a lot of people have Dect phones that also need power, but some don’t

      They call this advancing, I am not so sure.

    2. Avatar photo Fender says:

      Yes, its strange that in a power cut, loss of lighting and in many cases heating and the ability to have warm food and drinks is just accepted, its the phone which gets people worked up.

    3. Avatar photo Alun Cox says:

      Yes Ivor, the test lab has been there for quite a few years (London Kings Cross area). I wonder why the Telecare companies haven’t been in toucch with their customers to explain what they need to do to maintain their service? Do they not have a responsibility too?

    4. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      It is the telecare companies responsibility to ensure their customers continue to get service after the PSTN shut down. This is what their customers pay for. Other countries have been far more aggressive with their shutdowns as detailed elsewhere in the comments.

    5. Avatar photo XGS says:

      If you have used a TalkTalk Wholesale service, Sky or Vodafone you’ve probably used VoIP, Ad.

      You didn’t realise it because there was a regular copper line on your side. It became VoIP when it hit the exchange.

      It’s nothing new. It became mass market with MPF LLU.

    6. Avatar photo Bob says:

      Most copper cables are in the ground and the ground gets wet. Copper and water are not a good mix . Water getting into the copper cables causes problems . It is very difficult to prevent in fact BT for key trunk cables either pressurised them or filled them with grease y try to keep the water out
      Fibre is a vast improvement over copper

      The UK seems to have developed a dislike to progress

    7. Avatar photo 125us says:

      Bob – pstn closure is not about moving away from fibre. The copper will be in use for at least a decade.

  7. Avatar photo Alex says:

    Why is it only ever BT mentioned in these stories?
    Virgin Media is doing the same thing and communicating even less about it.

    1. Avatar photo Roger_Gooner says:

      BT has by far the greatest number of the 26.9m landline customers, so faces the most problems. Also, BT has about 75% of the 1m phone-only customers who are amongst the most vulnerable as their landline is their only means of calling.

  8. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    I am old enough to remember when the currency went decimal. There was a huge publicity campaign both in the newspapers and on TV so that when D-day eventually came round just about everyone was aware of what was happening. Similarly the changes to the phone numbers in the 1990s were well publicised.

    But there has been very little effort to raise awareness about the changeover from the traditional phone system to digital.

    1. Avatar photo Mick says:

      Because everyone used money, the money change impacted everyone. But now a massive proportion of the population do not use a landline. BT still has millions of lines, but the call volumes are tiny now and many lines are only there because getting broadband without PSTN only came along ~recently. There is a small and reducing number of people that still use a landline and they are the ones BT has to target – and for some of them 2025 won’t be the end either as their line will be emulated from the exchange until 2030.

  9. Avatar photo tonyp says:

    There does not seem to be mass communication of the upcoming change. I consider PSTN turn off to be akin to the switch from analogue to digital TV for which there was an advertising campaign announcing the need for a box or new TV. Personally, I do have telecare services on my PSTN line but again, no indication from my supplier (my local council) about any impact. And yes, we do have power failures – glitches almost weekly and outages when the trees need cutting too.

    Quite a few years ago, I attended a council led meeting about telecare services during which I raised the question about impending digitalisation but that was overlooked (although I was asked if I would become a consumer representative to the council’s careline services – I wish I had accepted now).

    At least I’m reasonably tech savvy but I’m with @Just a thought says on this. My partner has a long term friend who recently was switched to an ISP for her phone services which screens inbound phone calls. My partner’s friend does not know how to whitelist inbound calls and thus they cannot talk. I just hope there will be no such implications for the switch to digital in general.

    1. Avatar photo Alex says:

      It’s not the same as TV. It doesn’t affect everyone and every type of service. It’s affecting less than half of the country, not every CP and not every service – so a mass campaign would be confusing for the vast majority of people who don’t need to do anything.

    2. Avatar photo Bob says:

      Most ISP#s offer phone screening service. If it is turned on the call tells you what to do. You can as well do the white and black listing via the web that’s to complicated you can turn the call screening off

  10. Avatar photo Duncan McClymont says:

    Every user is vulnerable if the phone is dead for 999
    Everyone should be on UPS

    I live semi rural and mobiles go off with the power instantly

    There landline is all that is left to call out, when if just 105 to report the outage

    This may work if mobile base stations are independently powered like exchanges are today???

    Problem instantly solved?

    1. Avatar photo Mick says:

      The backup to a broken landline for most people is the mobile, as most homes are in range of mobile. So no, I don’t think everyone need a battery if 999 is the purpose.

      For homes out of range of mobile then yes, a battery is a good idea. (Or in many cases a home that cannot get indoor mobile signal can get a signal if they step outside to make that emergency call).

