UK Delays Full PSTN Switch Off Until 2027

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The UK government has announced that the plan to fully retire the traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN) across the country will be pushed back by three years until 2027. Originally, major telecoms providers like BT had been aiming to complete the transition to internet protocol (IP) and digital voice services by the end of 2025.

The PSTN switch off is a massive undertaking as it involves migrating millions of residential and business phone lines over from the decades-old analog copper wire infrastructure to modern fiber optic and mobile networks. While good progress has been made, there have been calls from consumer groups and telecoms industry bodies to delay the hard cut-off date to allow more time for the complex migration.

A key concern has been the potential disruption and loss of service for vulnerable customers who rely on traditional landline phones, including elderly people and those with disabilities or living in rural areas. There are also worries about small businesses being able to adapt in time.

“The PSTN has served us well for over a century, but the future is digital,” said a spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. “This revised target to complete the transition by 2027 will ensure no one is left behind as we fire up the latest networks for the voice services of tomorrow.”

For consumers and businesses still using analog lines, this means a few more years of service before they will need to go through the process of switching to a digital voice solution compatible with the new all-IP networks being rolled out nationwide. Many are expected to adopt voice over internet protocol (VoIP) using their broadband connections.

While the change is disruptive in the short term, moving to digital voice promises improved call quality, new integrated communication features, and better long-term reliability. The retirement of the PSTN infrastructure will also allow BT and other providers to reallocate resources to upgrading their core IP networks.

The road to full IP voice migration is a long one, with many technical and logistical hurdles. But this delay should give network operators, businesses, and households more breathing room to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible across the UK.