Are Landlines Being Phased Out?

By Emma Lewis, bOnline

In a nutshell, yes they are. Traditional landlines are being withdrawn by December 2025, meaning that all UK households and businesses will need to switch to an internet-based phone system like VoIP instead. In fact, from next month (September 2023) no more landlines will be sold at all; known as the “landline stop-sell”.

Here we look briefly at what it’s all about and what to do next.

Who is Affected By The Landline Switch Off?

Everyone in the UK including residents and businesses will be affected once landlines cease to function at the end of 2025. As mentioned, from next month Openreach will no longer be selling new landlines at all, so the process is well underway.

Although it’s tempting to leave it and do nothing, 2025 will soon roll round – potentially leaving you scrabbling round last minute for a phone system that suits your business when prices may have already risen.

Small Businesses Especially at Risk Of Being Left Behind

Although BT revealed its “Big Switch Off” plans back in 2015, many small businesses still risk being left behind when landlines no longer work. According to recent figures from Openreach, around 70% of UK businesses continue to use landlines regularly, with over 40% still unaware of BT’s impending Big switch-off deadline.

At the end of 2025, landlines will cease to function as Openreach plans to move all UK phone lines from the traditional Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to a fully digital network.

Why Are Landlines Being Phased Out?

The copper landline system that’s currently in use across the UK actually dates back to Victorian times. It was drastically upgraded back in the 1980s, but in the years since then our communication requirements have changed drastically. Some of the oldest underground copper cables are simply not compatible with the modern technologies and demands of the 21st century.

Broadband connections use fibre optic networks. These give much quicker speeds for both internet use and calls than old copper lines. They’re also much more reliable, easy to maintain and more resilient too.

Can I Keep My Landline Phone Number If I Switch To a Digital Phone Line?

Yes, you can. In fact many sole traders and small businesses like to keep their number so they don’t have the costs of changing stationery, marketing materials or vehicle livery for example. Also, if the business has been around for some time and customers are very familiar with the number, changing it can be detrimental.

Once you’ve chosen a new digital phone system like VoIP, make sure you can keep your existing landline number as many providers will set this up for you. You might even be able to keep multiple numbers, for example if you have more than one business line.

Additionally, some providers can offer a virtual phone number for an area that your business isn’t even physically located in. For example an 020 number for London, which could help attract more London-based customers (yes, this is perfectly legal!)

What Other Benefits Are There To Digital Phone Systems Like VoIP?

Not only does switching to a digital phone system protect your business from the landline switch-off, many of them come with a huge range of business-friendly features too. For example, call forwarding, business hours announcements, hold music, free internal calling, access to call analytics, voicemail, video calling and more. Your new system will also likely be cloud-based, so you can make and receive calls not just via a VoIP handset but also using your laptop, smartphone or tablet.

This is ideal for easy access remote working, especially out of hours, with no requirement for expensive extra phone lines as your staff count grows. On top of that, call packages tend to include free minutes and line rental, saving you big money especially if you make a lot of international calls.

How  Do I Get a New Digital Phone System To Replace My Landline? 

As mentioned earlier, we strongly recommend taking action now rather than putting it off. Your current phone provider should get in touch with you to explain their own digital products and what to do next. However, you don’t necessarily have to stay with them once you’re out of contract, and it’s well worth shopping around.

Some VoIP providers tailor their services to different audiences, for example by specialising in sole traders or larger corporations. You may even be able to sign up for a free trial so you can test out the system before committing.

The important thing is you really do your homework and make sure the digital phone provider you choose can provide the features and customer service you need at the right price. The best ones will do everything for you remotely, getting you set up within 24-48 hours with no downtime and no ‘techie’ knowledge needed by you. The worst thing you can do is put it off, so it’s worth looking around now.