Are Landlines being phased out?

Published: 04 June 2024

Information from Age UK:

What is changing?
Landlines have been delivered through an analogue network for decades, but this is being replaced with newer digital technology.
The new system is called 'Voice over Internet Protocol' (VoIP). You may also hear this referred to as a digital landline or 'Digital Voice', the name of BT's new home phone service. BT is one of many network providers making this change.
Once you've moved to the new digital system, your landline will mainly work as it always has, although there will be some differences. For example, it won't work if there's a power cut so you'll need an alternative solution such as a mobile phone or battery backup unit for emergency calls (but we have more information about this below).

What is digital landline? Will I need an internet connection to make phone calls?

Digital landlines use an internet connection to make and receive calls. Given this, you'll need an internet connection at home to use the new landline digital system.
If you already have a broadband connection, then the new digital landline system will use this. But don't worry – if you don't have broadband, your network provider, such as BT and Virgin Media O2, will supply you with a connection to support the new digital landline system. You shouldn't pay extra for this if you don't choose to take up a broadband service.

Why are these changes happening?

The current analogue landline network needs to be replaced because it's old and is becoming difficult to maintain. The new digital landlines use the internet to make phone calls – this offers better quality calls as well as some additional features such as protection from scams.
UK phone and broadband companies are leading this change and are working with Ofcom, the Government and others. The aim of Ofcom (the communications regulator) is to make sure customers don't face unnecessary disruption or harm because of the changes.

When are these changes happening?

The changeover has started, and some people have already been moved to the digital system. For most people, the changeover will have happened by January 2027.
This is an industry-wide change, but timescales may differ depending on your service provider. Originally, it was expected that for most networks, the move to digital landlines would happen by December 2025. However, BT has announced all customers will be moved from the existing analogue system by the end of January 2027. Other companies may also review their timescales.
Providers will contact their customers ahead of the change to let them know when they'll be making the switch to a digital landline.
BT, for example, is rolling out its programme on a region-by-region basis. However, in general, they aren't currently switching certain groups, as long as they're aware of people's circumstances. The groups who aren't currently being invited to switch are:
people aged 75 and over
people who have disclosed any additional needs
people who only have a landline (and not broadband)
people with telecare alarms
people with no mobile signal at home.
Originally, BT weren't contacting people aged 70-74, but they're now inviting a limited number of people in this age group to switch as part of a new trial. These will be people living in urban areas with broadband and a good mobile signal.
In some areas, changes to the network will mean that everyone will be contacted about moving to the digital system. You may also be moved to the new system if you decide to move to a new phone and broadband package.
Other companies have also started rolling out digital systems, and this may include all customers.
Whoever your telephone provider is, make sure they're aware if you have a telecare alarm or if you may need additional support.

What happens when I change to the digital system?

Your telephone provider will contact you in advance to let you know when your system's changing and what you need to do. In some cases, an engineer will need to visit to make changes.
For the majority of people, the change will be straightforward. If you already have a broadband connection, you may just need to plug your phone into your broadband router or you'll be sent an adapter that connects to your phone and plugs into your router. If you have more than one phone socket with separate handsets, you may need additional adapters.
When you're contacted by your provider let them know if you have any questions or concerns about moving to the digital service, or if you need any additional help. Although everyone will need to move to the digital system at some point, you may be able to delay this if you're not ready to switch.
Can I keep my phone number?

Yes – in most cases you’ll be able to keep your current phone number.

Will I need a new phone?

Nearly all existing handsets will work with the new system. But if you do need to change your handset, your phone provider will be able to advise you on this.

Will anything else be affected, like my telecare?

The switch to digital landlines may affect telecare devices and other equipment such as personal alarms and security alarms if they're connected to your phone line. You should contact your device supplier to check if your device will work with the new system or whether any equipment will need to be upgraded.

Although your landline telephone provider will contact you before the switch takes place, you may want to let them know about any telecare devices that you have in advance.
If you're buying a new device that's linked to the phone system, you should also check with the seller or manufacturer that this will be compatible.
Will my new phone contract be more expensive?

For BT customers, there's no difference in price for its Digital Voice home phone product. Virgin Media has also said that people won't pay more than what they already pay for their current service.

This means that you shouldn’t face extra costs if you need a new simple internet connection to make calls.
What happens if there's a power cut?

Unlike some traditional corded analogue phones, a digital phone will only work in a power cut if it has a battery back-up, because it'll run using your home electricity. In these instances, phone companies are advising people to use mobile phones as a backup.

If you're dependent on your landline phone – for example, if you don’t have a mobile phone or you live somewhere where there’s no or poor mobile signal, then your telephone provider must offer you a 'resilience solution' to make sure you can make emergency calls during a power cut. This could be a mobile phone (if you have mobile signal) or a battery-backup unit that connects to your landline phone and provides power in case of a power outage.
This resilience solution should be provided free of charge to people who are dependent on their landline. If you're not eligible for a free resilience solution, you may be able to purchase one from your provider or another retailer – talk to your provider about the options available to you.
Is there anything I should watch out for?

As the switchover is affecting millions of homes, this can create an opportunity for criminals to develop new scams. These scam attempts could happen over the phone, via email, or in person on your doorstep.

Remember the following scam advice when someone's contacting you about the switchover:
STOP – take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or your personal information.
CHALLENGE – could it be fake? It's OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. You should never feel rushed or pressured into making a decision.
PROTECT – contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve been a victim of a scam and report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040.
Other unscrupulous people may also try to sell you equipment or get you to sign up to expensive contracts that you don’t need. In these cases, it's important that you don't rush into making any decisions. You can always seek a second opinion and speak to your phone company – they should be able to advise you about what you need.