      Also a 999 call will be taken by any provider, so even if your normal provider is not available where you are, that 999 call may go through anyway, always try and don’t just take “NO SIGNAL” as meaning you can’t make a call.

      I agree that more mobile base stations with generators would be good, and Ofcom is pushing for this.

  11. Avatar photo Meadmodj says:

    Politicians late again to the party.
    BT is not the only provider, as highlighted there is VM, Kcom and the various LLUs which will all be migrating and still on copper.
    BT is now advertising digital voice and I know both BT and VM are sending out emails to their customers.

    The main issue is with the telecare industry. Despite being given access to BT test sites to validate all their products many people are left with “it might not work”. Not good enough. The UK ISP DV router ATAs are very capable. So where is the test schedule of the main products used in the UK and their compatibility?
    The copper will be there in most cases until 2030 so at least BT has come up with a proposed solution for vulnerable consumers that do not have an alternative and will sell their Pre-Digital to businesses that simply have not prepared.
    What the politicians should be concentrating on is the resilience criteria of the new networks both fixed and mobile.

    1. Avatar photo Cheesemp says:

      100%. Most of the fault with this is the telecare industry but its far easier for them to complain than invest. But yes this debate is also so late to be almost pointless.

  12. Avatar photo FibreBubble says:

    Unplug the phone from the wall, plug in the box we sent you. Plug phone in to box.

    This isn’t rocket surgery. But what it will do is separate providers with good customer service and support from those that don’t.

    1. Avatar photo Alex says:

      it isn’t brain science either

    2. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      Did someone mention broccoli soup?

      Either way, it is long overdue, plenty of notice has been given, and there are stop-gap options available.

    3. Avatar photo Litesp33d says:

      Yeah. That is what the headlines always say.
      And that is what most people want to do with a phone line. Plug it in an use it.
      Here is a story of what happens when it doesn’t go to plan. Not me I hasten to add.
      When there was a fault on my line several months before my current BT debacle, I was told that it would be in my interests to ditch the old system and switch to digital telephoning.

      There would be a one-off charge (I forget how much) to receive two new handsets, but the lines would be clearer and there’d be less chance of faults ‘going forward’, said a man whom I assumed was in the faults department but clearly was in sales.

      ‘I’d rather keep it simple and just have the fault dealt with,’ I told him.
      Then, to my surprise, some handsets arrived free of charge and a time-wasting merry-go-round began — which was anything but merry.

      I had been roped in to BT’s digital rollout, which is aiming to switch ten million households from traditional landlines to a digital network which relies on the internet.

      If you hadn’t heard, the plan is to switch the entire country — house by house — off the old copper landline network in the coming years and rip out all the old cables.

      So-called Digital Voice is all about ‘future-proofing’ the landline in the digital age, or so BT claims.

      But as Money Mail reported last week, the rollout has been beset with problems — and has left many homeowners baffled and cut off. I’m among them.

      Shortly after receiving the handsets, I was sent the first of a series of breezy emails from BT. ‘Your service is good to go,’ it chirped.

      But, of course, it wasn’t good to go — my landline wasn’t working at all.

      And the rest of the message made little sense, banging on about my improved broadband connection when all I wanted to do was make and receive telephone calls from the landline for which I am charged on a monthly basis.

      This is especially important because the mobile phone signal where I live is hopeless and my wife needs to speak daily to her elderly mother in a Norfolk care home.

      I never asked to transition (their word not mine — but depressingly loaded all the same) from having a normal telephone line to a digital one.

      There was no choice, but this didn’t stop BT telling me how ‘exciting’ it was going to be. Over the next few weeks I received a series of emails, but none were helpful.
      At one point, I was advised that the problem might well be my ‘hub’, which in old money means my router.

      A new one would be sent out. Just plug it in and (here we are again) you’ll be ‘good to go’.

      I wasn’t. My landline worked intermittently and would suddenly cut off. When I complained, I was told that an engineer from Openreach would be in touch to arrange a visit.

      And, knock me down with the proverbial feather, he did indeed make contact and turned up on the appointed day.
      I made him a celebratory cuppa and we shared a plate of digestive biscuits. He was an engaging young man who knew his stuff.

      But could he get the digital line up and running? No. So I’m still left without a landline.

      As I suspected, there was absolutely nothing wrong with my existing hub — so I shoved the new one in a cupboard and threw away the box it came in.

      Bad move. I am now the recipient of emails telling me that if I do not send back the new hub by a certain date there’ll be trouble.

      ‘Under our service agreement, a charge will be applied if the kit isn’t returned,’ I have been warned. The charge? £50.

      I have no doubt that I shall be fined for not returning quickly enough a piece of equipment I never asked for in the first place.
      Fortunately, I am not dependent on a landline — but many elderly and vulnerable people are.

