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BT’s switching off its phone network. Does that mean we’ll have no phones?

Phone network
Stepney six four eight! The old-fashioned phone network is being replaced

No, it doesn’t. Relax, you’ll still be able to give your mum three rings when you get home.

BT is planning to switch off the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), the technology that has powered the telephone network since calls were connected by operators plugging jacks into hundreds of different sockets. It’s a 19th-century relic that has served its purpose.

Instead, it will move to a system where voice calls are delivered over IP – or internet protocol. This is similar to Skype or WhatsApp calls, where the voice is transmitted as digital data. And if you’re worried that all your phone calls will soon be blighted by the drop-outs and wibbles you hear when making Skype calls, don’t be (too much). Commercial VoIP (voice over IP) systems are much more reliable than the Skype experience. Many of the calls you already make will be carried over IP, you just don’t know it.

According to emails seen by The Register, the move is expected to be completed by 2025, although these things have a horrible history of slipping.  Remember when they were planning to switch off FM radio in favour of DAB? It’s now more likely they’ll switch off DAB.

That said, there’s a much stronger chance this will happen, as it makes perfect economic and technological sense. Landline phones are already dwindling in popularity and there’s simply no need for the PSTN going forward. As BT’s networking division, Openreach, said in a statement to The Reg, we are moving to a future “where broadband rather than voice becomes the primary service”.

Strap in, everybody.

Now read this: What is BT Openreach?

Main pic credit: PhotoAtelier/Flickr

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About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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