The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and ISDN lines will be switched off by 2025. You can see a statement from OpenReach here. Instead, telephone calls will be made via:
- The mobile phone network
Unfortunately, there's very little information to help you prepare for the change, and what there is comes from providers touting their own solutions. Here's what I've been able to glean so far...
Will it just affect phones?
No, the switch-off affects everything connected to the telephone network including:
- Fax machines
- Alarm systems
- Aid call systems
Can we keep our telephone number?
Simple answer: yes.
However, it's unclear how providers will handle the change. BT, for example, has nothing I can find on its site and continues to sell landline phones without any warning.
It does sell Voice Over IP (VOIP) - internet phones - but, for the time being, they are aimed at businesses.
There's no indication of how new voice services will be charged. Given the way internet phones work, you'll be able to choose from a huge range of different providers offering their own blend of services - and costs. So there's a fair chance you'll want to change provider. My best guess is that you'll be able to take your number with you to a different provider - like you can with mobile phones - but I don't see a guarantee of that.
Can we keep our existing phones?
Simple answer: yes.
I expect there will be products that allow you to:
- connect your phone(s) to a plug that works like the PSTN
- replace your DECT hub
Either way, the new box of tricks will connect your phone(s) to the new phone network via broadband or the mobile phone network.
However, you might not benefit from the full range of services that will be offered by the new, digital phone network.
Will we need a phone?
Many people already use mobile phones instead of landlines. And I expect you will be able to make and receive calls from your landline number using a mobile phone.
Also, the new service will be digital and one of the benefits it brings is that you'll be able to make and receive calls on a range of devices I expect these will include:
- PC's and laptops
- Smart speakers - such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home (or Nest or whatever they call it this week)
- Video calling devices - look out for enhancements to Amazon Show, for example
- Smart TVs
- Game consoles
Do we need to do something now?
If your current phones work OK and you've no good reason to change, stick with what you have, wait and see.
You'll no doubt get offers from your landline provider eventually - but you might be able to get a cheaper/better service by shopping around.
For the time being, if your phone uses rechargeable batteries and they don't keep a charge, consider extending their life by replacing the batteries - most phones allow you to do that.
If you rely on, or make heavy use of, other equipment that connects to the phone line:
- Consider, alternative technologies. For example there are other ways to transfer images besides fax.
- Contact your alarm or aid call providers and ask what they're planning - again, it might not be best to accept their first offers.
Are there things we shouldn't do?
Unless absolutely necessary, I suggest you shouldn't:
- Invest heavily in any device that requires a phone line.
- Sign a long-term contract for any service that requires a phone line.
- Buy an internet phone now - as far as I can see devices on the market are either:
- Business-oriented (i.e over-complex and expensive)
- Tied to specific services
- Or both