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BT Group extends deadline for digital switchover

BT Group sign
Image source: BT

BT Group has announced an extension of its timetable to move all customers onto digital landlines, citing the need to protect vulnerable customers including telecare users.

It has pushed back its date for moving all customers off the old analogue PSTN lines to full fibre broadband from the end of 2025 to the end of January 2027 – a move that provides more time for the provision of alternative lines for telecare.

It has urged all of its customers to engage with it early ahead of making the switch, especially if there is a requirement to test existing or upgrade to new equipment.

The move will provide some relief to public sector organisations fearing the implications of the switch-off of PSTN lines, on which many telecare devices for vulnerable people currently operate. The prospect has raised warnings from several quarters, including a group of city-region leaders and the Local Government Association, that it could create significant disruption.

It also leaves an open question however, on whether similar extensions will be provided by other PSTN network providers.

Urgency to change

Howard Watson, chief security and networks officer at BT Group, 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 organisations 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.”

While the move will provide some relief it leaves open the question of how care providers such as local authorities will meet the cost of replacing telecare devices that rely on analogue. The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has indicated that it will not provide extra funding for the change.

BT Business has urged public sector and business customers to register their interest in testing a ‘pre-digital phone line product that it plans to maintain until 2030.

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