A building owner’s guide to the digital switch

Analogue telephone services are being switched off in the UK. Find out when and where the switch is happening and how it will affect your building.

The UK telephone network is changing and it’s going to affect homes, buildings and businesses. This is because BT Openreach are transitioning from the old, copper-based, analogue Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to fibre optic lines – this is known as the digital switch.

By December 2025, PSTN and ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) telephone services will be switched off altogether in the UK and every phone line will be digital, routing calls over VoIP (voice-over internet protocol). VoIP technology allows anyone to place phone calls over an internet connection.

The digital switch, also known as the PSTN switch off, will impact key safety devices, including lift emergency phones, many of which will be left at risk of not functioning because fibre lines do not carry power and may fail during a power cut. The risk here is the line, which is the responsibility of the building owner, being cut and the alarm not being able to dial out.

As lift safety and communication product providers, we want to help building owners and managers prepare their lifts for the digital switch. To do this, we analysed BT Openreach data to reveal the UK locations in which the transition from analogue (copper) telephone lines to fibre optic lines is happening.

In our report, we’ve found that 142 locations (exchanges) have already been completed in the UK, including areas within Liverpool, Leeds, London and Birmingham. The digital switch is inevitable, meaning lift upgrades will be in high demand in the near future. This is why it is recommended building owners and managers take action now and not risk being left in a long queue of support requests.

Key Findings

Our analysis of BT Openreach data* revealed the following:



The Full Fibre exchange has already been completed in 142 locations, meaning that building owners and managers need to take action now, rather than later.

Areas within Liverpool, Leeds, London and Birmingham are among the 142 locations that have already switched to digital. Another 366 locations are earmarked between 2021 and 2024 to switch, 380 locations between 2022 and 2025, while 1,828 location exchanges will occur between 2021 and 2026.

As there is no regulation or a requirement for buildings to have lifts, we have looked at the number of buildings in different UK cities and used an average height of 10m as a benchmark to work out the average number of lifts that could be affected by the switch.

For example, there are approximately 132,617 buildings in London with a height of more than 10m. If a building with a minimum height of 10m contains at least one lift then this means that on average, 132,617 lift emergency telephones in London could become inoperative if the proper steps are not taken.

Similarly, there are around 21,828 buildings in Birmingham with a height of more than 10m, 12,223 in Leeds and 11,758 in Liverpool. If each one of these buildings contain one lift, that equates to a further 45,809 lift emergency telephones becoming inoperative.

Building owners and managers need to adapt their lifts for the digital switch now before there’s an overwhelming demand for emergency lift line adaptations.

Given the impending need for lift owners to adapt their emergency lift phone lines, we recommend planning ahead and taking the correct steps now in order to prepare yourself for the digital switch.

To find out when the digital switch will affect you, we’ve created a map of the UK which shows BT Openreach’s Ultrafast Full Fibre location plans, organised by digital switch phase.

Digital Switch UK Map

Data source: Full Fibre Build Programme locations*

The table contains a list of Openreach’s FTTP locations within their current Fibre First Towns, Cities and Boroughs Build Programme as well as Market towns and villages build Programmes.

How to Prepare for the Digital Switch

Not only will the digital switch affect emergency phone lines in lifts, it will affect any piece of technology that relies on copper-based analogue lines, including, but not limited to:

Whether you’re a building owner or manager, or building facilities manager, it’s important to make sure that any devices that could be affected by the digital switch will continue to run smoothly and effectively.

Here’s a few useful tips to help you prepare your building for the digital switch:

Some of the top comms providers in the country are currently offering Analogue Telephone Adapters (ATA) which convert the relevant device analogue signal to digital (IP), enabling the device to carry on working with the new digital service. That said however, ATA devices do not usually include a battery backup which means that fibre lines may fail in the event of a mains power outage. In a scenario such as this, calls made via emergency telephones in lifts will fail which is why it’s so essential to opt for devices with built-in battery backups.

For more information about why ATA devices may not be the most reliable option, read our full guide.

How to Prepare your Lift Emergency Telephone Lines for the Digital Switch

When it comes to preparing your lift emergency telephone lines for the digital switch, that’s where we can help. The majority of lift emergency telephones installed in the UK are analogue, which means that they require DTMF tones to properly function.

Fibre lines are unable to transmit these specific frequency tones and they also do not carry power, so during a power-cut the telephone line will fail and leave the emergency telephone useless.

With our Digital Communication Platform (DCP) you can ensure your emergency phones remain safe and compliant as it includes a battery backup to ensure continuity in the service no matter what. The DCP is a voice and data gateway that offers additional, multiple benefits including no risk of corrupted DTMF tones, full remote configuration and real-time monitoring.

Avire’s solution is not just a regular Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM); the multiple benefits provided by the Digital Communication Platform (DCP) can be taken advantage of immediately and continue to be grown into the future via the complementary modular accessories.

Get in touch today, to find out more about how we can help you prepare for the digital switch.

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