BT pauses Digital Voice rollout — NFU win

30 March 2022

Farm business
A picture of David Exwood leaning on the NFU's sign outside of its headquarters

NFU lobbying has successfully encouraged BT to delay its landline switch over to Digital Voice for customers who don’t want to move to the new technology straight away.

BT has said this is not a permanent halt to the programme, but that it is taking time to work on a more resilient rollout after customer feedback.

The company has apologised to those already experiencing disruption by the change, after recent power cuts left people unable to make calls.

What is Digital Voice?

Digital Voice is BT’s new home phone service which makes calls over the broadband network rather than the analogue network.

“I’m pleased that BT is listening to its customers and allowing traditional landlines to remain until they have improved the resilience of the rollout and provided better back-up solutions.”

NFU Vice President David Exwood

So instead of plugging a home phone into a wall-mounted phone socket, customers will connect their house phone to their broadband router.

According to BT, this new project will replace old analogue technology that is fast becoming obsolete with a new digital service that will provide crystal-clear calls, prevent the vast majority of scam calls and ultimately will be more efficient on electricity usage making it better for the environment.

Farmers’ concerns

“We continue to ask government to prioritise the rollout of 4G across the country so that those living in rural communities can use mobile phones confidently in emergencies.”

NFU Vice President David Exwood

The NFU has raised concerns with BT about the decision to switch from copper landlines to Digital Voice as the programme is reliant on mobile signal if power goes out, which is patchy and unreliable in rural areas.

NFU Vice President David Exwood said: “This delay is a big win for the NFU and our members. Our 2021 digital access survey showed that only 22% of NFU members have reliable outdoor mobile signal across all locations on farm – this would not be serviceable in a power cut and would leave many farmers without any means of calling for help in an emergency.

“I’m pleased that BT is listening to its customers and allowing traditional landlines to remain until they have improved the resilience of the rollout and provided better back-up solutions.

“However, this switch is inevitable, and we continue to ask government to prioritise the rollout of 4G across the country so that those living in rural communities can use mobile phones confidently in emergencies.”

Find out more in a blog by BT Consumer’s CEO

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