The UK’s traditional phone lines are old tech. In fact, some of the copper cables installed under our pavements have been in place since the 19th Century!
As fewer people rely on their home phones in favour of their mobiles, online messaging, or VOIP services like Skype or Zoom, this phone network has become too costly to maintain or upgrade.
Because of this, there are plans to switch off BT Openreach’s PSTN (public switched telephone network) by December 2025.
If you currently use a landline phone at home, or you’re signed up to a bundled broadband and telephone deal, the PSTN switch off is going to have an impact on you.
We appreciate this might seem confusing, especially as it’s just a whole load more jargon to get your head around.
Over the course of this page, we’ll take a closer look at what’s happening and how it will affect the average phone user.
We’ll let you know what you need to do, and when, to make sure you can carry on having an interrupted home phone service.
PSTN switch off: the key points
A word of explanation
Over the course of this page, we’re going to refer to the digital telephone switchover as ‘Digital Voice’. This is the name BT will be using. However, other broadband providers may choose to use their own brand names, such as ‘Sky Internet Calls’.
What is Digital Voice and do I have to use it?
The PSTN network switch off will happen for everyone by the end of 2025. This will impact both homes and business across the UK. However, some providers may move quicker and different areas around the country will see change happen sooner.
Instead of using analogue phone systems for calls, replacement lines will be fully digital. For this to work, you will either need a digital phone, or you’ll have to plug your existing analogue handset into the back of your Wi-Fi router, or using a special adapter. Without doing this, you won’t be able to receive or make calls.
Here’s BT’s explanation of how Digital Voice will work using a Smart Hub 2 router:
How will Sky Broadband Internet Calls work?
If you’re currently signed up to Sky Superfast, you’ll be able to find this out when you choose this package.
Once set up, you’ll need to plug your phone into your Sky Broadband Hub or Sky Max Hub to make or receive calls.
Using TalkTalk's Digital Voice service
You’ll be able to plug your existing home phone into your router to make and receive calls as normal once Digital Voice is activated.
As an extra perk, if you have an Amazon eero router, you’ll be able to download TalkTalk’s Digital Voice app to make and receive phone calls on the go using your mobile phone.
Digital Voice is currently available to existing TalkTalk customers who upgrade their connection to Full Fibre.
Virgin Media’s Digital Voice service
To make calls once traditional phone lines have been phased out in favour of digital phone lines, Virgin Media customers will need to plug their phones directly into their broadband hubs using an adapter. These will be sent out in the post.
Customers will get the following features as standard:
- 3-Way Calling
- Anonymous Caller Rejection
- Call Waiting
- Quick Dial
Will this affect other broadband providers not on the Openreach network?
Many alternative network providers use their own full fibre broadband networks (FTTP) for their broadband services and already offer phone calls using a VOIP phone system, so you may not see any change to your service.
Can I use Digital Voice if I'm a Plusnet customer?
Plusnet is currently one of the very few big named providers not offering a Digital Voice service. In 2023, it moved all of its fibre services over to a connection called SoGEA (Single order Generic Ethernet Access). This means its fibre broadband (FTTC) customers are already no longer reliant on telephone lines using copper wires, and its service is fully digital.
So what if you were a Plusnet broadband customer and previously had a BT telephone package?
If you’d like to talk to Plusnet about this, you can call 0800 432 0200.
Or, if you’re out of contract, and you’d rather have the option of including calls with your broadband (which could end up being more cost-effective) remember you’re free to switch at any time.
Broadband Genie makes it easier to check through bundled broadband and phone services. Type your address into this deals checker to see the options available at your home.
Broadband Genie deals checker
Want to learn more about how to changing providers? Visit our guide: ‘how to switch broadband and get an amazing deal’.
Here are a few of the current best broadband and phone deals:
What is VOIP?
‘Voice Over Internet Protocol’ allows you to make phone calls using a broadband connection. An example of a VOIP service is Skype, but there are plenty of options. All you need to make a VOIP call is an internet-connected device with a microphone and VOIP software.
Do I have to get a special digital voice phone?
You should be able to use your existing phone by plugging it into the phone port on the back of your Wi-Fi router. Alternatively, your broadband provider will send out an adapter so you can plug your phone into any standard phone socket.
However, if you do upgrade to a dedicated digital voice phone designed to work with the Digital Voice service, you may have access to more features. For example, for £44.99, BT is offering an Advanced Digital Home phone with Alexa built in.
Can I use Digital Voice if I have a telephone-connected personal alarm?
If you have a monitored alarm that’s connected to your landline (like a health pendant, CCTV or burglar alarm) you’re advised to speak to your alarm provider before moving to Digital Voice. This might also be the case if you’re a small business owner and use a portable payment terminal, or if you have a telephone-connected burglar alarm system.
