What is the digital switch?

You may be aware that the UK’s telecoms networks is undergoing significant change as providers upgrade their technology from the public switched telephone network (PSTN) to voice over internet protocol (VoIP), a newer digital technology. The intention is that by 2025, all connections will be fully digital. 

But what does this change actually mean to housing providers? And, how will it impact the telecare equipment installed across sheltered and extra care housing stock, such as personal alarms, pendants, sensors and emergency fire alarms?

It would be wrong to assume that the digital switchover is not already happening. The internet has become a necessity in our lives and work, and in response to this telecoms providers (BT, Virgin, KCOM) have been creating a national broadband network, upgrading all of the exchanges across the country. And now, a SOGEA (Single Order Generic Ethernet Access) network is ready for the digital service being launching in this year.

For housing providers, the digital switchover means that analogue telecare devices will simply cease to work effectively over the next few years as the network transitions. This poses a huge risk to the 1.7 million vulnerable individuals who rely on telecare services to directly support their independence and safety.

Recent research has found that parts of the UK are already seeing a miss-match of analogue signalling across an increasingly digital national telephony network – causing a 7.5 percent analogue first-time call failure rate on analogue telecare devices. Other leading monitoring centres have seen that reach 12 percent in some places. This means that 1 in 10 emergency calls are being impacted and the required emergency support is being significantly delayed.

These industry changes provide great opportunity though and moving from analogue to digital TEC should be about more than just replacing existing technology on a like-for-like basis. Whilst simple replacement is an option, a more fundamental redesign of the TEC offer has the potential to transform health and care services across the UK to the benefit of those people who rely on them. The below resources will provide further information on the changes taking place, how to combat them, and the exciting opportunities presented through digital telecare.

Useful resources

Digital Shift the Key issues


White Paper: Meeting expectations with digital care

White Paper: TSA Digital Switch


Blog Post: Embracing digital in Housing, Tim Barclay, CEO, Appello


Blog Post: Digital telecare standards, Carl Atkey, CTO, Appello