No easing up on PSTN switch off, urges Parkinson

Giacom’s connectivity chief has urged ICT resellers not to ease up on migrating customers to All-IP following BT’s extension of the PSTN switch off deadline due to safety concerns about users with special requirements.

BT is now aiming to migrate all customers off the PSTN by the end of January 2027, unable to meet the initial 2025 deadline following an industry-wide pause to non-voluntary All-IP migrations mainly due to the risk of personal alarm failures as a result of going digital.

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.

“This should not be viewed as a green light to stand down, but as an opportunity to take action,” stated Dale Parkinson (pictured), MD – Connectivity, Giacom.

“This extension provides the industry with valuable breathing space to address challenges and enable a smooth migration onto replacement services for all users and use cases. As an industry we have a responsibility to ensure a safe transition.”

Howard Watson, Chief Security and Networks Officer, BT Group, added: “Managing migrations as quickly and smoothly as possible while making the necessary provisions for customers with additional needs, including telecare users, is critically important.”

BT Consumer led the formation of the Telecare Action Board in January, bringing together circa 30 organisations from Government, the telecoms and telecare sectors, industry bodies, local authorities and regulatory stakeholders to identify telecare users and those with additional needs before they go digital.

Watson said: “More needs to be done and we need all local authorities and telecare providers to share with us the phone lines where they know there’s a telecare user.”

BT says that so far only around a quarter of local authorities and telecare providers have disclosed which phone lines have telecare devices on them.

In a statement BT said, ‘It’s now imperative that every single one of these organisations do the same so that these customers receive the right support at the right time’.

For customers who don’t use broadband, including landline-only consumer customers and business users with specialist connectivity requirements (including some alarms, lift and emergency lines, ATMs and payment terminals) BT is working on an interim dedicated landline service that will keep these customers connected while moving them off the analogue PSTN.

Trials have already begun with a nationwide roll out for eligible customers expected to kick off this Autumn. BT Business is urging all of its business and public sector customers to register their interest to test this temporary pre-digital phone line product.

BT Group’s Consumer division has now restarted switching zero-use landline customers who have a broadband connection to its Digital Voice landline service, and has adopted a gradual approach to switching.

An Openreach spokesperson commented: “Openreach has taken the decision to align the withdrawal of its products that work over the PSTN, which come under the umbrella term of Wholesale Line Rental (WLR), with the new switch off date of 31st January 2027.

“We recognise there’s more work to do to reach and mobilise the minority of non-engaged CPs to migrate their customers off WLR proactively and safely.”

Parkinson added: “We will continue preparing partners for this change, leveraging the additional time to enhance education and support, ensuring they are ready well ahead of the new deadline.”

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