Future Tech

BT delays deadline for digital landline switch off date

Tan KW
Publish date: Tue, 21 May 2024, 07:00 PM
Tan KW
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Future Tech

BT has extended the deadline for migrating customers off the copper-based Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to digital landlines to give more time to vulnerable people, including telecare users, to move.

The former state-owned telco monopoly had planned to shift customers across to internet-based services at the end of next year but says it'll now transition businesses and consumers off the analogue system by the close of 2027.

The Consumer division at BT has already started the changeover to the Digital Voice landline service for customers that have a broadband connection. The decision to push back the deadline follows the introduction of a UK government charter to protect vulnerable customers, particularly those using TeleCare.

Under that program, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology urged all telecoms providers to not force vulnerable customers, including the elderly, to make the leap until enhanced protections are in place.

These provisions include a commitment that no TeleCare users will be migrated before they have a compatible functioning equivalent service in place; telcos will need a "minimum of one hour of continued, uninterrupted access to emergency services" in the advent of an outage; and they'll need to make additional check on households that were swapped over to ensure they have no problems.

"The revised approach will result in a single switch for the majority of customers (businesses and consumers) - from copper to fiber - with all customers now expected to have moved off the old analogue PSTN by the end of January 2027," said BT.

BT is working with businesses ahead of the new end date to ascertain any requirements to "test existing or upgrade to new equipment" that is compatible with a digital landline.

A fresh timetable is in place to more carefully usher vulnerable customers into this new full fat fiber world.

Howard Watson, chief security and networks officer at BT, said: "The urgency for switching customers onto digital services grows by the day because the 40-year-old analogue landline technology is increasingly fragile. Managing customer migrations from analogue to digital as quickly and smoothly as possible, while making the necessary provisions for those customers with additional needs, including telecare users, is critically important.

"Our priority remains doing this safely and the work we're doing with our peers, local authorities, telecare providers and key government organizations is key. But more needs to be done and we need all local authorities and telecare providers to share with us the phone lines where they know there’s a telecare user."

The shift to digital broadband connected lines promises faster services, said Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, "but it's entirely apparent that the rollout shouldn't be at the expense of the needs of vulnerable customers."

"Personal care alarm systems and other devices connected to landlines need to be considered during the shift to digital. Providers have a responsibility to look after their customers, and must either provide them with time to migrate to other solutions or offer alternative options to allow them access to emergency services directly.

"Customers may also be able to explore other full fiber providers in their area, though should seek professional help to ensure that any personal care alarm systems which are linked to their landline are compatible with their new supplier if they change provider.

"This is a complex UK-wide engineering project with technical challenges to overcome, and BT's revisions act as a strong reminder that the landline is used for more than just calls, and access to it mustn't be overlooked." ®

 

https://www.theregister.com//2024/05/21/bt_delays_deadline_for_digital/

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