BT has put the brakes on its Digital Voice home phone service plans as it seeks to establish a more resilient roll out. But the 2025 PSTN switch off still holds.
BT conceded that it underestimated the disruptive impact this upgrade would have on some customers and issued an apology.
"With hindsight we went too early, before many customers understood why this change is necessary and what they needed to do," said Consumer division CEO Marc Allera.
"We have more work to do on getting better back-up solutions in place for when things disrupt the service like storms and power cuts. We got this part of our programme wrong and for that, we’re sorry."
Allera noted that the disruption caused by recent storms brought the issue into sharp focus. "Many lines were cut, including older phone lines as well as power lines, and for some customers making calls would not have been possible with a broadband-only connection.
"We have more work to do to improve the resilience of the network, working with energy providers on faster power restoration and providing better back-up solutions for customers."
According to Allera, enterprise customers will be upgraded to business-grade IP voice product so are not affected by this pause.
"This upgrade has to happen and all customers will have to be part of this change," added Allera. "That includes our landline customers because the old analogue phone lines will not be supported over the full fibre network in the future."
BT aims to re-start its Digital Voice campaign once it has key solutions in place to provide customers with more resilient connectivity.
These include hybrid phones that can switch to a mobile network and have an in-built, long-lasting battery; the option of longer-lasting battery back-up units; in-home ‘mobile landlines’ for people without broadband; addressing mobile not-spots; launching an awareness campaign so customers better understand the need to switch; and continuing to proactively engage the related industries like healthcare pendants and burglar alarm providers to ensure the most vulnerable customers continue to get the service they need.
"These upgrades are huge in scale and complexity and will see network providers like Openreach replacing millions of miles of copper with new Fibre optic cables," added Allera.
"With a programme of this scale, sometimes we don’t always get everything right and on this occasion we acknowledge we have more work to do and will get on with putting these solutions in place."