Rob Orr, Chief Operations Officer at Virgin Media O2 

Today, after pausing all migrations since December, we’re restarting our Digital Landline Switchover programme on a voluntary basis for those who are not vulnerable or using a telecare device. As we commence, I want to provide some background on why this is happening, what we’re doing to provide support and what we’re calling on others to do to help us. 

What is the Digital Landline Switchover and why is it happening? 

Our traditional telephone network has reliably connected our customers for decades. However, it’s become outdated, less reliable, and increasingly difficult to maintain with spare parts often difficult to source or discontinued altogether. 

As a result, like the rest of the telecoms industry, we’re making changes to safeguard our landlines and ensure we can continue providing customers with home phone services for years to come.  

Known as the Digital Landline Switchover, all home phone calls will be delivered over our digital network in future. Most landline calls are already made this way today, but some customers haven’t moved to the new system yet.   

For the overwhelming majority of customers, this transition is quick and easy. However, we know that change can feel worrying, particularly for anyone who relies on their landline, or requires additional support, and so we are committed to getting this right. 

Strengthening the support we offer 

Ever since we first launched digital voice services in 2018, we put in place a range of measures designed to support customers with the transition. 

This has helped millions of people successfully connect to the digital landline network, providing them with reliable services for the decades ahead. 

Despite already offering industry leading solutions such as a free-of-charge Emergency Back-Up Line (EBUL) – with an eight-hour battery life that far exceeds the minimum Ofcom requirements – for those who need it, we committed to doing more. 

So, after listening to concerns about the industry wide-programme, in December last year, telecoms companies came together to sign an industry-wide voluntary Government charter which saw us commit to better protecting vulnerable and telecare customers through the transition. Following this, we took the decision to pause all switchovers whilst we undertook a detailed end-to-end review of our processes and worked to further improve them. 

That work is now complete, and building on the support we already have in place, we’ve now introduced a host of new measures which make it easier to identify and support those who need extra help. For example, we have improved the communications customers receive; our engineers will provide additional in-home support; and we have carried out extensive checks to better identify vulnerable or telecare users.  

Following every switchover, we’ll check that customers are using their landline in a similar way to before, and proactively contact anyone we suspect may be having issues. 

We are also working closely with the rest of the industry, alarm providers, local authorities and the TSA – the UK’s largest telecare body which we’ve now joined as a member – to identify how we can further collaborate to support our most vulnerable customers and raise wider awareness of what is happening.  

What does this restart mean? 

With these additional checks and improvements in place, we’re now once again switching customers to the new network, something which will initially be done on a voluntary basis with no vulnerable or telecare customers moving across at this stage. We’ll not switch anyone over without their agreement first, and customers will receive personalised communications outlining the steps they need to take and how they can access additional support.  

We’re committed to ensuring that no vulnerable or telecare customers will be left without a working landline as a result of this switchover. It’s why we’re giving ourselves more time to contact these customers and are encouraging anyone who may need additional support to get in touch and let us know as soon as possible. 

This is the right approach for now, but in future every customer will need to be switched over to ensure they can continue to receive a reliable landline service. As we progress, we’ll outline further details on the steps we’ll be taking to help vulnerable and telecare users switchover successfully. 

As phone lines switch to digital, local authorities and telecare providers need to step up 

While we’re focused on how we can make this programme a success, we’re just one piece of the puzzle and we can’t do this alone.  

For more than five years we’ve been speaking with local authorities, telecare providers, industry bodies and others to raise awareness, but some are yet to engage or work with us at all.  

We want to ensure all parties are brought to the table and play their part, so we’re calling on Government to create a “Telecare Charter” which sets out a range of commitments, creates uniformity and clarity and encourages these parties to work with the telecoms industry to help ensure nobody is left behind.  

Specifically, the charter should help to ensure relevant data is shared to help us identify more vulnerable customers and detect alarm numbers; that telecare operators check their devices are compatible with the new system; and that local authorities meet their duty of care obligations and proactively provide advice, support and information ahead of switchovers occurring.  

How you can help 

Whether the switchover impacts you personally or not, we can all play our part in supporting those around us – whether that’s family, friends, or neighbours – to get ready.  

By spreading the word, telling others to look out for letters from their provider, or helping them to get in touch with us directly if they may need extra help, everyone can help ensure we’re providing the right level of support to all customers. 

It’s important that this switchover activity occurs to safeguard landlines for future and we’re committed to getting it right. 

More information is available on our Digital Landline Switchover webpage 


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