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The analogue phone line switch off

Our Customer Service team have been explaining what the digital upgrade will mean for analogue phone lines.

February 16, 2022

Analogue telephone landline

BT has announced that by 2027 all analogue phone lines will be replaced with digital ones. You may have seen signs of this already, with roads and pavements being dug up as new digital fibre cables are laid.

This isn’t just happening in the UK. Telephone lines are being replaced all over the world. Germany, Japan and Sweden are ahead of the UK, whilst Estonia and The Netherlands have already switched off their analogue phone lines.

Many of our customers have asked us how these changes will affect their telephones and personal alarm service. Our Customer Service team have been explaining what the digital upgrade will mean for analogue phone lines so we thought we would share the answers to some of the common questions customers have asked about the impact on their care alarm service.

Current customers who have a personal alarm that connects to the traditional analogue phone line should retain their analogue line and not be upgraded to a digital one. This is the recommendation after the major telephone providers signed the Government's Public Switched Telephone Network charter.

If you are a Taking Care customer who has already been upgraded to a digital phone line, we recommend you upgrade to a digital personal alarm. Digital personal alarms are unaffected by the switchover because they do not use a telephone landline. Instead, digital personal alarms have a roaming multi-network SIM that will automatically switch to the strongest available mobile network.

In some instances, your analogue personal alarm may work on a digital phone line but this should be considered an interim measure.


Questions about the analogue digital phone upgrade

Are BT analogue phone lines being switched off?

Yes, although your telephone provider will write to you in advance to let you know when this is happening. You don’t need to do anything regarding your phone service until your telephone provider gets in touch with you. The new digital home telephone service is called Digital Voice. In fact, Openreach have already started moving some customers from the analogue telephone network to the new fully digital network.

Telephone landlines will still exist, and you can still have a landline telephone at home. However, the network that the phone uses will be different.

Will the upgrade affect other equipment?

If you have other equipment connected to the phone line, such as a personal alarm, then these may be affected by the upgrade. You can find out more about how the digital upgrade affects personal alarms.

Digital upgrade and personal alarms

Why are BT changing to Digital Voice?

The existing copper line telephone networks have served us well but are becoming increasingly more difficult and costly to maintain. In addition, it is estimated that up to 40% of the population have stopped using their analogue phone line in favour of a mobile phone. The digital telephone switchover is happening due to increasing demand for faster networks and connectivity.

When will my phone line be replaced?

This depends on your telephone provider. There are over 14 million lines in the UK that need to be upgraded so it is a lot of work!

To help towards this, BT will stop selling analogue phone lines to new customers by 2023. For homes that already have a telephone line, your service provider will contact you when they're ready to migrate your line. If you want to find out more, you should contact your telephone provider.

Do I have to pay to upgrade to a digital telephone line?

No. There should be no change to your plan or bill, and your number won't change either.

Will I need broadband internet to make a phone call?

The new digital telephone network will be internet-based (called an ‘IP network’). This means you won’t be able to make calls without an internet connection at home. If you already have broadband, then this network will be used. If you don’t have broadband then your telephone provider will provide a simple internet connection just for making calls.

What new equipment will I need after the digital upgrade?

Your telephone provider will send you a digital hub that you will need to connect your phone to. Any equipment that was connected to your analogue telephone line, like an analogue personal alarm, will also need to be connected to the digital hub. You may also need to replace your telephone handset, although your telephone provider can advise on this.

Can I use my old phone with BT Digital Voice?

This will depend on your handset. Many people will simply plug their phone into the new digital hub or broadband router. If your telephone is an old model, you may need to replace it though.

Will Digital Voice cost more?

Ofcom will be paying close attention to the digital upgrade to ensure customers are treated fairly. You will still have to pay for calls in the same way, even though they will be going over a broadband connection.

BT has made a commitment that its customers will pay the same amount after the digital upgrade. Virgin Media have made a similar commitment, saying its telephone customers will receive a digital hub to use with the new service at no additional cost.

If I have digital installed, will my telephone number change?

No, your telephone number will remain the same.

Do I have to change over to digital?

Telephone customers who are considered vulnerable can be excluded from the upgrade, however analogue lines will no longer be maintained after 2027 so this should not be considered a permanent solution. You would need to contact your telephone provider to arrange this.

Is Digital Voice the same as VoIP?

The Digital Voice service uses Voice-Over-IP technology (also known as VoIP). In the background, a broadband connection is being used to send and receive your phone calls. You might have heard of VoIP or Voice IP before because the technology is used by video calling platforms like Skype.

How reliable are digital phone lines?

Many businesses have been using digital phone lines for years and you shouldn’t notice any difference in call quality. Voice calls only require a relatively small amount of data so modern broadband connections can handle digital calls.

One difference you will notice is if you try to use your digital phone line in a power cut. Analogue landline phones receive power from the telephone line, separately to the mains electricity supply. Digital phones use a router or hub so will not work in a power cut unless there is a backup power supply.

How can I tell if I already have BT Digital Voice?

If you have been upgraded to a digital phone line, you telephone provider will have notified you in advance. Your telephone will be connected to a broadband router or digital hub, rather than directly into a telephone socket.

Do digital phones work in a power cut?

No, because digital phones work off your home electricity supply, if there’s a power cut you won’t be able to make calls. Your telephone provider may be able to provide you with a battery backup so that you can make emergency calls during a power cut.

Can I use my old answering machine on Digital Voice?

Digital Voice includes a voice mail service pre-enabled so you won’t need a separate answering machine.

Will my fax machine still work?

BT say that fax is supported by the Digital Voice service, “although it's not 100% guaranteed”. You will need to connect the fax machine to the phone port on the back of the digital hub for it to work.

How do I connect multiple handsets to Digital Voice?

If you have more than one phone, you will need to connect the base unit of the main handset to the digital hub and then the rest should connect.

Will Caller ID work with Digital Voice?

Many calling features are included in Digital Voice at no extra costs and enabled by default. This includes Caller Display so you can see the number of the person calling. Voicemail, call waiting, call diversion, call barring and BT Call Protect (a service to block nuisance calls) are also included.

Can I block phone numbers with Digital Voice?

Yes. Call barring is enabled automatically with Digital Voice.

Will my line still be crackly with Digital Voice?

No, call quality with a digital phone line should be at least as good as an analogue line.

Will I need a new router?

You may need a new or upgraded router but if that is the case, it should be provided by your telephone provider.

Do I need strong Wi-Fi for digital call?

No, digital calls are not impacted by Wi-Fi strength because the telephone handset is connected to the digital hub/router.

Will my personal alarm still work when after the BT digital upgrade?

If you have a digital personal alarm that does not connect to a telephone landline then your personal alarm service will be unaffected. If your personal alarm connects to a telephone socket, your personal alarm may work on a digital phone line but this should be considered an interim measure.

Find out more

Do you have personal alarms that work without needing a telephone landline?

Yes! We have a range of digital ready and location-aware personal alarms. You can compare digital ready personal alarms here.

If you have a TakingCare Personal Alarm would like to upgrade to a digital alarm, our Customer Services team will be happy help if you call 0800 085 7371 or email Lines are open 9am - 6pm, Monday - Friday.

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