back to article BT pushes ahead with plans to switch off telephone network

BT is forging ahead with plans to shut its traditional telephone network in Britain, with the intention of shifting all customers over to IP telephony services by 2025. The closure of the public switched telephone network (PSTN) is part of plans by BT toward internet-based voice calls via a fibre network. As such it will be …


  1. GlenP Silver badge

    I have a strong suspicion this will go the same way as the DAB switchover. It'll keep being put back until some arbitrary target such as "90% of households are using VOIP phones" is reached, which will be never.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      I have a strong suspicion this will go the same way as the DAB switchover

      And I know I'm late to this, but the same argument applies, to an extent. It's a solution in search of a problem. DAB is great an' all, but the 20MHz (88 - 108) of VHF that would be freed up by switching off all FM transmissions is not a fat lot of good for anything except broadcast radio. I suppose you could convert it to DAB :-)

      This may be one of the reasons LW persists. The 140kHz or so of spectrum (150 - 290?) used for broadcast ain't much good for anything else, and in fact excels at national-scale broadcasting.

      And as for that aerial alongside the M5 at Droitwich. Wow. If LW ever is switched off, I hope they list that structure so that it's saved for the sheer history. Just out of interest - I was looking for the thing just now on Google Streetview, and it almost seems as if they've tried to blank it out. It's visible in the distance in some views, but as you get closer it's more and more difficult to see. Maybe it was misty that day; it's visible from different angles.


  2. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Land line usage?

    Our local emergency planning people actually still encourage people to have a "land line," ignoring the reality that a significant number of homes either have had nothing but cel phones for years, or have a "home phone" provided as part of their cable or Internet service.

    If emergency response is your priority the money is better spent on a robust and redundant wireless network.

    Besides, we're paying $95 CDN for Internet and home phone, and another $90 for wireless service. There's no way I'm spending another $60 a month for POTS.

  3. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    999 or war?

    AFAICR selected large houses in the UK were pre-wired with multiple phone lines in case of a nuclear war. The idea was that the houses would become seats of regional government in whatever was left of the country. Once BT have stolen removed all the copper this plan is defunct. No doubt that any adversary will also have hacked the VOIP network leaving us totally screwed.

    This is not cheerful news.

    1. tip pc Bronze badge

      Re: 999 or war?

      The PON fibre network is arguably less susceptible to emp from nuclear attack than the copper network.

      Search wiki for emergency communications network for details of war comms that went into large houses.

  4. Alan Mackenzie

    Who's counting carbon dioxide emissions?

    Yes, I've been through this process already, in Germany.

    When I last changed my setup, I was informed that VOIP was all that was available. That means that tens of millions of households have to leave routers uselessly burning electricity 24 hours a day, on the off-chance somebody might call in the next few minutes. That must be quite a few power stations worth of juice.

    And then there's the degradation in setting up. Previously, you just had to buy a handset, plug it into the wall, and it worked. Now you've got to _configure_ something, namely a router. No problem for me, but it "earns" the telecom compainies a fair bit from those who can't do it themselves. And those handsets weren't, in the main, crackable over the telephone network. Who'd say the same about their router, these days?

  5. Peter Prof Fox

    Brittle and silently hackable.

    Hey, let's put micro electronics in a box with wires wandering outside. This box is part of BTs line. If a nasty spike comes in at the moment it might fry a router or possibly a phone handset. In the future you're waiting for Bombay to add you to some invisible queue.

    Now there's an internet box with all of the appeal and security track-record of IoT. Made in China and up-datable down the wire.

  6. Simon Rockman

    Not just POTS

    A couple of my phones are not just POTS and wired, They are pulse dial. Proper rotating dials. Mostly for incoming calls but I do still dial out on them occasionally to see if the 1891 technology still works.

