Landline phones set to be scrapped by 2025 as part of a digital switchover

Most of us should be fine, but plans must be made to support the elderly and vulnerable who will struggle.

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From 2025, it looks like all households and businesses will need the internet to make phone calls under a major digital shake-up, as the major telecoms providers move away from their legacy analogue systems which are expensive to run and inefficient compared to modern digital alternatives.  This move is led by the market rather than one being ordered by the government.

It means millions of customers will be pushed online for the first time or forced to rely on a mobile phone instead.

Currently, around half a million households do not own a mobile phone and roughly 1.5 million homes (6% of the total home stock) do not have internet access according to OFCOM.  That includes about half of the over 75s and Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK, is worried: ‘This could be a particular problem for our oldest citizens. Given the threat of fraud, telecom providers need to take steps to prevent anyone who is in particularly vulnerable circumstances from becoming victims of digital scams.

The overall number of people who are not digitally connected will surely be much lower in 4 years’ time as adventurous silver surfers go further with some of the tentative technology knowledge gains they’ve made during lockdown.  However, those citizens who, for many different reasons, have not gone online or gone mobile are the ones who risk being left behind and shut out of some vital public services, including those from banks, insurers, travel and healthcare providers.  No doubt the end of the analogue landline spells difficulties for many people as the UK makes the switch to digital-only calls.

But we have been through this before. In 2012, the switch to digital TV carried similar warnings and concerns but the nation seems to have coped.  We coped because people love watching TV and family and friends frequently stepped in to upgrade those in need who were quite keen to keep on watching, and needed a digital TV signal if they wanted to see programmes in HD.

Similar moves have happened with the radio spectrum. Many car audio systems come with Digital Radio connectivity built in, but people are also much more comfortable using their data allowance (or Wi-Fi) to listen to radio on their mobile or use podcasting applications to listen to their favourite shows whenever they get the chance.

Worries about costs and loss of service

Homes without internet will likely need a visit from an engineer to set them up and those with older phones may need to buy a new digital handset that works with the new setup.  The change doesn’t mean people will absolutely have to get a mobile phone, but with costs in that industry falling and the ready availability of low-priced solutions many will choose to finally get a mobile.  There will likely be further growth in the number of grown-up children handing over their older handsets to the ageing parents and setting everything up for them.

Ofcom has stressed that telecoms providers have an obligation to ensure all households have access to the emergency services, even if there were a power cut or internet outage, so they may need to provide their customers with a free mobile backup phone or battery packs to take over if the power fails.

Openreach, runs the majority of the nation’s wire and cable infrastructure has an ambition to install ultra-fast full fibre broadband in 25 million households by the end of 2026, which should provide a reliable service for those looking to jump to their first internet connections.

The UK has always had competition in the market and Virgin Media, which owns its own cables, is also working to ensure that its home phone service is switched over to a fully-fibre broadband network by 2025.

Recent changes in consumer behaviour

Before the ‘end of landline’ story appeared around two million UK consumers have already been switched to an internet-based home phone service.  BT said half a million customers now have its Digital Voice service.

There are 1.1 million people in the UK who pay only for a landline and three out of four of them are with BT.  Many people have realised that a digital package combining phone, broadband, TV and even mobile phones often works out cheaper than paying for them all separately.

It is almost certain that new and competitively priced deals will be launched which target the last couple of million to tempt them to leave analogue and go digital before the deadline.

IPS Summary

Many commentators in the media have raised concerns that the elderly and vulnerable are supported so we will leave that narrative alone.  No one should feel abandoned or afraid so the industry will have to support them.
What we find interesting is that no-one has linked this story to the surge in scams and cold calls.  Landlines and legacy lists of phone directories and area codes have long been attacked by smart scammers able to run their criminal activities from remote parts of the world.  Using software that renders them immune from the reach of the UK law or the efforts of the telecom industry to stop them once and for all would prove to be invaluable.
We believe this change offers a glimmer of hope that investing in the next-generation digital technology at the disposal of the Telecom companies and governments means we can finally out-perform the scammers.
Landlines are vulnerable because anyone can dial your number and get straight through.
Mobile numbers and handsets offer more protection from apps and operating systems to stop the scourge of scammers getting through to their targets.
We will be reporting on this story more in the months ahead as industry players announce their strategies to attract new customers with the offer of a scammer free life.


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3 Responses

  1. Susan Roch says:

    is it hard to go digital?

  2. jwbirdhill says:

    Re Scrapping land lines:

    Many of my friends do not own a mobile phone – of the ones that do a number of them carry it for security in case the car breaks down away from home or other such occasion, otherwise it is never switched on.
    A number of areas of the UK are not yet covered by signals for mobile phones. a friend who lives in Sheffield cannot use her phone at home is one example, let alone some rural areas.
    Personally I carry my phone and use away from home but I much prefer to use my landline whilst I am at home and therefore always give that number as one to contact me on. I prefer a message left on my home phone if I cannot answer it for any reason, than one on my mobile.

    • Susan Roch says:

      I agree 100% with this. also I always give land line as they can leave a message if I am out.
      if my mobile rings half the time if uts in my bag I don’t hear it.
      I could miss important calls from hospital etc.

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