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Ofcom Investigate Virgin Media UK Over Digital Phone Migrations

Friday, Feb 9th, 2024 (10:17 am) - Score 14,640

The UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has this morning announced that they’ve opened a new investigation into broadband ISP Virgin Media’s migration of customers from analogue to IP-based digital landlines. The case will look at whether they’ve been treating vulnerable consumers correctly and “ensuring uninterrupted access” to emergency services.

The regulator’s General Condition rules typically require every communications provider to “take all necessary measures to ensure … the fullest possible availability of the Public Electronic Communications Network and Publicly Available Telephone Services provided by them in the event of catastrophic network breakdown or in cases of force majeure; and uninterrupted access to Emergency Organisations” (police, fire, ambulance etc.).

NOTE: The relevant Generation Conditions for this case are A3.2, C5.2 and C5.3.

At present the entire industry is having to deal with the challenge of migrating old analogue based landline phone services to newer Internet Protocol (IP / VoIP) based phone services, which is a complicated process and one that does sometimes run into problems (example). Ofcom’s new own-initiative investigation appears to be concerned that Virgin Media may not have handled some aspects of this process correctly.

Ofcom’s Statement

We have been clear with companies that they must, during this process, ensure they identify, protect and support vulnerable customers. A critically important function of the telephone network is to allow people, particularly vulnerable people, to contact the emergency services. Therefore, any action, or inaction, taken by communications providers which disrupts consumers’ ability to reach these services is of the utmost seriousness.

This investigation relates to concerns about Virgin Media’s compliance with two areas.

First, our rules require that Virgin Media must take all necessary measures to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency organisations.

Second, our rules also require that Virgin Media establish and comply with effective policies and procedures for the fair and appropriate treatment of vulnerable consumers.

The regulator has, in the past (example), hit communications providers with significant fines for failing to ensure access to the emergency services, although much will no doubt depend upon the detail of precisely where their concerns rest with regard to Virgin Media’s digital phone migrations. The operator has already paused their own migration process and has yet to restart it, thus any issues will relate to that pre-pause period.

A Virgin Media spokesperson told ISPreview:

“We have been regularly updating and working closely with Ofcom and Government for many years as essential work takes place across the industry to safeguard voice networks for future.

Last December we signed a Government-led charter and have paused all landline migrations, carried out an end-to-end review and will make further improvements to the measures we already have in place before switchovers restart.

While telecoms companies like us have a crucial role to play in this switchover activity, it’s essential that telecare companies and local authorities also step up and meet their responsibilities to ensure everyone receives the support they need. We’re cooperating fully with the regulator’s investigation and will continue to work closely with the rest of the industry and other parties.”

Reading between the lines, there may have been some issues during the migration with ensuring adequate support for customers with serious telecare or other requirements, but we will need to await the outcome of Ofcom’s investigation to find out the full details. Such investigations often take a long time to reach their conclusion, so it may well be much later in 2024, or even 2025, before we learn the outcome.

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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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21 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Scott says:

    VM appeared to be carrying out migrations to their Digital Phone service at brake neck speed with little media coverage. I’m aware companies like those who provide emergency bracelet services for elderly people had to rapidly get a new product out as their services stopped working on Virgin Phone Services.

    I found it surprising VM had little to no focus given the battering BT has taken over Digital Voice.

    1. Avatar photo Jonny says:

      While I’m sure there can be some blame apportioned to VM here (anecdotally there are instances of people having cable repulls done and finding out they have no copper pair any more, and the engineer just leaving and saying that customer service will fix it), the care alarm providers have been absolutely terrible at engaging and are mostly responsible in the event that their services stop functioning. They have had half a decade of notice by this point which is plenty of time to bring in IP-based services, LTE connected base stations etc. and they’ve spent that time trying to make it BTs problem.

  2. Avatar photo Wayne says:

    Daughter has a pacemaker and the old Medtronic ‘reader’ needed a pots line to upload via, she was given a new ‘reader’ about six months ago that primarily connects via WiFi but has its own backup lte connection.

    Seems some companies are embracing the change and others …

  3. Avatar photo shubham says:


  4. Avatar photo Stu says:

    I’m so glad this is been looked into. My elderly mother is classed as vulnerable and when the switch to digital happened, she didn’t know what to do and called VM who didn’t help her at all. As she relies on her landline for all calls, in a panic, she looked for another provider and Talk Talk said they would switch her over to them and get VM to cancel her existing contract. It is now over 12 months since the switch over and she is still been billed by both companies despite numerous calls explaining the situation. VM deny the contract has been cancelled and TalkTalk don’t want to know. Poor Show from both VM and Talk talk.