  7. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

    There is a company in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada that has SUCCESSFULLY entangled trapped Xenon atoms over 100 km distances AND have been able to both READ (i.e. not destroy the coherence!) of the atom's properties AND set them anew WITHOUT first having to supercool them down to near ZERO degrees Kelvin! ---It's all done at Room Temperature, so this discovery is a VERY VERY BIG DEAL for telecom systems!

    This means a COMPLETE REPLACEMENT for fibre optic AND POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) phones, internet connections, ISDN lines and dial-up services!

    And since Xenon atoms can be "switched on and off" (i.e. specific properties set and read") at PETAHERTZ speeds, overall bandwidth on outgoing and incoming data streams will be in the MANY HUNDREDS OF TERABYTES PER SECOND!!!!


    Copper Wire and Fibre Optic Cable is Now Dead! Long Live Copper and Glass!

  8. Barrie Shepherd

    Australia is currently ripping out the copper and it's not a smooth process. Customers wanting resilient service have to buy a PSU/battery back up unit

    PSU has sealed lead acid batteries some of which now need replacing as they were bought via the lowest bidder system - much debate about who should pay.

  9. Jason Hindle

    Seems inevitable

    But I have a hard time believing IP telephony will be as robust the the system it replaces.

  10. JBowler

    Gee, yiou brits are so backward

    This happened years ago in the US. Of course no one told any of us, but then concepts like "transparency" and "an explanation of why you can't send faxes" are so alien to us.

    Asking BT, which, remember, Thatcher effectively castrated, to behave as a semi-charity is ridiculous (as in the ob-comments, not the article). That was what Thatcher intended of course, but she is a total whatever.

    BT already is routing all calls via VoIP; you cannot tell, I cannot tell, Scottie canne tell, it's just a fact.

    "999" calls depend solely on accurately identifying the point of origin. You can do this with GPS, you can do it with cell tower triangulation, you can do it by simply being told where the originating device is located.

    You CANNOT do it by believing in Thatcher, or whatever it is you guys believe in; I can't seriously believe you actually believe in the life giving properties of copper buried in the ground.

    John Bowler

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gee, yiou brits are so backward

      Gee you yanks are so iggerant.

      BT already is routing all calls via VoIP;

      No, it isn't

      accurately identifying the point of origin. You can do this with ... cell tower triangulation

      Not to within 10m you can't.

      I can't seriously believe you actually believe in the life giving properties of copper buried in the ground.

      Passive circuits are always going to be more reliable than active ones. KISS principle.

      As for Thatcher, the country that elected The Donald is in no position to be making comments on anyone else's political choices.

  11. herman Silver badge

    So what happened to ISDN (Innovation Subscribers Don't Need) and ATM (No not a bank machine)? Those were digital successors to PSTN too...

  12. Herby Silver badge


    I wonder what the proper procedure for elevator phones is. My parents house has a small (two story) elevator, and it has a nice phone inside the elevator car. There is NO WAY I'm going to have anything other that a proper POTS line serving the phone. If power goes out (the elevator gets stuck), you will need to summon help to get "rescued". My 99 year old mom can easily reach for the phone and call for help. A VoIP phone WILL NOT DO! I refuse to put one in for this service. I have my doubts about others in this circumstance would wither.

    1. Barrie Shepherd

      Re: Elevators?

      "There is NO WAY I'm going to have anything other that a proper POTS line serving the phone. "

      If the Australian model is anything to go by you will not have an option to retain the central battery POTS line - the equipment will just not exist. The Australian NBN (BT Openreach equivalent) propose that in addition to a VoIP line, with local back up battery, you also need an additional 3/4G mobile interface to overcome problems should the intermediate carrier equipment fail. All this adds cost for lift owners / operators and of course assumes you are in a mobile phone coverage area!

      A simple description with photos at

  13. MooseMonkey

    No need to worry about 999 calls....

    As soon as the emergency services are moved from AIRWAVE to standard mobile networks, they won't be able to be contacted anyway.

