All households and businesses will need the internet or a mobile phone to make calls in a major digital shake-up, though groups have warned the elderly and vulnerable could struggle.
Traditional landlines will be replaced with digital services in a few years
Traditional landline are set to be axed from 2025 as the UK's telecoms industry makes the switch to digital calls.
In just over three years from now, all households and businesses will need the internet or a mobile phone to make calls in what has been described as a major digital shake-up.
People without the internet may need an engineer to visit their home to get them set up and those with older phones could need to buy a new handset.
As millions of Brits are pushed online to make a call for the first time, groups have raised fears the elderly and vulnerable will struggle with the change.
A recent study by USWITCH found that the number of households with a landline has fallen by four million since 2000,
The move has been compared to the switch to digital TV in 2012, when broadcasters stopped transmitting traditional analogue signals to household rooftop or indoor aerials. That change was led by the Government.
But this switch to “digital” calls is being driven by the telecoms industry, the Daily Mail reported. Customers won't have to pay for broadband and will be able to pay only for the phone connection.
Other services relying on the existing telephone network will be affected by the switch over. They include alarm systems, elderly and infirm safety monitoring systems, phones in lifts, payment terminals and Red Telephone boxes.
Amid fears of a power cut or internet outage, watchdog Ofcom has stressed that telecom providers must make sure their customers still have access in case of an emergency. It means firms may be forced to provide free mobiles and battery packs.
Experts have expressed concerns for elderly and vulnerable Brits who are not online, do not use a mobile phone or live in a rural area with poor connectivity. They are at risk of being left behind, experts have said.
About six per cent of households, or 1.5 million homes, do not have access to the internet, according to watchdog Ofcom and about half a million households do not own a mobile. It is thought around two million customers are believed to have already been switched to an internet-based phone service.
Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK, said: "Given that about half of older people over the age of 75 are not online, this could be a particular problem for our oldest citizens.
"Given the threat of fraud, telecom providers also need to take steps to prevent anyone who is in particularly vulnerable circumstances from becoming victims of digital scams."
An Openreach spokesperson said: "Protecting vulnerable customers is an absolute priority for us. We are working with communications providers to identify vulnerable customers early on."
Ofcom said it was working to make sure vulnerable customers will be supported.