TELECOMMUNICATIONS provider BT has come under fire by campaigners after switching landline phones to digital.

The announcement said that "digital" phones will replace traditional landline handsets, despite campaigners saying it will cause “unnecessary” worry for thousands of the most vulnerable customers.

BT plans to roll the new digital phones out in 2025, forcing every Hampshire homeowner to give up their landline handset.

According to BT, the phone will need to be connected to the internet to make any calls to other devices and will need to be powered by electricity mains.

Hampshire Chronicle: BT cuts landlines to go digital by 2025BT cuts landlines to go digital by 2025

Despite the company making the bold claims at the start of last month, the plans to introduce the digital phone in just under three years have been criticised both regionally and nationally – amid concerns that vulnerable households will be left isolated, as well as issues surrounding older members of the public who don’t want to access online services.

Jan Shortt, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said: "Those needing to make an emergency call or raise an alarm via a health pendant could be left stranded – and unable to call anyone to ask for life-saving support.

“Policymakers need to take account that of the fact that not everyone is online. Nearly two million over 75s still don’t use the internet, and many cite fear of scams and lack of knowledge as reasons for this.

“But some older people simply don’t want to go online even if they could and indeed had the training.

“What on earth was BT thinking when it decided to bring in such a huge change without properly consulting those who rely on traditional home phone lines the most?”

After initial criticism from campaigners, BT has moved to reassure older customers that the rollout will be slow and landline customers will be supported “every step of the way”.

Hampshire Chronicle: BT cuts landlines to go digital by 2025BT cuts landlines to go digital by 2025

A spokesperson for BT said: "We want to make it clear that we are not phasing out landlines, but upgrading the technology that powers them ahead of the older analogue service being switched off in 2025. The vast majority of handsets in people’s home today will work with Digital Voice, and we provide a free of charge adapter (or a free new handset)."

"The programme isn’t region specific, we have only begun moving customers who already have a broadband connection in their home and have put measures in place to ensure customers flagged as vulnerable customers and those who do have BT broadband are not upgraded until much later in the programme."

"It’s worth noting that if any customer who is notified they are eligible to be moved onto digital voice via letter or email has any concerns, they should speak to us and we will discuss their options which can include delaying their upgrade for a year, when other solutions may become available. We promise not to leave any customer without a connection."

According to watchdog Ofcom, around six per cent of households 1.5 million homes - do not have access to the internet with experts fearing millions more do not have a mobile phone or do not know how to use one properly.

BT has pledged to contact customers well ahead of time to keep them up to date with the change, before being upgraded.

Ms Shortt added: “BT has no idea that many older people do not want a fancy smartphone or cannot afford one – and rely on their landline as a lifeline. It is wrong to discriminate against those – primarily the elderly – who are not wired up to the internet.”

"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."

Raising concerns, charity Age UK is fearful the changeover could attract criminals claiming to be involved in the switch.

Caroline Abrahams said: 'We are concerned the changes could make many elderly feel more isolated than they do already. Steps must also be taken to ensure the vulnerable do not become victims of any digital voice scams."