  14. Timmy B Silver badge

    We use BT for our internet. We lose our internet connection perhaps once every couple of months for anything from a few minutes to a couple of hours. We lose our phone line perhaps once every couple of years. We have two elderly people at home with careline and I have a separate hard wired phone in case of emergencies (ignores the DECT system). If we get a loss of internet after the move to IP and the perfect storm happens and we require emergency cover and worse still we aren't at home and the careline is needed, what happens?

    I understand the whole "separate power" idea but BT don't have an internet capability that is as good as their telephone one. I would hate to trust emergency calls to who many people regard as not great at internet / IP.

    Sadly as they are 92 and 94, I don't think they will be around when the switch happens but others will be in the same boat.

  15. Chezstar

    Dear UK,

    Please don't fuck the FTTP rollout up.



  16. Bob.

    Aiding Resilience

    Additional BBCPs (Battery-backed Communication Points) could be the ideal answer.

    It's a bit of a mouthful. Some people know them as 'Telephone Boxes'

  17. Nick 53

    Is it just me?

    When BT CEO Gavin Patterson was quoted as saying “We already serve many thousands of customers in businesses using IP, our goal is by 2025 all of our voice customers will be served using an IP with a premises solution and will migrate off the traditional telephony platform.” owing to use of the word 'businesses' many of us thought this meant the demise of ISDN, which given the shift to VoIP makes sense, all be it perhaps a little later than one might have expected. What seems to have changed in this story is that the term 'all of our customers' appears to include consumers. If that's the case, we're to believe that over the next six and a half years, Openreach is going to change out its entire base of (say) 22M analogue lines with VoIP and churn the WLR base. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but is there anyone left in BT that understands how big a job that is? It's not just about 999 calls during power failure. Anything with a modem in will need replacing - PDQ, alarms, sensors etc - there must be millions of them. Oh and by the way, the small matter of getting on for 22M installations of VoIP widgets - or is BT going to come up with a foolproof self-install solution?

  18. Terminator666

    What about people who don't have or don't want the internet in any way, shape, or form?

  19. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    Of course line rental will go up

    Because "we're providing a better service now". Naturally.

  20. Barrie Shepherd

    I use VoIP services from 3 VSPs (2 in Australia and one in UK) in addition to my UK POTS line. I don't understand those saying voice quality on VoIP is worse than POTS what they have probably experienced is the 'VoIP' solution they get from the likes of WhatsAPP and SKYPE which don't emulate a true VoIP connection..

    My understanding is that in a POTS call only the last leg (exchange to subscriber house) is true POTS all the intermediate switching and routing is VoIP. I'm pretty satisfied with my VoIP connections they sound better than the POTS, as there are no crackles and clicks and, as I run my own modest Raspberry Pi VoIP server, I benefit from lots of Value Added Features and the ability to manage my own least cost routing.

    I only ask that in whatever final solution BT propose they don't lock it down to their own 'approved' equipment like some Australian ISPs have done with their National Broadband Network VoIP services.

    The UK should adopt a standard VoIP solution AND customers should be allowed to have their login credentials so they can connect to the widest possible selection of terminal equipment. With the right thinking the solution could also provide a 'number for life' meaning when you move home you don't have to change your telephone number.

    What we don't want is BT repeating the telephone socket fiasco, inventing a completely new connection plug just to frustrate people wanting to do their own house wiring. Most of the world manages reasonably well with the RJ series of connectors. (yes I understand the 'bell wire' ring detect capacitor and anti tinkle but that could have been handled in a RJ solution.)

    The real challenges are provision of services at distant locations, where no internet reaches, and solutions for the probable thousands of legacy POTS installations for base alarms, emergency alerts emergency phones and the like. Education is essential as people will need to understand that the old way of providing extensions phones at home by plugging them in parallel won't work for VoIP unless the VoIP modem provides a POTS simulated connection.

  21. Havin_it

    PCI DSS and POS card terminals

    At the moment (as far as I understand it) there is a sizeable difference in the compliance burden for PCI DSS between credit-card terminals that connect via dialup vs over the internet. To wit, terminal on dialup = can just self-certify; terminal over IP = have to get whole network audited regularly.

