The UK’s telecoms networks will undergo substantial change in the coming years, as the companies that run them upgrade their technology. Some phone companies are already gradually moving their landline customers from the country’s traditional telephone network – the ‘public switched telephone network’ (PSTN) – to newer digital technology known as ‘voice over internet protocol’ (VoIP), which carries calls over a broadband connection.
The change will offer potential benefits to consumers, such as clearer phone calls, and it will help ensure the UK’s landline telephone services are fit for the future. The transition will be straightforward for most customers. However, some who rely on services such as security alarms and telecare devices, and those who have only a landline telephone service, may require additional support to help them update their services.
Although this change is being led by the broadband and phone companies, a number of organisations, including Ofcom, have a role to play in making sure customers experience minimal disruption and are protected from harm. Ofcom’s rules mean that phone users must receive
equivalent protections, however their landline is delivered.
Ofcom has also finalised their decision to force all UK broadband and phone providers – oddly including those that may not even deliver phone services – to offer a free (inc. zero-rated data usage), 24/7 video relay service for British Sign Language (BSL) users to contact the emergency services, via a dedicated mobile app and website.
The changes, which were first proposed back in 2019, are designed to ensure that disabled people (particularly deaf users) can access the communications services they need in an emergency (i.e. the principle that disabled people should have equivalent access to emergency communications).