The copper wires that connect landlines across the country are to be replaced, with an internet alternative taking over within the next four years.

PTSN (the Public Switched Telephone Network) has, in one guise or another, been used for landline telephony for generations. However, the copper wire technology on which it relies has long since been superseded by fibre-optic cables, such as those which carry superfast broadband connections. Copper cables provide a much lower quality connection and the PTSN equipment is becoming increasingly costly to run and maintain – necessitating this change.

Measures have already been put in place to make the switch, with Openreach having started work on the project already, anticipating it will affect some 14 million connections around the UK. In fact, some homes have already been upgraded, following a trial in Suffolk earlier this year.

A great many other trials are also planned for later this year, with 140 exchanges across the country earmarked for development in 2021.

Whilst the technology is getting a major upgrade, most users won’t notice much of a difference, if any at all. Very few telephone numbers will need to be changed, old landline phones will still work, and the service should only improve as a result of the big switch.

The only change that could be coming involves the phone’s connection – possibly requiring a new wall socket or for the phone to be plugged into a wireless router. Anyone without an existing internet connection will be given the option to purchase a simple one for their needs, so they’re not forced into spending out on a high-speed package for which they have no other requirement.

The PSTN switchover won’t just affect landline telephones, however. A number of other services also rely on the technology, among them some cash machines, railway signals, motorway signs and traffic lights. Transport for London, for example, has said around 1,000 of its traffic lights are dependent on PSTN, and that it will be exploring options for replacements shortly.