    Doesn't moving to VoIP mean then that every bugger'll have to get audits done? Or will the exemption apply to it as well? Penny-pinching minds demand to know.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PCI DSS and POS card terminals

      "To wit, terminal on dialup = can just self-certify; terminal over IP = have to get whole network audited regularly."

      Not a PCI expert but my dad owns a small business with single card terminal. As far as I know, all he needs to do to keep the card processor happy is let them do a portscan of his WAN IP every so often. He moved because he changed processor and apparently it's cheaper to do it over IP now.

      He only has a simple card terminal though, not attached to a till or a PC, doesn't store any personal data, etc. I would imagine it's more stringent if you do any of that. Given that the comms between terminal and bank should be encrypted, and the firmware on the terminal should be locked down, I'm not sure why it needs any more hassle than that.

  22. Spanners Silver badge

    Who has a land line at home nowadays?

    I would suspect that users of this site are more likely than average to have no "land line" anyway.

    Virgin does a package where people get broadband only - no phone and no Virgin TV. I had it before I moved last year. When I moved, I got Vodafone. I get a land line for this but there is nothing on the statement specifically marked line rental. I don't even know what the number is. Neither do my friends or family. I suppose I could use it if there was an emergency and my, my wife and son's mobiles were not working but it would be a last resort.

    1. Roger Mew

      Re: Who has a land line at home nowadays?

      You are soo lucky, a good mobile system that you can connect several desktops and have Youtube downloads all at the same time!! What the phuk is a mobile, they do not work here, We are lucky with outh our 2.0 mbs down and 600 up internet and should that be Voiped then there will be a lot less than that, approx 400 up and about 1.6 down so having a phone call will seriously disrupt your internet!

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Who has a land line at home nowadays?

      > I got Vodafone. I get a land line for this but there is nothing on the statement specifically marked line rental. I don't even know what the number is.

      Ofcom ruled the other year that line rental had to be included in the cost of home broadband, so if you look at the details of your service agreement, you will find that your standard month subscription includes line rental.

      There will be a phone number associated with your line, you will need it if you wish to switch to another ISP...

  23. Martin an gof Silver badge

    Solution for POTS

    I may have misunderstood, but I didn't understand that they wanted simply to provide a single Ethernet socket and leave it up to you to work out how to use it. Isn't the idea to supply a "POTS converter" to every premises? In other words, standard analogue equipment will connect to this in-house device which does all the conversion for you.


    1. Barrie Shepherd

      Re: Solution for POTS

      "Isn't the idea to supply a "POTS converter" to every premises? In other words, standard analogue equipment will connect to this in-house device which does all the conversion for you."

      I believe that will be the end solution BUT the equipment 'at your end of the line' will require you to provide power and if you want resilience from mains failure an associated battery back up unit. The difficulty for emergency phones,and the like, is that the intermediate street equipment, that delivers the Ethernet stream, also requires power, which will have limited reserve battery and therefore could also run out of power.

      So in addition to BT having a large very resilient power supply at the exchange location every telephone user will require an additional power supply at their home. As another poster said how green is that?

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Solution for POTS

        So in addition to BT having a large very resilient power supply at the exchange location every telephone user will require an additional power supply at their home. As another poster said how green is that?

        Good point, and a standard phone will work just lovely with 50V line current, which is both battery and generator-backed at the exchange, but... but I already have my modem on a UPS, alongside my DECT base station. It sort of helps when there is a power cut (and for semi-rural Wales we get more than you might expect) and you need to consult the website of Western Power to see a: if they already know about it and b: what the contact number is if they don't.


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          electricity supply down? the contact number is 105

          "consult the website of [electricity network operator] to see a: if they already know about it and b: what the contact number is if they don't."

          As of a year or three ago, the contact number is 105, regardless of which major network operator is responsible for your electricity supply.


