Technology Tips: Goodbye to Analogue Phones!

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The march of digital technology continues as BT counts down the days to the end of analogue telephone lines.  What is it, why and what difference does it make?  Come with me…

The hoary copper wires that have carried telephone and broadband for so many years are becoming rather pricey to maintain, not to mention tiresomely slow for broadband.  The move to fibre-optic cables and the growth of mobile phone use are making the analogue phone look a bit antiquated, like wearing a top hat and tails to the cinema.  BT are going to turn off the analogue telephone service in 2025 in their devotion to all things digital.  Since BT maintains the services that almost all other telephone providers use, this means that the analogue landline phone you plug into the wall will stop working then.  Is that the end of your landline?  Well, not quite but it will not be entirely the beast you have been used to.

The new telephone system will send your telephone calls skittering across the surface of your broadband supply as a variant of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP).  You can keep the same number, you may even get to keep the same telephone equipment if you’re enthusiastic – there are comments about supplementing routers with an additional socket for your phone.  On the benefits side, you can potentially take your telephone number anywhere: on holiday, on your mobile and even to your new house when you move without the usual fuss of getting a new number.  On the downside, a powercut will interrupt your landline unless you support the router with an uninterruptible power supply (a fancy extension cable with built-in battery); and there are doubts about the overall security of VOIP communication compared with traditional phone lines.

Many people will not feel much impact now that mobile use has blossomed to its current average of 2.5 hours per day – a remarkable increase from the 30 mins per day that was considered heavy usage in 2011.  There may even be some cost savings when this broadband-only possibility is common place.

However, there are some potential pitfalls.  An obvious one affects the elderly who may not have broadband nor the experience to handle the vagaries of the digital life-style such as routers that periodically lose their marbles.  A kind gift might be a timer plug that automatically restarts the router occasionally to solve these simple glitches.  

Security and fire alarm systems are another area worth checking.  A common approach here is to supplement your existing system with a clever box that removes your reliance on the telephone.  Instead, it uses both the local broadband supply and a mobile connection to send alerts.  Check with your supplier if they have been rather quiet on the subject.

Smaller businesses seem to have more exposure to this change.  It is time to make a list of where the old phone lines are used: faxes, retail terminals and telephone handsets are the usual suspects.  Armed with that list you can tackle your providers to get solutions in place and perhaps even encourage your provider to come up with something superior to your current deal.

By Roger Lyon – RL Computer Solutions

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