The UK’s Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), which supports analog landline services, is planned for closure by 2025
This week, BT has shared more details about the way in which it will gradually shut down the nation’s PSTN and rollout its replacement Internet Protocol (IP)-based Digital Voice service.
Having successfully completed shutdown trials earlier this year in the East Midlands, Yorkshire, and Northern Ireland, BT says it is now ready to continue the process in a phased manner, region by region, aiming for a nationwide shutdown of the PSTN in 2025.
BT’s Digital Voice Rollout plan:
- North West
- West Midlands
- South East
- East Anglia
- North East
- South West
The UK’s PSTN is best understood as BT’s old copper network that facilitates analogue landline phone calls throughout the country, though it can also support some other older technologies too, such as CCTV and alarm systems.
In recent years, however, this network is increasing becoming obsolete, as more customers prefer communicating via mobile services, messaging apps, and internet calls. All of these services far outclass those delivered via PSTN, being more reliable, more flexible, and even mor energy efficient than their copper counterpart.
As a result, PTSN closures are currently taking place in developed markets all over the world, with markets like the Netherlands, Germany, and Estonia having already completed the process of shifting to digital voice.
Indeed, BT itself had been planning this phase out for a number of years and, in fact, had originally initiated the process on a nationwide basis last year. However, these plans were halted in March when Storm Eunice caused power cuts for some customers, temporarily leaving them unable to contact emergency services over their new IP-based voice service.
With the newly announced schedule, BT is restarting this process, but is being notably more cautious in its planning, noting that it will not proactively switch customers to digital voice in cases where it believes additional support will be needed.
This includes customers with a healthcare pendant that may currently operate on the PSTN, customers who only use landlines, those with no mobile signal, those over 70 years of age, and those that have disclosed any additional requirements.
The operator is also holding events around the country and taking out numerous ads to highlight that the shift is taking place, encouraging customers to get in touch if they are concerned about what the switch off may mean for them.
“Through the work with our Digital Voice Advisory Group and our regional engagement, we’ve held 40 events, placed local radio and newspaper ads and met over 4,000 customers in person,” said Lucy Baker MBE, All-IP Director, BT Consumer.
“We understand that any change can be unsettling, and we’re here to support our customers every step of the way. First-hand experience shows that once people have the facts and have spoken to one of our advisors, they feel confident to make the switch.”
For vast majority of customers, however, the shift to digital voice will be relatively painless, simply meaning they will plug their phone handset into their broadband router rather than the traditional wall socket.
How will the PSTN shutdown affect customers across the UK? Join the UK’s telecoms ecosystem in discussion at Connected North 2024