For more help and advice, BT customers can call on 0330 1234 150.
We suggest you speak to your own broadband provider for more help.
When will I be moved over to Digital Voice?
Pilots originally took place in Salisbury and Mildenhall (Suffolk), but the PSTN shut-off started officially in East Midlands in July 2023, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber in August and Northern Ireland in September. The North West and London were due to be switched in Autumn 2023.
Here are the planned switchover timeframes for 2024:
- West Midlands
- South East
- East Anglia
- North East
- South West
What will happen if I don’t prepare for the PSTN switch off?
If you already have a broadband and phone contract, you should automatically be moved over to Digital Voice.
Customers are contacted at least four weeks in advance before making the switch. Initially, BT won’t be proactively switching customers who:
- Have a healthcare pendant
- Only use landlines
- Have no mobile signal
- Who have disclosed additional needs
- Are aged over 70
If you don’t want this, you should have the right to refuse. For example, if you call BT within 7 days of receiving your letter about the move to a digital telephone system, you’ll be moved onto a Broadband Only plan. We advise you get in touch with your provider if you have any concerns.
We’re sure there are plenty of questions you may have about the closure of PSTN lines and how this will affect your home landline calls. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions to help you out.
Frequently asked questions about the PSTN switch-off and digital phone lines
Will Digital Voice work during a power cut?
This is very important. Digital Voice will NOT work during a power cut.
If you’re in an area where you don’t have a reliable mobile signal, or you don’t have a mobile phone, you should get in contact with your provider as soon as possible.
Back-up battery units should be available, and your provider should hopefully be able to provide these. BT advises you get in touch by calling 0330 1234 150.
Will digital calls require a lot of bandwidth?
No. You’ll be able to make use of Digital Voice with a basic fibre broadband package. Voice calls use very little bandwidth.
Does Digital Voice work over Wi-Fi?
It depends. In most cases, you’ll have to have your phone plugged in; either into the back of your Wi-Fi router, or into a socket using an adapter. However, TalkTalk are offering a Digital Voice app that allows you to send and receive calls using your mobile, and others may follow suit.
How is Digital Voice better?
There are some obvious downsides to Digital Voice, but there are some good perks, too!
For example, you could technically use your phone number on multiple devices. So, if someone calls your number, you could feasibly answer anywhere you have an internet connection. This could save you missing important calls.
The sound call quality is also better over a digital phone line, and with HD calling you shouldn’t have the annoying crackles you sometime get over a traditional PSTN line.
Digital Voice also comes with lots of free perks you may have previously been paying extra for. These include, Caller Display, Voicemail, Call Divert, International Call Barring and Anonymous Call Blocking.
Will I need a new phone number with Digital Voice?
You should be able to keep your number. But, if you’re plagued with spam calls, it could be a good opportunity to start with a fresh slate. Get in touch with your provider to let them know you’d like to keep an existing number.
How much will a change to a digital line cost me?
There should be no charge for this change of service. You may also receive an upgraded Wi-Fi router for free. You should be able to purchase an upgraded digital voice phone for under £50, which allows you to use more advanced features.
My relative is panicking about this new service. What should I do?
You should be able to nominate a family or friend to help you switch over to Digital Voice. Once you’re contacted by your provider (keep an eye out for an email or text), you’ll be able to let the support team know who you’d like to help you.
Currently, BT won’t be proactively switching customers who have a healthcare pendant, only use landlines, have no mobile signal, have informed them of additional needs, or who are over 70 years old.
Like it or not, the PSTN switch off is coming. By December 2025, home phone lines as we have always known them won’t function. Instead, home calls will be need to be made over your broadband network.
The move to Digital Voice shouldn’t cost you any money unless you choose to upgrade your phone handset, but there are some important quirks you should understand before you’re switched over.
To make calls, you’ll need to plug your digital telephone into the back of your Wi-Fi router, or use a dedicated adapter supplied by your provider.
It’s important to note that Digital Voice would not work during a power cut. If this happened, you’d be reliant on your mobile phone. If you live in an area with poor mobile signal, we encourage you to get in touch with your provider to ask for a back-up battery pack.
Switching suppliers won’t help you keep your traditional home phone line. However, opting for broadband only package does give you some options to sign up a separate VOIP telecoms service if you’re unhappy with how things are being handled, or the choices you have. Or you might be able to find a better broadband and phone bundle.
If you’re out of contract, remember you can switch for free. It’s a simple process, and the majority of the time, you won’t even need to speak to your current provider.
Why do we need your address?
We need your address to show you the broadband deals available at your home. This information is gathered in partnership with thinkbroadband.