What is a Digital Phone Line? How Does it Work? & Why Do You Need One?

As telecommunications companies continue to modernise their services and networks, traditional analogue phone lines are being phased out in favour of digital phone line technology.

Between 2025 and 2027, the ageing public switched telephone network (PSTN) that relies on copper wiring will be retired, making way for digital phone lines that utilise Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

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Defining a Digital Phone Line

A digital phone line, sometimes referred to as VoIP or digital voice is a home phone system that operates through a broadband internet connection rather than the conventional copper telephone network.

What a digital phone line means in technical terms is that your voice is converted into digital data packets which are transmitted over the internet. It’s the same technology behind voice and video applications like WhatsApp, Skype and FaceTime. However, with a digital phone line, you can use your regular corded or cordless home phones as the service functions identically to a standard phone line, but with enhanced capabilities.

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How digital phone lines operate

To set up a digital phone line, you'll need a broadband connection because the service routes your calls over the internet. Instead of being plugged into your analogue phone socket on your wall, your digital phone plugs directly into your router so it can connect to your digital line.

Some modern home phones and answering machines already have digital phone line compatibility. However, older models or equipment may require an analogue adapter (ATA) to work seamlessly with digital voice services.

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Analogue landlines versus digital phone lines

While digital phone lines offer a comparable dial-and-answer experience, there are several key distinctions from the century-old analogue copper line technology:

Phone Number Portability

  • Analogue: Geographic restrictions on keeping your existing number
  • Digital: Easily transfer your current number to a new provider, regardless of location

Phone Handsets

Wiring

  • Analogue: Utilises the PSTN copper phone wiring
  • Digital: Uses an internet connection

Call Quality

  • Analogue: Susceptible to crackling, static, & crosstalk interference
  • Digital: Crystal clear sound quality

Features

  • Analogue: Limited to basic functions like call waiting & caller ID
  • Digital: Flexible call management & scam protection facilities

Cost

  • Analogue: Yearly price increases as the PSTN becomes more costly to maintain
  • Digital: Saves providers & customers money due to lower operating costs

Power Source

  • Analogue: Powered via the phone line with no backup needed
  • Digital: Needs electrical power to operate & could need a battery backup

As telecom companies upgrade to new internet-based networks, it's clear that the transition to digital phone lines is well underway. And while analogue landlines still function in certain areas of the UK, digital phone lines offer enhanced functionality, better quality, and broadband connectivity options.

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Why switch to a digital phone line early?

There are many benefits to switching to a digital phone line sooner rather than later.

  • Access to features such as CallGuard, voicemail, & multi-party calls
  • Flexibility to use your landline via a mobile app & never miss a call again
  • High-definition audio quality
  • Lower monthly phone bills

While adopting digital phone line technology may require new equipment, providers such as Phonely are dedicated to ensuring the transition process is as smooth and cost-effective for customers as possible.

The retirement of the PSTN is a complete infrastructure overhaul across the telecommunications sector. This means that eventually, all residential and commercial customers will need to switch to digital phone line services. So, stay up-to-date and get ready to embrace cutting-edge, VoIP-powered digital phone line technology!

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