UK transition from analogue to digital landlines

What the retirement of analogue phone lines, also known as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), means for you.


Telecoms companies in the UK are replacing the technology they use to provide fixed telephone networks (landlines). For most customers, the upgrade is expected to be complete by 2025.


In November 2017, the telecoms industry announced its intention to retire analogue telephone networks such as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) by the end of 2025. The industry will upgrade landline services to new digital technology using an internet connection, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Digital Voice or All-IP telephony.

For the vast majority of consumers and businesses, this change will be straightforward. Nobody will have to lose their landline service because  of this change, as there will still be the option for a ‘landline only’ service should a customer not wish to purchase a general internet connection. Telecoms companies will continue to be bound by the same regulatory obligations as they are today.

The upgrade of the UK’s telephone lines is not a government programme and does not result from a government decision or policy, and therefore specific questions about how the upgrade programme might affect you should be directed to your service provider.

Why the old network is being replaced

Analogue networks have been in operation for decades and have reached the end of their serviceable life. The telecoms industry is finding it difficult to source the parts required to maintain or repair connections as suppliers are no longer manufacturing them.

New digital phone lines will allow communications providers to offer consumers and businesses clearer and better quality phone calls, as well as new features such as anonymous caller rejection or three-way calling.

What the change means in practice, and how you can prepare

For most consumers, this change will be straightforward, although the exact migration process will depend on your communications provider and the equipment they use. If you already have an internet connection, the change may be as simple as plugging your phone into your broadband router rather than the socket on the wall.

Telecoms companies will contact their customers ahead of the migration taking place, so you do not need to take any action until your provider contacts you directly. You should look out for communications material from them and be careful not to confuse this with marketing material.

If you have specific requirements (for example, if you are a vulnerable consumer or you have other devices connected to your telephone line such as alarm systems, telecare devices or fax machines), you might need to take additional actions or purchase replacement devices or adaptors. If you believe this to be the case, or if you have general questions about the migration, you should contact your telephone provider or equipment manufacturer.

Vulnerable customers

Ofcom, the independent telecoms regulator, has published a guide on treating vulnerable customers fairly and expectations on telecoms providers to ensure they support vulnerable or at-risk customers throughout the upgrade process to digital phone lines. Ofcom states that providers should take steps to identify at-risk customers and engage in effective communications to ensure all eligible customers are protected throughout the upgrade process.

If you believe you or one of your relatives is a vulnerable consumer or depends on a landline, you should notify your provider so that they can advise on how the migration could affect you.

It is the responsibility of the provider to ensure those who depend on a landline are provided a resilient solution that will allow customers to make calls to the emergency services in the event of a power outage and the government is working with Ofcom to ensure this is the case.

Devices connected to your phone line

If you have other devices connected to your phone line, such as alarm systems, telecare devices or fax machines, you should take steps to ensure they will continue to function correctly following the migration to a digital phone line. You might need to upgrade your device to make sure it is compatible, check if it needs to have its own battery and network back-up, or purchase an adaptor to ensure it continues to function correctly.

If you are buying a new alarm or device, you should check with the provider of that equipment that it is compatible with digital phone lines and will continue to run.

If you are unsure about how a device in your home or business might be affected, we recommend you contact the equipment supplier or device manufacturer to find out whether it will remain functional on a digital phone line. If you are buying a new alarm or device, you should check it is compatible with VoIP services.

Power cuts

The analogue landline carries a low voltage power connection directly from the telephone exchange, which is sufficient to power some basic corded handsets without needing to plug them into the wall. This means that in the event of a local power cut, these corded handsets will continue to function as long as the telephone exchange still has power.

Digital landlines cannot carry a power connection, which means handsets and routers must be powered from your home power supply, and they will not function in a power cut unless you have a backup power system such as a battery or generator.

Telecoms companies are required by Ofcom to take all necessary measures to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency organisations for their customers, including in the event of a power cut.

In 2018, Ofcom issued guidance on how telecoms companies can fulfil this regulatory obligation in light of the migration to digital landlines. The guidance was issued following a consultation with the general public, as well as telecoms providers and Ofgem, looking at data on the average length of power outages in the UK.

The guidance states that providers should have at least one solution available that enables access to emergency organisations for a minimum of one hour in the event of a power outage in the premises, and that this solution should be offered free of charge to those who are at risk as they depend on their landline.

For most customers, telecoms companies recommend using a mobile phone as a backup in case of a power cut. If you don’t have a mobile or live somewhere where there’s no signal, your landline provider should offer you a solution such as a battery back-up unit. This will mean that you can still make emergency calls during a power cut.

In the UK, national roaming is enabled in order to make emergency calls. This means you can  use any mobile phone network to contact the emergency services, even if you are not a customer. You may see the message ‘Emergency calls only’ displayed on your handset if this is the case.

If you don’t have or want broadband

The Telephony Universal Service Obligation in the 2003 Communications Act means all consumers in the UK will still have access to a landline service should they choose to do so.

If you don’t have broadband and you don’t want a high-speed internet connection, some providers will still offer the option to use a simple internet connection just for making calls. You’ll still be able to have a landline in your home, but the technology that underpins it will be different.

Businesses and Critical National Infrastructure (CNI)

The upgrade to digital landlines will affect all customers, including businesses and CNI organisations. Businesses should consider how they can move to digital alternatives smoothly to avoid undue disruption in 2025.

Landlines may also be used for alternative devices such as lift alarms, burglar alarms or card payment systems. Telecoms providers will not know which devices are connected to their network, and therefore it is important for business customers to review which devices they are using and determine whether they need replacing or upgrading, or whether adaptors might be required.

If you are a business customer and you have concerns about the transition to digital phone lines, we recommend you contact your telecoms provider.

Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) is also working with other government departments to ensure CNI sectors are prepared for the digital upgrades across a range of sectors.

What the government is doing

Although the migration to digital is an industry led initiative, the government is working together with the telecoms industry to ensure all sectors of the economy are protected and prepared. This includes regularly engaging with telecoms providers, tracking preparedness across all affected sectors, and working closely with Ofcom.

Further information

If you have questions about how the migration might affect you, the government recommends you get in touch with your telephone provider for further information.

Ofcom, the independent regulator for telecoms, has also issued guidance on how to prepare for the migration. See Moving landline phones to digital technology: what you need to know.

Openreach has also published factsheets for businesses who use phone lines to deliver services to help them understand how the move to VoIP services will affect them.

Communication provider websites

Openreach has further information for businesses and wider industry who use phone lines to deliver services to help them understand how the move to VoIP services will affect them.

Updates to this page

Published 6 January 2023
Last updated 28 February 2024 + show all updates
  1. Vodafone added to list of communication provider websites.

  2. Updated Ofcom link in 'Vulnerable customers' section.

  3. First published.

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