Time to ditch the landline?

My last post mentioned that BT are planning to switch off the landline telephone network in five years (in 2025).  They haven’t yet told us how this might affect users, and indeed, I can’t find anything about this subject on the BT website.  However, Ofcom issued a document in February 2019 which sets out some of their requirements.  This says that ‘major landline providers’ (i.e. BT in most of the UK) ‘will offer VoIP products delivered over broadband … before PSTN is retired completely.’

Ofcom say that whilst 81 % of households have a landline service, ‘most’ consumers now have a mobile and use it as their main method for making and receiving calls at home.  4 % of adults have a landline but no mobile but only 3 % have a landline and no broadband.  There is possibly more concern about non-voice landlines, such as those used for alarms and payment systems, that rely on attributes of the PSTN that may not be replicated by VoIP.

BT have to an extent already presaged the switchover by no longer charging separately for ‘line rental’ on their broadband deals.  However, they are not yet offering any VoIP ‘landline’ option. Their traditional landline offering is quite expensive – ‘unlimited’ anytime calls cost £9.99 a month (less if you have a broadband deal) but if you go over the one hour (even by one second) on any call, they whack it up to the standard rate of 15 p per minute.

They did have a system called ‘SmartTalk’ that let you talk over your broadband wi-fi from any mobile phone when at home or within range of another wi-fi system, but this was very quietly dropped in January 2019.

Their overt reasoning was that it was no longer needed because mobile plans had generous airtime and less onerous roaming charges. A more likely reason is that they started to offer ‘wifi calling’ on BT mobile phone contracts, so they’re making this an advantage of their system.

Along with their offering of extra data allowances on BT Mobile if you have broadband with them, they are pushing BT Mobile very hard.

In the early days of mobile, I got one from BT, but I switched to O2 when they stopped offering up-to-date handsets. Recently, I made the foolish mistake of getting a new BT Mobile phone, but it couldn’t get a signal inside my house.  When I complained, their advice was that I should go outside to make a call! Needless to say, I had to send the phone back at my own cost, including insurance!

My present Samsung phone works fine on O2 indoors, although admittedly with a weak signal, and its calling plans when abroad (I travel for business and pleasure) are cheaper than BT.

Sadly, I think it is time for me to get another SIP adaptor for my broadband and to port my landline number across to it.  Sipgate charge 1.18 p per minute with no contract, or you can get various deals which are reasonably priced.

Previously, I’d thought that BT were competing by offering advanced and reliable technology, albeit at a price. In the early days they offered ‘Broadband Talk’ and they even provided me with a broadband phone.  But that has also gone without explanation.

Now I’m finding them to be putting profit first and I’m starting to doubt them.  Shame, as I’ve been a very loyal customer, ever since as a student, I trained in various telephone exchanges in Manchester.


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