Suffolk market town leading the way to a new digital world

People in Mildenhall, Suffolk, are soon to become some of the early pioneers of Openreach’s work to move phone landlines from analogue technology to digital-based services.

By December 2025, the old analogue phone system will have reached the end of its life, and new, digital services will be in use. That means over the next five years, more than 14 million traditional lines across the UK will be migrated onto new digital services.

A trial has been taking place in Mildenhall to see how this upgrade from analogue to digital works. Mildenhall was chosen as it’s a typical exchange area representative of others across the UK in terms of geography, the range of communications providers (such as BT, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk, Zen etc.) offering Openreach services and its mix of businesses and consumers.

The trial allows Openreach and Communication Providers (CPs) to test and develop new products and processes to make the migration smooth for customers including those who rely on special services like lifts and alarms.

Openreach is now moving forward with the upgrade – known as ‘stop sell’ on 4 May 2021, although most people living there will see no immediate change. From this date, things will be only be slightly different for anyone who orders a new landline, changes phone provider or moves to a new house – they will need to buy one of the new digital products based on fibre.

Moving to digital-only services means that phone calls will now be carried over a broadband connection and digital phone handsets connected via a broadband router, rather than the old analogue wall socket.

James Lilley, Openreach’s Director of Managed Migrations, said:: “This is an important early step in upgrading the UK to ‘Voice over IP’ technology and the withdrawal of products and services that run over the traditional telephone network – which is due to close in 2025. We’re working closely with service providers to make sure any changes happen as smoothly as possible. We also have extensive learning from our recent work in Salisbury, which became the first city in the UK to rely solely on digital services.”

Across the UK, Openreach looks after 192 million kilometres of network cable, 110,000 green cabinets, and 4.9 million telephone poles and junction boxes.

In a typical year, more than 9.9 million engineering jobs are carried out by the company’s 25,000 engineers, many of them in extremely remote and rural locations.

5 key things to consider for people living in Mildenhall after 4 May 2021

  • You may need to connect your phone differently. Your phone could plug directly into a router, or an engineer may need to reconnect your wall socket.
  • If you don’t use broadband today, you will need to get a router so that calls can be made over the new technology. This will be provided by your phone provider. It should not affect the price you pay for your services and it will not mean that you have to sign up to a broadband service.
  • Old corded phones are powered by your local telephone exchange. This will change, so if there’s a power cut you may have to do something different to make home phone calls during that time.
  • If you have anything connected to your phone line, like a care alarm or security alarm, you will need to check if they will work over the new technology. There’s been a lot of work between industries in the background and most modern devices should be compatible, but if you do use one of these devices it’s important that you speak with the company that supplied it to you.
  • Openreach has a dedicated area of the website for Mildenhall that explains all. It’s worth checking this to see how it applies to you, as it will be updated with the latest information.

Openreach plays an important role across the East of England region. More than 3,300 of our people live and work here and more than 295 jobs were announced in December 2020