    1. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      @Stu: I’m afraid your mum was given the wrong information from the TalkTalk agent, because when a customer moves from Virgin Broadband to an Openreach supplied ISP, then it’s the customer who has to contact Virgin to cancel the existing contract with them. Some of these call handlers will say anything to get a sale. When it comes to getting a home phone service for new customers in a (FTTP) area from TalkTalk then at the moment i believe that’s not possible, although they have been testing Digital Voice for select existing customers for over a year now.

    2. Avatar photo Fibre Line says:

      Talk Talk also use the VOIP type system and the phone line also goes through there router. So you have possibly caused yourself a harder time and ended up in the same situation.

    3. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      If they are still receiving your money, don’t think your call back will be their No.1 priority.
      Virgin Media, really awful firm.

    4. Avatar photo Tom says:

      This old ISPR article might help. It explains the options for migrating to VoIP and the equipment required for being able to still utilise an analogue handset. Some ISPs are now offering this conversion equipment built into their routers where they provide a VoIP service. Beware of services without bundle options as PPM calls and especially those with additional call setup fees can really add up particularly for mobile calls.


  5. Avatar photo Jd says:

    Virgin media is very poorly communicating to the public.
    You can only get chatbots. Unlistening, non acting customer service. I am trying to cancel my landlines that I never use.

    1. Avatar photo tech3475 says:

      TBH their human staff isn’t much better, both on the phone and through chats, good luck is all I can say.

  6. Avatar photo KevinR says:

    Even with telecare and alert devices that work via the router, I recall your coverage of the lack of power outage support. Even with a UPS the vulnerable user is unlikely to retain service for very long. And in a wider power loss it seems unlikely that all fibre/FTTC services will stay up.

    The addition of switches, etc into street cabinets must surely increase the impact of power outages compared to the old “powered from the exchange” services. The first deaths from failure of fibre systems may eventually focus minds, but perhaps not even then. See also Grenfall.

    A addition vulnerable service that struck me today, was emergency phone lines from lifts in buldings. I wonder who if anyone is working on those…

    1. Avatar photo The facts says:

      What do you propose for FTTP services?

  7. Avatar photo Trevor says:

    Virginmedia should have never closed there shops in the first place

    1. Avatar photo Steve says:

      Why though? The presence based utility companies is a thing of the past, like electricity board and gas showrooms. They initially existed to pay a bill, then when Girobank came along the shops were only there to sell products, paying bills became a secondary focus.

      These days if there were shops it would be exactly the same as banks. You would have one or two staff carrying out the most basic functions and sales, then for anything more in depth you would undoubtedly be directed to some sort of kiosk with a web chat facility to the same people you would reach from any location.

      The days of a shop on the high street sorting out utility problems died in the 1980s.

  8. Avatar photo Murat says:

    We had a care alarm fitted for my Mum last month. It connects to the mobile network and if one network fails, it auto connects to any of the others. She’s with sky on an fttc service and I was dreading having to deal with fttp when it came, however this chub system is far better than what we expected.

  9. Avatar photo M Wilson says:

    Can anyone recommend phones to use with VM’s hub. My hub5 is up stairs and when the switch happened i had to pug the phone into the hub. I have 2 elderly parents and would really like to get 2 compatible phones to use with the hub5.

    Thank you in advance.

    ps. Honestly VM really don’t care who this has affected. They take a service away yet still increase their prices. I cant wait until i can switch to a better provider.

    1. Avatar photo mike says:

      Get a set of two or three cordless phones. The “main” phone will connect to your Hub and the other two phones will communicate wirelessly with the main phone’s base station.

  10. Avatar photo Robert Cross says:

    Glad this is getting looked into as I’ve been with them 18 months and only found out I can plug a landline into the router yesterday.
    I was sold the package even though I told them I don’t have anywhere to plug a landline line into, they just said don’t worry this is the best deal.
    So yesterday when I found out I could of had a landline all along I was fuming and left a complaint.
    Waiting to hear back from them.

    1. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      @Robert Cross: If they are still receiving your money, don’t think your call back will be their No.1 priority.
      Virgin Media, really awful firm.

    2. Avatar photo Fibre Scriber says:

      Virgin Media, the only firm with three types of broadband delivery, HFC, RFOG and XGSPON, depending in which part of the country you reside, although this will be changing too XGSPON, gradually over the next several years. New builds and upgrades already started. Confusing for many broadband customers, who are deciding which provider to sign up to next, albeit not many of the contributors on this site, who have had bad experiences with Virgin Media, now and in the past.

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