UK transition from analogue to digital landlines
Landlines in the UK are going digital. The existing analogue technology (the PSTN – Public Switched Telephone Network), which has supported phone and broadband services for decades, is being switched off and replaced with newer digital technology.
The upgrade of the UK’s telephone lines is not a government programme and does not result from a government decision or policy, and therefore, specific questions about how the upgrade programme might affect individuals should be directed to service providers.
What is the digital switchover?
The UK’s telephone network is changing. Telephone providers are moving their customers from old analogue to digital technology.
This new technology will provide a future-proof, more reliable broadband and phone service supporting the UK for decades to come.
Equipment, such as home phones and healthcare devices, must be checked and, if necessary, replaced or upgraded to ensure they are compatible with the digital switchover.
18 December 2023 | UK phone providers have agreed on new measures to protect vulnerable customers as phone lines are upgraded to a new digital network. Click here to find out more.
Why is it happening?
The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is a privately owned analogue telecoms network, and the decision to upgrade it has been taken by the telecommunications industry.
Broadband and telephone providers like Openreach and Virgin Media O2 – are replacing analogue telephone services with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, also known as ‘Digital Voice’, which carries voice calls as digital data. If you have used apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Teams to talk to friends or work colleagues, you have already been using VoIP technology.
The telecoms industry is delivering the upgrade in a phased approach. The UK network was expected to be fully upgraded to VoIP services in 2025, although the government is considering extending it until 2030.
How will it affect me, and what do I need to do?
The good news is that your landline isn’t going anywhere, and this change will be straightforward for most consumers and businesses. Many customers are already switching when upgrading to full fibre broadband.
However, the Local Government Association (LGA) encourages everyone to know what to expect. If you have an internet connection, the change may be as simple as plugging your phone into your broadband router rather than the socket on the wall and for customers that only use a phone service and are connected by copper wires, all the changes may happen at the exchange, and you won’t notice any changes in the way your phone works.
Digital switchover FAQs
Q: What if I depend on my landline or have a telecare device connected to a phone line (e.g. a fall monitor, lifeline, or personal alarm)?
A: People who use personal alarms or health monitoring devices should check if the switchover will affect how their equipment will work. If you or someone you know depends on a landline or uses a telecare device connected to a phone line (such as a fall monitor, lifeline, or personal alarm), you should notify your communications provider (the provider of this service) so that they can advise on how the switch could affect you.
Q: What if my alarm system is connected to my landline?
A: If you have devices connected to your phone line, such as alarm systems, you might need to upgrade your device to ensure it is compatible. If you are unsure about how a device in your home or business might be affected, you should contact the equipment supplier or device manufacturer to determine whether it will still work on a digital phone line.
Q: What happens in an emergency or a power cut?
A: Digital landlines cannot carry a power connection, so in the event of a power cut, they will not work. If you have a mobile phone, this can still be used (as long as it is charged), but if you’ve no other means of calling the emergency services, your telecoms provider must offer a solution to allow calls to be made to emergency services. Ask them.
Where can I get more information?
The LGA is working across the public and private sectors to develop guidance and support for residents over the switchover period. Here are some links to advice and resources that you might find helpful:
- UK Government has released guidance on UK transition from analogue to digital landlines.
- Which? has published guidance about digital voice and landline switchover for residents.
- Openreach has developed industry fact sheets, more FAQs and other resources to support anyone who sells, services or uses products that connect through the analogue telephone network.
- UK-telehealthcare has developed a webpage for the latest stop-sell information and other resources.
- Cambridge-based independent UK comparison service Broadband Genie, has an easy-to-understand guide to the PSTN Switch Off: Top Tips to get ready for Digital Voice on their website.
- The Future Of Voice website, hosted by the Broadband Stakeholder Group is the government advisory body on telecommunications. It has been developed with the support of the industry stakeholders BT, Openreach, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport DCMS and Ofcom. The website is designed for the industry to provide information on migrating fixed voice services to IP.
Digital switchover partner toolkit
The LGA has designed a toolkit for councils to use to raise awareness of the digital switchover, including an A4 leaflet explaining what residents need to be aware of.
Local government has a critical role to play in the digital switchover to support residents and prevent impact on their day-to-day life. The toolkit contains assets aimed at residents to raise awareness of the upcoming switchover and can be downloaded from the LGA website.