Statement: Review of the telephony universal service obligation
- Start: 09 November 2021
- Status: Statement published
- End: 11 January 2022
Under the telephony universal service obligation (USO), BT and KCOM are required to provide telephony services throughout the UK, including public call boxes. Use of public call boxes has declined substantially, mainly as a result of the increased use of mobile phones. But for those without access to a landline or working mobile, or in areas with poor mobile coverage, a public call box can be the only option for making calls to friends and family, helplines and, crucially, emergency services. So we want to protect the boxes that are most needed from removal.
The migration of the UK’s telephone network to Internet Protocol (IP) technology will have a significant effect on the future provision of public call boxes. The old telephone network will be retired by December 2025, so public call boxes will need to be upgraded with new equipment to ensure they still work. In light of these developments we are updating our rules to allow BT and KCOM to remove public call boxes that are no longer needed whilst at the same time protecting those boxes on which people still rely. We have also made other changes to streamline the telephony USO rules.