The old copper phone network will be switched off in 2025, with landline phones instead making calls digitally. Here’s what you need to know.
It’s the end of an era. By December 2025, the old copper phone network will be replaced with an internet-based phone service. So it’s not a bad idea to check out the best broadband deals in advance to ensure a smooth service.
This doesn’t mean you’ll have to make calls using only your mobile phone. You’ll still be able to use your landline, but there are a few changes worth knowing about. In particular, given that the digital landline runs on household electricity, what happens in the event of a power cut? Here’s everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
Free Look After My Bills money-saving email
How are landlines changing?
Analogue landlines are going digital. The old copper network is being upgraded, with internet technology taking its place.
The technical name for the new system is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), AKA digital landline. You may also hear it called Digital Voice, which is the name of the new home phone service from BT. Other network providers will have their own names for their own systems, such as Sky Voice and TalkTalk Voice.
When you move onto the new digital system, your landline should work as normal. There’ll even be a normal dial tone.
There will be some differences, however. The one which seems to be causing the most worry is that digital landlines won’t work in a power cut.
If you’re reliant on your landline, or know someone who is, it’s important to note that provisions will be made by your landline provider to ensure you’re not left in the dark in an emergency. Read about the alternatives you’ll be provided with below.
Will I need an internet connection to make phone calls?
In short, yes. Calls are made and received via an internet connection, so you’ll need this for a working landline. If you already have a broadband connection, this will be used for your digital landline.
If you don’t have broadband, or you’re looking up information for someone who doesn’t have a broadband connection, don’t worry. Your network will provide you with the connection necessary. And it’ll do so free of charge if you don’t have a broadband service.
This may require an engineer coming to your home to install the new connection.
Will my new landline contract be more expensive?
As the changes are being made by the provider – rather than requested by customers – it makes sense that network providers should shoulder the cost.
If you’re a BT customer, there will be no price difference when you’re moved onto Digital Voice. Likewise, Virgin Media has stated that customers won’t pay more for landline-only broadband connections.
So unless you’re actually upgrading your broadband package, there shouldn’t be any extra cost to bear. Similarly, installation should be free of charge. And your provider should absorb the cost if any equipment upgrades are necessary to use the service in the same way.
Why is the network changing?
Dating back to the Victorian era, the old analogue network is becoming increasingly unfit for purpose. Plus it’s expensive and difficult to keep in good working order. The phone and broadband networks intend to retire the copper network – officially known as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) – by 2025.
The incoming digital network is more efficient, better quality and easier to maintain.
Digital networks can also provide greater protection against scams, nuisance calls and so on.
When is the network changing?
The upgrade is being carried out as we speak. UK phone and broadband companies have already started rolling out the digital system to their customers. It’s expected that the changes will be complete for most networks by December 2025.
It’s worth noting that industry regulator Ofcom is also involved, ensuring that customers don’t face unnecessary disruption on account of the changeover.
You should be contacted by your network provider – such as BT or Virgin Media – telling you when you’ll be switched to a digital landline.
What if I’m not ready for the changeover?
Network providers should be sensitive to customers’ needs and Ofcom is overseeing this. You shouldn’t be rushed into the switch. BT is initially focusing on customers most ready for the change and isn’t yet inviting customers to switch who:
- Are aged 75 and over
- Have disclosed any additional needs
- Have a only a landline with no broadband
- Have telecare alarms installed
- Get no mobile reception at home
While providers should take steps to be mindful of customers’ specific needs and circumstances, it’s a good idea to inform them of any requirements you may have in advance. For example, get in touch to inform them if you – or someone you’re acting on behalf of – uses a telecare alarm or needs additional support.
What happens when I change to a digital landline?
For most customers, the change will be straightforward. Your provider will tell you what you need to do. You’re likely to have to plug your phone into the broadband router, either directly (as with DECT cordless phones) or via a supplied adapter. You may need an adapter per handset if you have a few dotted around the home.
In some cases, an engineer may have to call round your home to install the connection.
But it’s important to note that, in the vast majority of cases, customers shouldn’t have to pay anything for the upgrade – either for equipment to use the new connection, or for the connection itself. BT says 99% of handsets should be compatible with the new system. If your equipment is too old and won’t even work with an adapter, you should be able to get new equipment from your provider at a discounted rate.
You should be able to keep your existing phone number. And BT’s voicemail service (1571) will continue to work with Digital Voice.
When your provider gets in touch, be sure to ask any questions you have, raise any concerns, or let them know if you need any help. It may be possible to delay the changeover if you’re not ready to switch, or you know someone who isn’t. It will have to happen at some point – the deadline is December 2025. But make sure you request support from your provider to ensure you’re comfortable when the changes occur.
What will happen to other equipment connected to the phone line, such as my telecare?
Certain devices are reliant on the phone line to work, in particular telecare devices for vulnerable customers living alone. Many personal alarms and security alarms also use the phone network.
The switch to digital landlines may well affect these. For this reason, it’s important to contact the supplier of your equipment to see if it’s compatible. It may work with the new system. But there’s also a chance it may need to be upgraded.
Likewise, it’s worth telling your landline phone provider of any telecare devices in your home before the switch. Any advance notice will help to make the switch as smooth as possible.
Similarly, if you’re in the market for any new equipment that relies on your phone line, be sure to check it’s compatible before you buy.
What happens if there’s a power cut?
The digital landline will run on your home’s electricity. For this reason, it won’t work in a power cut unless it has a backup battery.
Phone companies are advising people to use a mobile phone as backup, but this won’t always be practical. Many are reliant on their landlines – often because they have no mobile phone, get poor signal or no signal at all.
Find out which is the best provider in the UK for mobile coverage.
If you’re dependent on your landline phone, or know someone who is, your provider must offer a ‘resilience solution’. This means you must be able to make calls during a power outage. It could take the form of a mobile phone if signal is available or a battery backup unit that provides power, enabling you to use the landline.
In these instances, resilience solutions should be provided free of charge. If you’re not eligible, you may still be able to ask your provider for a resilience solution, but you’re likely to have to pay.
Watch out for scams
It’s a sad fact that when something occurs that affects millions of households, opportunist fraudsters are likely to target the vulnerable. For this reason, it’s vital to know how to spot a scam.
Many people will be contacted by their phone and broadband providers during the switchover, so it’s important to make sure that they’re the real deal.
If you’re not sure that someone contacting you works for the company they say they’re from, it’s ok to stop communication. This might mean shutting the door on them if they can’t show ID, or hanging up the phone and calling the company on its official line.
Be extra cautious if you’re asked for payment details or personal information. Much of the switchover should be free of charge to the customer, so any request for payment should ring alarm bells.
It’s also a red flag if you feel rushed or pressured into anything.
What happens if I’m the victim of a scam?
Do you think you’ve fallen foul of a scam? If so, it’s important not to feel ashamed or beat yourself up about it. Scams are increasingly sophisticated, and the only ones to blame are those carrying them out.
As soon as you suspect you’re being scammed, it’s crucial to end all communication immediately.
If you’ve given any payment details, you should first contact your bank, so they can stop any suspicious activity on your card or account. Most of the main banks are signed up to the Stop Scams UK scheme, so call the 159 hotline first. If you’re not sure, you can check which banks participate. If your bank isn’t signed up, contact them directly. Ask to be put onto their fraud hotline.
The next step if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland is to report the scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, or via its website.
In Scotland, report the scam to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via its website. You can also use the 101 police line to report scams.