The digital switchover deadline has been extended to 31 January 2027.

BT Group has confirmed the deadline for migrating customers off the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) has been extended to January 2027. The decision to add 12-months to the previous deadline gives the industry more time to address various challenges.

Within its results for the full year to 31 March 2024, BT Group said, “Following the industry-wide pause to non-voluntary migrations in December 2023, we now expect to have migrated all customers off the PSTN by the end of January 2027, allowing us to align the programme with full fibre broadband customer upgrades where available.”

Fit To Switch is a Comms Business campaign to raise awareness and educate businesses from different sectors about potential risks to their business when the PSTN is withdrawn. It was co-founded by Mat Swift, publisher of Comms Business, Chris Pateman, and Adrian Barnard. The campaign website includes resources to educate businesses and channel professionals about the switching process, their options and the timelines that need to be met.

Mat Swift, co-founder, Fit To Switch, commented, “It is heartening to see that the Fit To Switch message is winning, that BT Group recognise that much more awareness and time is needed. Since inception, we and our supporters have been stating that a consistent and straightforward message for UK businesses and consumers is vital. Everyone in this industry wants to ensure a successful upgrade to the UK’s digital connectivity infrastructure, and that is exactly why so many stakeholders have come together to create that message with Fit To Switch.

“This extension to the deadline could add to the confusion that providers encounter when trying to talk to their customers about the need to transition to all-IP alternatives. But the ins and outs of what needs to be done are the same. Providers still need to talk to their customers about migrating to newer alternatives, and there is a huge opportunity for every business to transition to the technologies that are the best fit for their needs.”

An Openreach spokesperson clarified what this means for communications provider (CP) customers. They said, “BT has announced its decision to move out the date for switching off the PSTN – the old copper based analogue phone network. In response to this – Openreach has taken the decision to align the withdrawal of our products that work over it – which come under the umbrella term of Wholesale Line Rental [WLR], with the new switch off date of 31 January 2027. 

“Openreach will continue to work with its CP customers to help them migrate their customers onto new digital services and off the legacy network as safely and smoothly as possible. We also recognise there’s more work to do to reach and mobilise the minority of non-engaged CPs to migrate their customers off WLR proactively and safely.”

Eli Katz, chair of Comms Council UK, commented, “Comms Council UK are disappointed but not surprised about BT’s announcement around the shift in deadlines surrounding the closure of its PSTN network – or more specifically the cessation of WLR and ISDN services by the end of 2025. This is hugely frustrating given the investment in replacement products and services, and the communications with customers that our members have already undertaken to align with BT Group’s previously communicated plans.

“This project is naturally a huge challenge for all of industry. Comms Council UK have been calling for more coordination and support from government and Ofcom to support this shift for a number of years now. Resting the communications plan solely on the industry has inevitably led to confusion as customers need clear and aligned messaging to provide sufficient understanding and reassurance on this major shift.

“We will continue to work with the various industry groups to help spread the message. There are clear benefits and opportunities for both customers and the broader economy of moving to an all-IP world of communications. We want to ensure this transition does not slip any further and provides those clear benefits to UK plc.”

Itret Latif, CEO, Federation of Communication Services (FCS), added, “As there has been no consultation by BT, we have been surprised by this announcement and are working hard to understand the implication for our members. 

“FCS has been working closely with all stakeholders from the very beginning to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible for the industry. Many of our members have used the original date to develop and invest in their products, customer communication, internal operations and commercial strategies to make sure that they adhered to the original deadline. 

“The BT announcement of the revised date will therefore cause confusion and rework for our members which will have operational and commercial implications.”