The big digital switchover: what you need to know

18 May 2022
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Most of Wales is still reliant on a Victorian-age copper infrastructure – technology that is decades old and was designed to carry voice signals rather than broadband. In 2025 Openreach plan to switch off analogue phone service as a pre-cursor to retiring the UK copper network and replacing it with full fibre which they, and alternatives providers like Ogi, are doing in phases between now and (it is estimated) 2030. 

Many of us are using this analogue service to access our landline phones or broadband at home – it’s the technology most of us have grown up with, carrying our voice from one place to another.  

These lines also support some of the lesser-known products in our homes and businesses, like burglar alarms, personal alarms and mains-powered fire alarms – making them, quite literally, a lifeline to many.  

With the plan to switch off the network in the coming years, service providers are already looking at ways to safely move customers over to new technology like full fibre (sometimes called fibre to the premises). But this comes with its own challenges, particularly in rural areas or places ‘missed’ by fibre rollouts of the latest mobile technology.  

According to the most recent Connected Nations 2022 report, published by Ofcom, around 90% of Wales has good mobile coverage from all four major operators, while around 15,000 homes and businesses are still unable to access a ‘decent’ broadband service of at least 10Mbit/s download speed.  

Clearly then, there is a lot to do before we can completely abandon current technology, even if it’s clinging on longer than originally intended.  

The good news is operators are already laying the foundations for new future-ready ultrafast fibre optic connections that can deliver faster speeds and are cleaner, more environmentally friendly for the planet. The new network will consume 80% less power and carbon. And the millions of miles of old copper cable can be recovered and upcycled.

Ogi and Age Cymru have come together to help inform older people about the forthcoming phone systems digital switchover. Here you’ll find our top tips for handling the switchover now, or when the time comes.

Digital Switchover is the term being used by service providers to explain the move from copper wire telephone lines – the technology most of us have grown up with – to digital services like full fibre broadband.  Together with Age Cymru, we’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions to help you understand what’s happening and how you can prepare.

Will I have to do anything?

You don’t need to do anything until your phone provider contacts you to discuss your needs. For many people the change will be as simple as plugging your phone into the supplier’s router to link into their system. In most cases, you’ll be able to keep your current phone number.

What might be affected?

If your phone handset is very old, you might need to change it. Things that currently use the landline network like telecare, personal alarms, burglar alarms and fax machines might also be affected by the change. If your devices are relatively modern, they should still work fine but older ones may need to be reconfigured or replaced. Your phone provider will be able to advise you on all these matters.

Will I have to pay more?

Most providers have committed to not raising prices above inflation for customers who only use their landline for making phone calls for the next 5 years. However, things may be different for those who use broadband services for their computer or laptop etc. You should always check with your current provider for the latest information on pricing.

Be scam aware

As the switchover is affecting millions of homes, this can create opportunities for criminals to try to scam people. These could be over the phone, via email, or at your doorstep. The digital switchover will be free of charge, and no one should ask you for any payments – if they do, please report them to the Police using 101 and to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. If your bank account was used in a scam, contact your bank as soon as possible.

Other unscrupulous people may also try to sell you equipment or get you to sign up to expensive contracts that you don’t need. Don’t rush into any decisions, seek a second opinion, and speak to your phone company who will be to advise you about what you need.  

What sort of back up support will be available if there’s a power cut?

When there’s a power cut you may lose access to some or all of your services. Therefore, your current service provider will work with you to make sure you have a suitable back up in place such as a mobile phone, a battery back-up or some other solution.

Here to help

Your current phone provider should be in touch with you to let you know when your services are due to change and what, if anything, you need to do. You can always contact them too – at any time – using the customer service details on any documents from them such as your bill.  You can also visit Age Cymru’s website or call the charity’s advice service on 0300 303 44 98.

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