Some two million customers have already had their landlines scrapped to make way for the new systems, with around 160,000 people forced to make the switch on average every month since the rollout began in April last year.
Many readers worried that there was no built-in security for phones to work during a power outage. Others criticized the way BT was handing out free mobile phones to landline-only customers, when many lived in signal ‘spots’.
This journal also revealed how older users of health alarms were unable to call for emergency help if they fell or had a stroke, as many older systems still use the technology of landlines to send alerts to monitoring stations. Many old burglar alarms will also stop working once the old lines go down, he revealed.
The postponement will last until these issues are resolved and no customer will have their landline switched off before then unless they specifically request to be transferred to the “digital voice” system, BT said.
Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of charity The Silver Line, welcomed the news, saying it had been “a devastating time for people who depend on their landline phones as a lifeline”.
However, BT confirmed it would eventually go ahead with the rollout, saying the 40-year-old ‘public switch’ network was becoming outdated and less reliable. He said his planned fiber optic alternative promised “clear calls” and greater energy efficiency that would be “better for the environment”.
BT said it would improve the resilience of the new network by working with energy suppliers on faster power restoration after outages. He added that it will also run on longer lasting battery backups; hybrid phones with built-in mobile SIM cards so they can still make calls in the event of an internet outage; and rigorous health and burglar alarm testing.
Mr. Allen added: “Many other countries are doing the same and experiencing the same challenges. With a program of this sale, sometimes we are not always successful and on this occasion we recognize that we still have work to do and will continue to put these solutions in place to better help our customers through this change.
The company said it hopes to resume the rollout by the end of the year.