BT details cautious Digital Voice rollout plans

BT HQ One Braham logo

Awareness activity for BT’s Digital Voice Service will begin in the East Midlands in July, as the UK telco group looks to swap over its landline customers to VoIP telephony from analogue.

The project is described as a ‘once-in-a-generation upgrade to future-proof the UK’s landlines’ and is designed to replace obsolete analogue technology, which BT says for most customers will be as simple as plugging a phone into a broadband router instead of into a wall-mounted phone socket.

It says more than 99% of phone handsets work with Digital Voice and for the remaining in situations where that isn’t the case there are a range of handsets available.

Kicking off in the East Midlands, customers will be contacted at least four weeks in advance before making the switch, however it won’t BT won’t be proactively switching over customers with a healthcare pendant, who are over 70, who only use landlines, with no mobile signal, or who have disclosed any additional needs.

“BT customers in the East Midlands will benefit from a tried and tested service, with around two million BT customers already having made the switch and benefitting from the many advantages of digital home phones from advanced scam call filtering capabilities to crystal-clear call audio,” said Vicky Hicks, Senior Engagement Manager at BT Group.

“For almost everyone, moving to Digital Voice will be a simple and free transition with no home installation work required. If you feel you need additional support with the transition or you think you are vulnerable, please do tell us. We will be with you every step of the way.”

To spread the word, an awareness campaign during July in the East Midlands will include advertising, some townhalls where people can throw questions at BT staff and play about with Digital Voice products, as well as some pop-up events in garden centres and libraries, and a demonstration vehicle will be prowling about in 12 towns and cities in the region.

It’s an entirely logical and desirable pursuit to upgrade telecoms systems when technology becomes outdated, and BT has previously stated existing analogue technology is up to 40-years-old in some areas. However in a similar vein to the process of switching off 3G mobile operators are experiencing, there exists some resistance on behalf of a subset customers.

One of the main concerns with Digital Voice seemed to be about getting cut off during a power outage, which BT appears to have done some work to appease by flagging up hybrid handsets, and in general looks to be going out of its way to go on a PR offensive. This cautious approach stems from an initial launch in 2022, which was put on hold due to some backlash.

BT’s consumer CEO Marc Allera said at the time: “We underestimated the disruptive impact this upgrade would have on some of our customers. With hindsight we went too early, before many customers – particularly those who rely more heavily on landlines – understood why this change is necessary and what they needed to do.”

Fair enough – and it has to be said this new campaign of reassurance and education seems pretty comprehensive for what is described at least as a fairly minor transition for customers in the grand scheme of things.


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One comment

  1. Avatar Vee Knight 27/07/2023 @ 7:41 am

    Digital Voice is coming to the East Midlands and Yorkshire
    The newspaper coverage states that for the vulnerable and listing a number of situations, those customers will be contacted four weeks in advance to discuss the transition to digital voice.
    However, the article explains that it will only contact vulnerable people it is already aware of.
    Unfortunately having read everything online and in the local press, there is no detail on how to make vulnerable peoples needs known to BT.
    I have searched extensively for contact details to address this- without success

    I hope that someone who sees this message, can give me the correct website or email address to make my vulnerability known and to opt out of being transitioned to digital voice. I have tried various WiFi providers, but do not have consistent connections, often dropping out very frequently and especially overnight. People often cannot hear me when I use a mobile and the connection is often lost.
    So I have a landline as well as it gives me rock solid reliability and a clear conversation every time.

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