2025 switch off deadline uncertain amid personal alarm dilemma

BT has warned the Government that it will not hit its 2025 analogue telephone network switch off deadline because of the risk of personal alarm failures as a result of going digital.

BT and Virgin Media have paused switchover plans for the time being.

This was first reported on The Telegraph website but BT Group has told Comms Dealer today that delays to its digital switchover plans will effect the 2025 deadline.

A BT Group spokesperson told us: "The current pause will have an impact on the timing of the overall programme but we are working to minimise any delays, as the switch to digital landlines is a necessity given the increasing fragility of the analogue landline network.”

It is estimated that circa 1.8 million people in the UK are reliant on personal alarms and telecare devices with most using BT’s network. The concern is that network outages and power cuts could put this at-risk group in jeopardy.

In a statement Virgin Media told Comms Dealer, 'Last December we signed a Government-led charter and have paused all landline migrations, carried out an end-to-end review and will make further improvements to the measures we already have in place before switchovers restart'.

This situation has exposed tensions between network operators and local authorities. The Virgin Media statement went on to say, 'While telecoms companies like us have a crucial role to play in this switchover activity, it’s essential that telecare companies and local authorities also step up and meet their responsibilities to ensure everyone receives the support they need'.

The BT Group spokesperson continued: "We’re working closely with the Government and Ofcom as we continue the important programme to move customers onto digital landlines. Our priority remains doing this safely, supporting our vulnerable customers and those with additional needs in particular, and we’re working with key organisations that represent these groups to achieve that. This includes encouraging more local authorities and telecare providers to make us aware of telecare users so we can make sure they get the right support at the right time.

"Along with other providers, our non-voluntary customer migrations are currently paused, and we’re committed to the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s Charter to protect vulnerable customers, following its publication in December 2023."

A spokesman for the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology, told The Telegraph that switching off the analogue landline network is the telecoms industry's decision, with the Government having no formal role in deciding timelines.

An Openreach spokesperson told us today: “Our role in this transition is to withdraw the analogue products that work over the PSTN, including our WLR product.

"Should BT Group's assessment suggest any changes to the availability of the PSTN platform then we'll consider that impact on our WLR withdrawal plans.

"We'll continue to play our part to make sure the switch to digital is achieved without loss of service to those most in need.”

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