PSTN and copper switch off – older people worry about changes to landlines

New research exposes knowledge gap around the ‘Copper switch off’ and highlights concern among older people about the looming change.
social isolation - copper switch off
Retiring the PSTN system could leave older people more socially isolated.

The UK’s telephone network is being upgraded, in what BT is calling its ‘Copper Switch Off’. This means that the current Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) technology that powers landlines is being phased out by December 2025, with copper lines being replaced by internet-based fibre cables. So, in order to make landline calls, an internet connection will be required. 

However, research conducted by, the broadband comparison and switching service, highlights a lack of awareness and concern among the older generation about the looming change.

What does the ‘copper switch off’ look like

  • Over 70% of older people are unaware that an internet connection will be required to make landline phone calls from December 2025
  • Half of over 65 year olds are concerned about the event of a power cut affecting their ability to make a phone call after the “copper switch off”
  • A tenth of pensioners admit they’re not confident using their mobile phones instead

Almost seven in ten (69%) of those aged 65 and over are unaware of BT’s ‘Copper Switch Off’. 

Fortunately, most over 65s already have access to Wi-Fi at home, yet seven in ten respondents were unaware that they’d have to rely on this internet connection to make landline phone calls from December 2025.

Understanding that a broadband connection would be necessary to make calls, almost half of over 65s stated they wouldn’t be happy to pay for a connection just to make calls.

Power cuts seem to be a particular concern as half (50%) of over 65s said that losing the ability to make a landline phone call in the event of a power cut is of concern. Those aged 81-85 are particularly concerned, with six out of ten worried about not being able to make calls.

However, BT has stated it will supply vulnerable customers with a battery backup that will ensure digital phone services continue to work in the event of an outage. As for Virgin Media, they will provide a device for the vulnerable, that has its own battery that allows the landline phone to connect to mobile phone services. In the rare event that the network itself has a power cut, this would affect you regardless of whether your phone is digital or analogue. 

A mobile phone may seem like a simple solution. However, even for those that have a mobile phone, almost 10% are not confident using it, which increases to over three quarters for those 86 and over. For those who are under confident using their phone, Uswitch has a handy guide on how to make using your mobile phone easier – available here.

Max Beckett, broadband expert at, says: “Traditional analogue landlines are an old technology that most adults are familiar with, having been around for over 100 years. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock that the technology is finally being upgraded.

“However, it seems that there’s a lack of awareness regarding the “Copper Switch Off”, especially older generations who haven’t received a notification of it.  

“While many over 65s have welcomed new technology with open arms, such as smartphones and broadband, it’s important to ensure that all our elders reliant on landlines are up to date with the changes that are due to happen in 2025.

“Before December 2025, it’s important to know if there’s anything you need to do to avoid losing the ability to make calls. For those with existing internet connections, it’s likely that the changeover will be seamless, but for those without, we offer advice on how to ensure you have the ability to remain connected to loved ones”.

“Ultimately, your provider will be in touch with you about the changeover well in advance of your engineer visit, so there’s nothing you need to do yet. However, for any concerns that you do have, whether you’re unconfident with technology or have any special requirements, let your provider know so they can make the necessary arrangements for you.”

old phones - copper switch off
The Copper switch off is bringing changes to traditional landlines.

Things you should know about PSTN and the “Copper Switch Off”:

What is the “Copper Switch Off”?

The analogue technology that makes current landlines work is being phased out, with a deadline of December 2025. 

Why is the “Copper Switch Off” happening?

The UKs network is outdated, with analogue technology getting less reliable and more expensive to maintain.

Do I need to do anything for the “Copper Switch Off”? 

You are not required to do anything until your phone provider gets in touch with you with a planned date for when the switchover will take place.

I don’t have an internet connection, will I still be able to make landline phone calls after December 2025?

An internet connection will be required once the old system is made obsolete.

Will I have to pay for an internet connection just to make landline phone calls?

Yes. However, BT, which provides the majority of landlines, have committed to not raising prices above inflation for ‘voice only’ customers – those who don’t have home broadband.

Will my landline work in the event of a power cut?

No. As an internet connection requires power, a power cut will affect your ability to make and receive landline calls after December 2025. Providers are advising that people have a backup mobile phone. For those with more complex needs, a battery powered handset may be an option. offers advice on what to expect and how to prepare for the “Copper Switch Off” in 2025. Find out more on how to get a  broadband deal.

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Tags: , , Last modified: December 16, 2022

Written by 4:27 pm News & Views