What’s happening to landlines?

The technology that is currently used to make traditional phone calls is changing. The old analogue technology is becoming obsolete and will be replaced with a digital network, also called an ‘IP network’.

Why is it happening?

The equipment that runs the landline network (the PSTN) is becoming obsolete and will reach the end of its life by December 2025. It needs to be replaced before that date, so industry has begun working to do just that.

When is it happening?

Telephone providers are already working on it. If you change provider or upgrade your services, you may be offered an IP voice service. If you don’t change, your provider will get in touch with you to let you know what steps to take and when.

Openreach (part of the BT Group) has published a timeline on its website which describes the steps it is taking between now and the end of 2025.

What is the PSTN?

PSTN stands for ‘Public Switched Telephone Network’. It is based on analogue technology that is designed to connect voice calls across physical lines from network to network all across the world. IP telephony is completely digital and send voice calls as data.

Which products are affected?

All Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) products such as WLR3 analogue, ISDN 2, ISDN 30, LLU SMPF, SLU SMPF, Narrowband Line Share and Classic products. When the PSTN closes, these products will no longer be available.

Do I need to do anything now?

Your provider will contact you with information at the appropriate time. In the meantime, this website contains some information that might be helpful. It will be updated regularly as more information becomes available.

What is Ofcom’s role?

Ofcom is the regulator for the communications sector. It sets rules for our sector to ensure that consumers get a good deal and that vulnerable consumers receive the support they need.

Can I keep my telephone number?

Yes, in most cases you can keep your telephone number using the switching process. However, if you move address then you may not be able to. Check with your landline provider.

Do I need a new phone/handset?

You may need to change your phone if it is a very old one and not compatible with the new system, for example, if it has an older style plug where it connects to the wall. You should check with your landline provider.

Do I need a new broadband account?

You may not need one but check this your landline provider.

What if my landline and broadband are with different providers?

You will have a choice. Your providers will contact you about options available. You will also have a choice to switch to another completely different provider.

Will my phone connection be over fibre?

Not necessarily. Your broadband may still be over copper but your phone will use IP technology to make and receive phone calls over your broadband connection.

What sort of equipment will be affected?

Many services that rely on the PSTN will be affected. For example, lifts, traffic lights, telemetry devices, burglar alarms, telecare alarms and pendants, dialysis machines, fax machines, payment terminals and ATMs.

The text relay service and text phones will also be affected. Text relay is also available via the free Relay UK app which offers additional features and is unaffected by the move to IP. The app can be used on any connected device (smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC). Click here to access more information about the Relay UK app.

Will textphones work over IP?

Several models of textphone have been tested at the BT Digital Services lab. This testing showed that it is possible to make both textphone-to-textphone and text relay calls on IP networks, although the quality of the call can be affected by packet loss or other data loading on the line.

Will my fax machine work over an IP network?

Fax machines are unlikely to work if they are very old. You may need to reconfigure it or use an adapter.

Will my telecare alarm work?

Most modern devices should be compatible. If you do use one of these devices, it’s important that you check with the company that supplied it to you.

Will a power cut affect my service?

The old system is powered by your local telephone exchange and has its own power supply. The new system will be powered by your home electricity, so if there is a power cut it will mean that you will not be able to make or receive landline calls. It is similar to how the current DECT (cordless) home phones work today. If you have a mobile phone this can be used in the event of a power cut.

If you’re about to move to the new service and you have no alternative method of calling the emergency services, let your home phone provider know. For example:

  • If you live somewhere where there is no mobile coverage;
  • you don’t have a mobile phone; or
  • you depend on your landline (e.g. for disability or accessibility requirements).

In these cases, your provider should offer you a solution to allow you to call the emergency services, at the very least, during a power cut.

If other equipment you use needs to be plugged into your phone socket, for example, text relay equipment, fax machines, care alarms, burglar alarms and security systems, these will not work over the phone line in a power cut. So, it’s really important that you tell both your phone provider and the company that supplies you with the special equipment.

Ofcom published some guidance for organisations when there is a power cut at a customer’s premises, which said that people using a textphone on a fixed line may need protection. It also said that tailored solutions for text relay users may be necessary.Click here to see Ofcom’s guidance.

Are other countries doing the same?

Yes, some countries in Europe and across the world are in the process of upgrading their landline networks to IP.

What business lines will be affected?

Products that are being withdrawn in 2025 include WLR3 analogue, ISDN 2, ISDN 30, LLU SMPF, SLU SMPF, Narrowband Line Share and Classic products.

WLR3 provides basic voice lines; ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) products are designed for the digital transmission of data and voice over ordinary copper wires and relies on the PSTN to work.

Where can I get help from phone companies?

Information on changes for Virgin Media customers

https://www.virginmedia.com/help/home-phone/virginphone#whatishappening

Information on changes for BT customers

https://www.bt.com/about/all-ip

Information for providers on Openreach’s WLR withdrawal for consumer market

https://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/products/wlrwithdrawal/wlrwithdrawal.do

Information for providers on Openreach’s WLR withdrawal for the business market

https://www.ciz-openreach.co.uk/Business/content/474/WLR-withdrawal-Are-you-ready-

Information on changes for TalkTalk residential customers

https://www.talktalk.co.uk/shop/content/voip

Information on changes for TalkTalk Business Direct customers

https://www.talktalkbusiness.co.uk/voip/

Information on changes for TalkTalk Business Partners

https://www.talktalkbusiness.co.uk/partners/news-and-insight/news/everything-you-need-to-know-about-ip-voice-voip/

Last updated: 19/06/2020