BT has announced the next phase in the rollout of its new home phone service, Digital Voice, to UK customers on a region-by-region basis.
Following successful pilots in Salisbury (Wiltshire) and Mildenhall (Suffolk), BT announced plans earlier this year to start contacting customers on a phased region-by-region basis across the country.
Starting with the East Midlands in July, Yorkshire and the Humber in August and Northern Ireland in September, customers are contacted at least four weeks in advance before making the switch, to ensure that they are ready to move to Digital Voice.
Today, BT has announced the remaining regions and nations set to make the switch over the next year:
Throughout the programme, BT will also be contacting some broadband customers in England, inviting them to switch their landline to Digital Voice in advance of local and regional campaigning in their area.
The landline is here to stay
The move comes as part of an industry-wide shift from analogue to digital landlines, where calls are made over a broadband line, and will see BT and nearly all other landline operators in the UK, including Virgin Media O2, supporting their customers in making the switch by the end of 2025.
The landline isn’t going away but is being upgraded to replace the decades old analogue technology that is increasingly unreliable and is no longer supported by suppliers and manufacturers. Customers risk facing increased service outages if this urgent infrastructure upgrade isn’t carried out now by BT and other operators. This new future-proof, digital landline technology is also a major step towards preparing the country for a Full Fibre future, in support of the UK Government’s gigabit connectivity ambitions.
Digital Voice will have no impact on how BT customers use their home phone and will not cost any more than customers pay today. They’ll still have the same service, and price plans and bills will stay the same. In addition, more than 99% of phone handsets work with Digital Voice and for those that won’t, BT has a range of handsets that customers can order.
In support of its regional approach and building on the successful starts in the East Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside, BT is explaining to customers the simple steps required to make the move to Digital Voice through local and regional media and advertising campaigns. BT will also have a high street presence and hold local ‘town hall’ drop-ins to answer customer questions in person.
Initially, BT won’t be proactively switching anyone who falls under the below criteria, where it has this information available:
Customers with a healthcare pendant
Customers who only use landlines
Customers with no mobile signal
Customers who have disclosed any additional needs.
Customers who fall into any of these categories should contact BT to ensure their data is up to date.
Customers over the age of 70 are not being proactively switched to Digital Voice. However, since July 2023, BT has been trialling switching customers between 70-74 who live in urban areas and are ready to make the switch, i.e. they have the latest broadband hub and are not frequent landline users. These trials have gone well to date, with 98% of customers choosing to make the switch, and pending further consultation with the Digital Voice Advisory Group, BT will look to extend this trial nationally.
Lucy Baker MBE, All-IP Director, BT Consumer, said: “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.
“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.
“If we’ve not been in touch or visited your area yet, don’t worry. We’ll be in touch when it’s time to switch. For anyone who has any issues, questions or concerns, then I’d encourage them to get in touch and let us know.”
Sarah Brain, Free Services Manager at AbilityNet, said: “Here at AbilityNet our staff and volunteers have been supporting BT to raise awareness of Digital Voice around the UK, and in particular to help those more nervous about the switch to give them the reassurance they need to make the move.
“As a charity we support older and disabled people with technology at home every day, so we know that the world of tech can seem daunting. The roadshows have been a great opportunity for us to work alongside BT to support those customers, and the ‘in person’ aspect is so important to answer any questions and concerns individual to them.”
Supporting customers every step of the way
BT has established and continued to work closely with its Digital Voice Advisory Group – an association made up of charities and representative groups – who have been advising on the needs of customers most affected by the switch. Feedback from this group and its members has helped to shape the approach the company is taking.
BT and the industry, with the support of industry body, Tech UK, have been engaging with healthcare pendant and burglar alarm providers who will also need to upgrade their customers’ equipment to ensure that the most vulnerable customers continue to get the service they need.
A host of additional support and services will also be available including:
The ability for customers to nominate a family member, friend or carer who will receive all the information about switching on their behalf.
When vulnerable customers start to make the switch, they’ll automatically receive equipment and an engineer appointment. Their switch won’t go ahead until they have spoken to an advisor and booked an appointment.
For peace of mind in the event of a temporary power cut, BT will provide additional resilience to those who need it most, including:
Free battery back-up units for Digital Voice customers with additional needs, who identify as vulnerable and/or live in an area without mobile signal. Customers without additional needs can also choose to purchase a battery back-up unit.
A hybrid phone that can switch to a mobile network and has an in-built battery for Digital Voice customers without a mobile phone.
In readiness for the December 2025 deadline, Openreach have taken steps to end the sale of new analogue services across the UK. That means when customers who have access to broadband sign up for a new contract – or when they switch, upgrade or re-grade their service via their provider – they’ll be moved onto a new digital landline rather than an analogue one.
Customers without broadband will not be switched to a digital landline until they are able to. BT will install new equipment in the local telephone exchange that will allow customers to use their phone in the same way as they do today. This temporary solution will keep customers connected until they are able to make the switch to Digital Voice and will help BT to retire its analogue service by the end of 2025.
Together with Government, Ofcom, telecoms providers, charity partners and key industry groups, BT is working hard to ensure that everyone knows about the change, how they will be impacted and what they need to do as a result.