It's arguably the biggest social project since analogue television was retired some 10 years ago: the UK's telephone network is also going digital. The telecoms industry has even set a deadline that's backed by the UK government – the old copper network will be switched off at the end of 2025.
If you didn't know about the plans to switch off the old phone network (PSTN), don't worry, you're not alone. A survey by Taking Care found that a whopping 91% of over 2,000 UK adults had no idea that all phone lines would go digital by the end of 2025.
These changes will impact everyone who wants to keep using their landline. Soon, they'll work through broadband instead. Keep reading to find out what this switch means for traditional landline services and for you.
What is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a game-changer in telecommunications. It enables voice calls using an internet connection rather than traditional phone lines, revolutionising how we communicate.
VoIP services represent the future of landlines, relying on broadband connections instead of the old copper phone lines.
What is PSTN?
PSTN stands for the public switched telephone network—the framework behind analog landline services. The plan is to phase it out completely by the end of 2025, transitioning all landline services into the digital realm.
This move isn't unique to the UK; Estonia and the Netherlands have already switched off their PSTNs, and France, Germany and Japan are just some of the other countries that are also in the process of winding theirs down.
Why are traditional phone services being taken away?
The legacy phone network, established since the Victorian era, no longer aligns with today's communication needs. With our increasing reliance on broadband and evolving tech demands, the shift to fibre optic networks offers faster, more reliable, and easier-to-maintain connections compared to copper infrastructure.
This shift is also linked to the UK's rollout of full fibre broadband, aiming for 85% coverage by 2025, albeit on a separate timeline from the PSTN switch-off.
What are the benefits of the move to VoIP services?
The move to digital phone services isn't only about infrastructure: it also offers benefits such as clearer calls, the ability to make multiple calls simultaneously and the possibility of accessing your landline in other locations.
When will my landline be switched off?
Wondering when your landline will change? The changeover has started, and some people have already been moved to the digital system.
For most networks, the changeover will have happened by December 2025.
This is an industry-wide change, but timescales may differ depending on your service provider. However, for most networks, the move to digital landlines will happen by December 2025.
How do digital voice services work?
Digital phone services work using something called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
VoIP converts your voice into a digital signal, so that it can be sent between computers and other devices on the internet. It's the same technology that's used by popular video and voice messaging services like FaceTime, Skype and WhatsApp. However, you won't need to use these sorts of applications to make calls – many landline phones are already compatible.
What advantages come with the shift to digital voice services?
Moving to digital phone services extends beyond infrastructure improvements. It brings perks like enhanced call clarity, the capacity to handle multiple calls simultaneously, and the potential to access your landline from various locations. (Find out even more benefits here)
Moreover, it will enable phone providers to create tools that enhance customer protection against scam and bothersome calls in the future.
Can I keep my phone number?
Yes – in most cases you’ll be able to keep your current phone number.
Will I need a new phone?
Nearly all existing handsets will work with the new system. But if you do need to change your handset, your phone provider will be able to advise you on this.
Do digital voice services work if there's a power cut?
A positive aspect of analogue phone services is that they continue to work in a power outage. That's not true of digital services.
For many, a lack of a landline won't be too much of a concern, as 98% of British adults have a mobile phone. Mobile voice calls don't require 4G or 5G, and Ofcom says nearly all of the UK's properties get reception that's strong enough for indoor calls from at least one of the phone networks. If you call 999, it doesn't matter which provider you're signed up to, your mobile phone will connect to whichever network is available.
What about devices beyond landlines that depend on the phone network?
The phone network isn't solely dedicated to landlines; it also supports various devices, including healthcare tools, security systems like burglar alarms, ATMs, card machines, traffic lights, motorway signs, and railway signals. Thousands of personal alarms and home monitoring systems, aiding disabled individuals or those with health concerns, rely on the copper phone network for immediate assistance. In the UK, around 1.7 million people benefit from these telecare devices.
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