This week, I wanted to talk to you about some changes that are coming to how phone lines work. These changes aren’t happening immediately, but it’s best to be prepared, and to know what’s coming so you’re not worrying unnecessarily.
So, at the end of last year, BT announced that they were scrapping their old “analogue” phone landlines. They plan to replace them all with fully digital lines by 2025.
Okay. But what does that actually mean?
At the moment (assuming you have home broadband) your phone line is used for both internet and calls. If you think of your phone line as like a motorway with lots of separate lanes for carrying information, some of those lanes are set aside for voice calls.
Under the new system, all the lanes will be internet lanes. Your calls will go over the internet as well, just like if you were making a video call through Skype or Facebook Messenger or something similar. If you want to be able to make calls using a traditional handset phone, rather than through your computer or tablet, you’ll need to replace your analogue handset with an internet one. The technical term for this system is “VoIP” (voice over internet protocol).
A lot of people don’t use their landline to make phone calls these days. They either use video calling services, or make calls on a mobile phone. So this new system is just more efficient – rather than leaving a chunk of the motorway empty for non-existent calls, it can all be used for whatever you need.
So far so good – unless you’re one of the small group of people who does still use their landline.
And another thing to check is whether you (or any vulnerable friends or relatives) have other systems set up that use the old landline. A lot of emergency buttons – for you to press if you have a fall or hear an intruder – used to be set up to use the BT lines. They work even if there’s no power, so they’re a good “set up and leave” option. These will stop working when the digital switch-over happens, though.
There are plenty of alternatives out there that connect to your home internet or use a mobile phone signal – for example, Doro mobile phones come with a built-in emergency system. And the switch-over will happen slowly and gradually over the next few years.
Ofcom have been quite stern with BT over making sure these changes don’t make life more difficult for vulnerable people, so if you’re over a certain age, you can expect to hear from BT closer to the switch-over time. It’s worth you knowing what’s happening in advance though.
Anyway, that’s it from me for this week.