The UK's phone network will be completely overhauled by 2025 and the traditional phone line will no longer be available.
Large numbers of people in the UK still have a landline for calls, but for many years that number has been falling. Most of us now prefer to use our mobiles, and just use a landline for broadband.
Openreach, who install and maintain the majority of the lines in the country has been planning major upgrades to the telecoms infrastructure for some time. Much of the equipment used in telephone exchanges is outdated and it is harder to find spare parts and engineers who have the knowledge to repair them.
The Big Switch Off
Openreach's proposal is to switch off the old analogue network (the PSTN) in 2025, so it will no longer be possible to make and receive calls using your old landline. Communications and internet service providers will need to migrate all their customers to full fibre lines or other new broadband products if fibre isn't available.
From 2025 calls will be delivered over the internet using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services rather than old fashioned” dial tone” services that are currently most commonplace.
What does this mean for me?
If you want to continue using telephone services after 2025, you MUST have an internet connection and an internet compatible phone/device. Furthermore, if you already have an internet connection, you will need to migrate to a Full Fibre equivalent.
By December 2025, all existing phone lines will be switched off. Anyone who has not moved to a broadband service with a VoIP subscription will no longer be able to make calls or use services that rely on analogue transmission.
What will be different after the change?
If you plan to continue using your "land line" for calls, then you will need to connect your phone to your router or hub - either directly to a spare LAN port on the back or via a device called an ATA (analogue telephone adapter) which converts your phone's analogue signals into digital bits to transmit the call across the internet.
Because calls will be delivered over the internet, to your router, any extension wiring you have will cease to work. If you need to make calls in various rooms throughout the house, a VoIP-enabled DECT phone is the best solution.
Because your phone will plug into a router or a separate IP Converter (called an ATA) that is powered by your home electricity, you won't be able to make or receive calls in the event of a power cut. A mobile phone is your best option for a back-up in these circumstances.
What about my telecare equipment?
Finally, some special equipment may not work, although most currently available telecare alarms and pendants, textphones and amplified phones have been tested at Openreach's lab and will be compatible with the new services. If you are concerned about any special, non-phone equipment you have connected to your phone line, you should contact the provider of these devices for advice.
What do I need to do?
Despite the wide-ranging changes that are approaching, there's no need to worry about what this means for you just yet. Carry on using your current services as normal.
Between now and September 2023 all the telephone exchanges in the country will be placed into a state known as stop-sell. This means they will no longer sell any more “legacy” products such as ADSL Broadband, Superfast FTTC, and new phone lines. Your current equipment will continue to work for at least another 2 years, but you will only be able to buy new products such as Ultrafast/Full Fibre or SoGEA, which is a broadband line that won't support calls without a separate VoIP service. If you want to make phone calls you'll need to buy a VoIP service or use your mobile.
We’re here to keep you informed
Your Co-op will be in touch to advise you when your exchange becomes stop-sell. We will shortly be launching an exciting new range of carbon neutral and carbon positive VoIP compatible broadband products to keep your voice service up and running after the 2025 switch off.
This is the biggest and most disruptive change to the telecoms market in its lifetime and Your Co-op will be here to help guide you through it. If Openreach's vision goes to plan then by 2025 the UK will have a telecoms infrastructure that is much more energy efficient, scalable and future-proof. Whether you're excited by the prospect of 1Gbps internet speeds or just need to keep a basic voice service, we will have something that works for you.
ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line) – This means a standard broadband service which is delivered completely over a copper line.
ATA (Analogue Terminal Adapter) – This is a small device that connects between a router and a traditional analogue device such as a telephone or fax machine. It converts the normal analogue signal into a digital one so these devices can work across the internet, effectively making them VoIP enabled.
DECT (Digital enhanced cordless telecommunications) – cordless phones that connect to a base station with up to 50 metres of indoor range, allowing the handset to be used in any room.
FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) – More commonly known as Superfast Broadband, this is an internet connection that travels over a fibre connection from the local exchange to the PCP (Primary Cross Connection Point ie the green telecom cabinet on your street and then a standard copper line up to your building.
FTTP (Fibre to the Premise) – More commonly known as Ultrafast or Full Fibre this is an internet service that is delivered entirely over a fibre connection from the exchange right to the building. This offers speeds up to 1Gbps and will be the primary method of providing all telephony services after 2025
LAN (Local Area Network) – This is a way of describing all of the different devices in your home which are connected to your internet service, either via a physical cable to one of your router’s LAN ports or by Wi-Fi.
PCP (Primary Cross Connection Point) – This is the green telephone cabinet that you see in your street. It acts as a small exchange receiving the main telephone lines from the exchange and then connecting them out to each separate building.
PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) – This is a general term for all of the copper-based infrastructure that currently supports the phone lines within the UK.
SoGEA (Single order Generic Ethernet Access) – Similar to FTTC this uses a mix of Fibre and Copper to provide an internet connection, however SoGEA does not use the analogue part of the line and so it cannot be used for traditional telephone calls without the use of a VoIP service.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) – This is a generic term for providing telephone services using an internet connection rather than the traditional analogue signals that travel over copper lines. After 2025 when the analogue network is switched off this will be the only method to make telephone calls.