  24. Naughtyhorse

    A lot of people are posting here about powering devices over copper....

    this will not be as much of an issue as you think. with the loss of leased lines most of the countries power distribution grid loses intertripping, so there wont be any power anywhere. :-)

    only serious

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ermmm ...

    Am I missing something? what happens to people - like my 93 year old mother in law - who don't have/want broadband?

  26. MrZoolook

    So VOIP 'is' a viable choice in an emergency?

    Pretty much what the title says.

    VOIP services always tell us that we shouldn't rely on them in an emergency. Now BT are effectively saying they are?

    Which is it?

  27. Dave_P

    This aint gonna happen.

    They simply haven't got the staff to convert the existing exchange digital data onto VoIP switches. That isn't an easy or simple process.

  28. russmichaels

    What this also means is that broadband goes down, so will your phone, so make sure you have credit on your mobile and a signal so you can call your provider to tell them its down.

  29. gnarlymarley

    internet outage preventing you from calling your ISP?

    Funny how when the internet goes does, the ISP no longer gets calls about their internet outages. And yes, my VOIP phone has been affected a few times about this. Good think I have a POTS landline so I can continue to call them when it did go down.

  30. jonfr

    Everything goes offline one day

    One day, one quiet day everything is going to go offline. The reason for this sudden offline is going to be a solar flare or solar flares. The human race isn't going to be lucky all the time in this regard. While devices like mobile phones and such are going to work if they get power (solar panels if people have them) are going to continue to work (if they didn't burn out), it is clear that large scale power networks are not going to do so.

    This means that VoIP fixed connections are also going to go down. Because the power grid fluctuations are going to burn everything down. The situation is going to get worse when it comes to large power stations that supply cities and countries with power.

    Last one large solar outbreak was in 2012, the human race got lucky that time around,

    That was not the case in 1859, but the age of technology had barley started at that time,

    The POTS angle on this that under this type of situation is that all the copper phone lines are going to catch fire once this large type of solar storm hits the Earth (due to magnetic currents creating electric current in the phone line copper).

    Warning is going to be issued allowing for some protection of infrastructure (government, military, health care, police), but on large scale this is going to mean that cities are going to be out of power for weeks and even months and that might even apply to some countries in the world. How bad this is going to hit depends on factors and magnitude of the solar system in question.

    People can forget flying anything or anywhere once this happens. Going on a ship might be a possibly (maybe).

    The internet? That is going to take months to restore since all the hard drives are going to be fried and have to replaced and everything has to be rebuilt from scratch. Most backups won't survive this type of event.

  31. Roger Mew

    Firstly, without a modem you will not be able to make calls. So no electric, no call. Now much of the UK has no mobile phone coverage, so no mobile no call thats 2 out of 2, now in the event of a house fire you will probably have no electric, please place about 2 litres of oil in each room to help keep the fire going as long as possible. We have already had this "discussion" here in france, Aman was bedridden and needed the ambulance, the idiot had previously had his telephone connected to the VOIP system, There was a power cut, his breathing machine went off, his VOIP went off, luckily not for too long. I managed to get his phone back onto the PSTN but he got very annoyed with me because of that. I could not explain that he nearly died because of it. So if you go for a VOIP system and you have no mobile do ensure the mobile works and preferably have 2 on different systems.

    PS I now also know of 2 house fires also that were not put out, the houses concerned being not put out and totally destroyed!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Openreach also plans to pass three million homes and businesses with fibre-to-the-premise by 2020." 'Pass' sounds about right, stick a bit of fibre in the ground and don't serve any customers. Openretch by name, Openretch by nature.

  33. MBD1

    The end of Fax and some NHS services

    Fax effectively drives many worthwhile services across the NHS. Whether it should or not is a sensible question, but the systems work. (unlike some implemented by BT as part of NPfIT)

    I understand that Fax & VoIP are generally incompatible - so is this a suicide pact by senior BT execs who no longer NHS treatment? - just please don't take the rest of us with you!

  34. dawbthompson388
    Thumb Up

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