      And so it’s right that the Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan has this week told telecom companies to back off.

      BT and Virgin Media O2 have both confirmed that they will ‘pause’ the rollout of digital phones, not least because nearly two million people rely on ‘telecare’ services, whereby they can activate personal alarms in the event of an emergency.

      Or, sadly, find that they cannot activate these services because of malfunctioning digital systems, often caused by the internet dropping out.

      Worryingly, ministers said on Monday they have been alerted to ‘serious incidents’ of telecare devices failing ‘despite the assurances that we were given by communications operators’.

      But the whole experience has left me dismayed at how laborious this all is. And I dread to think how older, more fragile, people are coping with the switch.

      I have wasted hours trying to get through to BT on the phone. My most recent call lasted a mere 20 minutes — but at least some progress was made.

      We established that I need a booster device because the hub is too far from the phone — and one has duly arrived. ‘Just follow the instructions and you’ll be good to go,’ said the faults man, or words to that effect.

      But the instructions look complicated and I’m yet to wrestle with them. Certainly, for some people, they would be intimidating.

      Technology should be our servant, not our master. But BT doesn’t get this. Its highly paid executives think they know what’s best for the rest of us.

      That’s a tyranny, of sorts. And one that millions of us will have to endure as the country’s old landlines are switched off and replaced by the internet.

      Telecoms giants are all the same in my experience. They promise to make one’s life easier — but once they’ve got you and your standing order is active, it’s a different story.

      Some of us will remember the 1994 BT slogan: It’s good to talk. How ironic that sounds now, when the last thing BT wants is to pick up the phone to talk to customers.

  13. Avatar photo DaveZ says:

    Of course, the real driving force behind this sudden interest is the fact that London is now due to be done. London self-interest yet again. They don’t give a **** what happends north of Watford.

  14. Avatar photo Bob says:

    The old analogue local loop is end of life. Much of the copper is 50 years plus old and in poor condition and bopper cables do not like moisture increases

    The conversion to Digital for most people will e very straight forward., You will just plug your existing phone into the hub rather than the master socket. In some cases an adapter will be needed

    Digital is a lot more reliable than analogue, Battery backup can be provided if needed

    One problem is there is as far as I know no central records of Medicare alarms etc so the ISP is dependent on the customer notifying them

    Another issue can be number portability this can be more of an issue with alt nets. You will need to advise yur ISP that you want to keep your existing number or you may end up with a new number

    1. Avatar photo 125us says:

      This isn’t a move away from copper Bob.

  15. Avatar photo Michael Bradbrook says:

    I was on BT home essential (the social tariff) when I was on Universal credit and the digital voice was forced on to me. I got a scammer one day who said they were from BT and Openreach and said that they would block my phone if I put it down. It took BT 24 hours to get my phone back up and running. The scammer managed to block my outgoing as well as my incoming calls. This just proves how easy it is for a scammer to knock one of these digital phones out and especially if it is a vulnerable person that scammers do it to, and the vulnerable person would be panicking as they have no way of calling emergency services. Also the Digital phone that was issued to me wouldn’t update either automatic or manually forced to update even after changing it 3 to 4 times through BT.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      If a scanner was able to cut your phone service remotely this is a massive issue that needs both very high level intervention from BT and government and publicising widely in the press.

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      *Scammer

    3. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      I think that’s more likely to be a fault that happened coincidentally at around the same time. There is no way for a scammer to do what you think they did.

      The closest example to this was only possible on the PSTN (ie the thing they’re closing down), where a call could be kept up for a few *minutes* after you hang up, and that was changed to a couple of seconds a few years ago after scammers actually did use this method.

  16. Avatar photo Bob says:

    It is a move away from copper. Initially many on FTTC will be converted to digital and that does still use copper but the medium term aim is to remove all the copper

    1. Avatar photo 125us says:

      No. They are two separate things. PSTN closure is entirely driven by obsolescence of the switching fabric. It has nothing to do with broadband rollout, nothing to do with FTTP.

      Stop stating your opinion as fact.

  17. Avatar photo Keith says:

    My router is less than 12 months old, it does not have a port for a phone and I use the 4 LAN connections ( Server PC, Hive, Printer and a link to TV box ). The router works just fine so it seems very ungreen to generate tons of waste replacing thousands of routers.

    I asked a local openreach engineer I know and he said we will still be on at least 2 miles of copper as the nearest fibre cabinet is that far away and I live in a small town with a population of 10,000.

    yet again BT and other businesses being very London and other metropolitan area centric

    1. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      whose router? who is your ISP?

      If it actually is BT, then I’d be surprised that you didn’t recieve a Smart Hub 2, which has the digital voice capability.

