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BT’s Digital Voice Service: Once-In-A-Generation UK Landline Upgrade

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The UK telecommunications group, BT, is initiating an awareness campaign for its Digital Voice Service, which aims to replace analogue landlines with VoIP telephony. The project has been described as a “once-in-a-generation upgrade to future-proof the UK’s landlines,” catalyzing the transition from obsolete analogue technology. For the majority of customers, this will involve a simple switch, plugging their devices into a broadband router instead of a wall-mounted phone socket.

BT has stated that over 99% of phone handsets are compatible with Digital Voice technology, and a range of handsets is available to fill in gaps. Customers in the East Midlands will begin the transition, and will be contacted at least four weeks in advance. BT will not proactively switch specific consumers, such as those with healthcare pendants, over 70, without a mobile signal, or with disclosed additional needs.

According to Vicky Hicks, Senior Engagement Manager at BT Group, “almost everyone” will experience a “simple and free” transition, which will not require any home installation work. She emphasized that customers who require extra support or feel vulnerable should make BT aware of their situation, as the company will be there “every step of the way”.

The awareness campaign in the East Midlands will commence in July, including advertising, townhalls, pop-up events in locations like garden centers and libraries, and a demonstration vehicle touring 12 towns and cities in the area. Replacing outdated telecommunications systems is both logical and desirable, especially as BT has indicated that existing analogue technology can be up to 40-years-old in some areas.

However, there has been some resistance to adopting Digital Voice technology, and BT has experienced initial backlash during a 2022 launch. BT’s consumer CEO Marc Allera admitted they “underestimated the disruptive impact” the upgrade would have on certain customers, going “too early before many customers understood why this change is necessary and what they needed to do”.

In response to concerns about potential disconnection during power outages, BT is promoting hybrid handsets to assuage these worries. Furthermore, BT is adopting a more cautious approach with this renewed awareness campaign, which involves a comprehensive education and reassurance strategy to pave the way for this important transition for the UK’s landline customers.

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