Every household and business in the UK will have their landlines axed by 2025, they will need to have the internet to make calls under a major digital shake-up. Millions of Brits will be forced online for the first time or will have to reply on their mobile phones. The latest Ofcom research shows that there is 1.5 million UK homes without any internet connection. Those without any internet may need to get an engineer out to visit their homes to help them get set up and the ones with older mobile phones may need to buy newer handsets.
The UK government called for a change in 2012 where they switched to digital TV when broadcasters stopped transmitting traditional analogue signals to household rooftop or indoor aerials. This digital switch is being driven by the telecoms industry and its not known yet how providers will notify customers of the upcoming switchover. Some experts have already started to raise concerns about the aforementioned 1.5 million households, around 6 percent that might get left behind with the switch over. Specifically those who live in more rural areas or don’t have any access to a mobile phone or who are elderly and vulnerable and may struggle with the change.
The upgrade will also impact other services that rely on the existing telephone network such as alarm systems, payment terminals, red telephone boxes and phones in lifts. Telecoms giants are aiming for the switchover to be complete in 2025, Ofcom said it is working to ensure the vulnerable customers get all the support they need. Amid fears a power cut or internet outage could leave households stranded, Ofcom has stressed that telecoms providers will have an obligation to ensure that all households have some type of access to emergency services. This may mean that firms will need to provide customers with either free mobile phones or battery packs.
Caroline Abrahams, Director of Age UK, said: “Given that about half of older people over the age of 75 are not online, this could be a particular problem for our oldest citizens. Given the threat of fraud, telecom providers also need to take steps to prevent anyone who is in particular vulnerable circumstances from becoming victims of digital scams.”
Virgin Media which owns its own cables are working to switch its home phone service to its fibre broadband network by 2025.
BT have also said that around half a million of its customers now have been switched to its Digital Voice service.
Openreach, which runs the majority of the nations wire and cable infrastructure has been working with businesses for months to ensure that they are ready. The firm is aiming to install ultra-fast full fibre broadband in 25 million households by the end of 2026, which should provide a more reliable service.
An Openreach spokesman said: “Protecting vulnerable customers is an absolute priority for us. We are working with communications providers to identify vulnerable customers early on.”