      I suspect if you put numbers on maintaining an 1980s vintage PSTN network with 5500 exchanges vs replacing a few routers, it’s very much in favour of the latter.

      Doesn’t matter how long your copper is, within reason. PSTN closure and FTTP rollout are largely parallel projects that don’t depend on each other.

  18. Avatar photo her indoors says:

    As someone who has been caring for an elderly relative with very early stage dementia and a care alarm (actually it works with VoIP solutions) I can attest to how incredibly difficult it is for older people to understand the concept of a phone line coming over broadband than the other way round. The need for “back up batteries”. And, when I’ve tried to explain it, before she decided to go into residential care, she would get incredibly distressed. It is easy for those of us who are technical but for elderly people who had to learn about technology later in life, it is not easy at all and ultimately distressing. We are lucky that we can afford residential care (let’s not debate the rights and wrongs of that) but those who can’t or are determined to stay at home, it really isn’t that easy, especially where they have no living relatives! The lack of any compassion whatsoever is horrifying. I hope folks can take a long hard look in the mirror and ask themselves how they would fair in that situation. Remember, we will all be old one day and, technology is likely to advance even faster, not all of us will be able to keep up! I just hope the younger generation then has more compassion for us than we are showing for our elders (parents/grandparents)….

    Shame on those of you who lack any trace of compassion.

  19. Avatar photo Swampy says:

    I’ve just signed up to a new altnet in my area, moving away from VM that we’ve had issues with, never mind the pricing.

    I asked about the VoIP services they provide, and the ‘backup’ systems in place in terms of a power cut or network failure, I used VM’s Motorola FW500 hybrid phone as an example of what VM provide, and if they provided anything similar…

    Well in short they don’t provide any kind of battery backup for the CTU/ONT, router, phones or anything of the sort, no GSM/LTE call backup either. Even for vulnerable people.

    I was asking because my wife is vulnerable, and we struggle to get a mobile signal here, we use Wi-Fi mostly.

    So basically if anything should happen during a power cut, I’m not sure what we’d do… it’s not like phone boxes are a thing anymore either. Even if they were by 2025 I guess they’d be VoIP as well…

    It’s a bit disconcerting to be honest… on the verge of cancelling the altnet and sticking with VM, where at least we have the FW500, even if the broadband service has been flakey…

    mmm, I wonder if the FW500 can be configured to work with another VoIP provider, and if I can put my own SIM in, it’d give at least an hour or so…

    I suppose we can have a belt or braces, but not both…

  20. Avatar photo Litesp33d says:

    ‘Hopefully by now most people will be aware that Openreach and BT, much like other network operators across Europe with a legacy of older copper infrastructure, are in the process of upgrading all of their old analogue services on to a fully digital (IP-based) network, which is due to be completed by Dec 2025’
    Within the coms industry it may appear so but in the general public I really doubt the majority have any idea what it all means. However isn’t it true that whilst Openreach were planning on switching off in 2025, that date has already been put back 12 months. And a lot of this work is being subbed out because Openreach do not have enough engineers to complete the task in the time. Even with subbing the work it is unlikely those dates can be acheived.
    Moreover whilst Openreach may want to switch off LLU, unbundled suppliers are not doing so and so even with Stop/Sell in operation you can still get a non VOIP connection.
    Whilst they talk about ‘Rural’ areas there are still locations in big cities that cannot get FTTP from Openreach or anyone else for that matter.
    And as far as I can tell, at least in boardrooms, the attitude of the industry to the multitude of concerns (and actual problems) about the great switch off is a great big GFY.

  21. Avatar photo Anna Steadfast says:

    It is remarkably difficult to get current information on this migration. The infrastructure owner Openreach, contracts via other parties all of whom have their own roll out programmes. I have experienced many different technical migrations and every single time something failed, not usually major but something simple, something small. The arrogance of the majority of “experts” involved argued/refused to listen/ignored and when the failure occurred, just sought someone to blame. Bottom line – if You have no money, no electricity (meter has run out) You can still make a 999 call, at the moment. After December 2025 maybe You can’t. Just maybe Your mobile is old too and its not 4g or 5G, maybe You’re not aware that the underlying signal is also being turned off. I sincerely hope You don’t have an emergency. I hope You can afford the future electricity prices that are coming. I hope You never have to care for someone unable to deal with change.
    Mahatma Gandhi said: “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” I sometimes wonder whether corporate business protects it’s income streams more than our country is protecting it’s citizens.
    Some of the comments on here make me feel disgusted at the lack of concern over personal safety of real people, vulnerable people or just a normal family that happen to live in an isolated area.
    Thank Goodness the December 2023 meeting took place, but why is it that it there is so little up to date information about this migration taking place.

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