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Message 1 of 28

Call Sign - notice of withdrawal

Today I received the below in a letter in the post from BT, dated simply "April 2022":

Landline Calling Features -
Call Sign notice of withdrawal

Hello *FIRST NAME*,

We're moving to Digital Voice Services and because of this a landline Calling Feature you're subscribed to called 'Call Sign' will be removed on 30 September 2022. Your Calling Features package will be updated accordingly and you won't be billed for it after this date.

You don't need to take any further action. If you no longer use this calling feature and wish to remove it before it's withdrawn on 30 September 2022, you can find help on how to manage your Calling Features at www.bt.com/callingfeatures or log on to your My BT account.

Thanks
The BT Team

* * *

How bizarre. I thought migration to Digital Voice has been paused? Even if it has not, I see no reason why BT can't allow analogue customers to keep Call Sign until they are moved to the digital service - which, in my case, might not be for another three years. I'm a telephony-only customer, and BT have confirmed that we will be the last to be switched.

I can forgive BT's lack of respect in addressing me by my Christian name, and for not apologising for the inconvenience of discontinuing a feature I've come to rely on (though at least they are giving me five months' notice). But the anxiety that the mention of Digital Voice is causing me is another matter. They don't say that I'll be switched to digital any time soon, but nor do they deny it.

I would also have appreciated a brief explanation from BT about why they won't be carrying over Call Sign for Digital Voice customers who want it. Is there some technical reason that makes it incompatible with the new service, or can they simply not be bothered trying to make it work with the all-singing, all-dancing, Smart Hub 2?

Despite the inclusion of my Christian name, it must be a generic letter as I am not, in fact, billed for Call Sign - I get it free as part of my 'Home Phone Saver Plan'. I therefore surmise that the feature is being withdrawn nationwide on that date for all residential (and possibly business) customers who have it (though I can find no mention of this online, and BT's Calling Features User Guide PDF for residential customers, as well as the Business website, still refer to it). However, the fact that it's included for free with my plan (as an opt-in), rather makes a mockery of BT's bold claim that, when being switched to Digital Voice, "There's no change to your plan or bill".
(https://www.bt.com/help/landline/digital-voice-migration)

No point in phoning BT to query any of this. Most of their call centre staff are totally ignorant about calling features, many have never even heard of Call Sign.

So I've joined this forum, as I'm sure I'll get far more sense out of its knowledgeable members than from BT itself. I'm sad that it's come to this, but BT's customer service has been dire for many years.
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Message 2 of 28

Re: Call Sign - notice of withdrawal

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Message 3 of 28

Re: Call Sign - notice of withdrawal

@Tim123 

The Call Sign feature was implemented within the existing physical PSTN equipment in the exchange. As this is being de-commissioned, that service is being ceased, and its not possible to implement a similar feature on Digital Voice, as the ringing current for physically connected phones, comes from the Smart Hub 2 on receipt of an incoming call.

The BT supplied phones, like most DECT phones, do not support it anyway, however for many phones, its possible to assign a different ringtone to specific incoming phone numbers.

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Message 4 of 28

Re: Call Sign - notice of withdrawal

Thank you for the explanation. From what you say, it appears that switchover from PSTN to VoIP will break the direct, "physical" connection from the telephone exchange to a subscriber's telephone number. This is why Call Sign will no longer work, and customers will have to dial full area codes each time as local dialling will not be possible. Landline telephone numbers will, in effect, become "virtual", much like mobile phone numbers. Also, presumably it will no longer be possible to call the Operator on 100 and ask them to "check a line", or call 17070 to perform a ringback or quiet line test.

Nevertheless, this doesn't explain why BT are withdrawing Call Sign three years early (even had they not paused migration to Digital Voice). And I'm sure they could integrate the feature into the Smart Hub 2 by installing a SIM card slot into the hub to carry the "second" phone number. The router would then work much like a dual SIM mobile phone, detecting that an incoming call is for the other number and generating the distinct (single) ring to connected phones - whether they are connected directly to the phone socket on the hub or to existing extensions (rewired at master level) around the house, giving an audible "Sign" that the call is intended for a different member of the household.

I know what you're going to say. Call Sign is an outdated feature, but then (let's face it) so is the home phone itself. Switchover to VoIP will show just how outdated it is and I expect many people who still have the service will cancel what will be, in effect, an inferior version of a mobile phone - with the same dropouts and power supply issues as mobiles, but limited to use around the house, without all the features of a mobile phone and roughly twice the monthly price of a mobile but without the internet data! I might keep my phone line for the nostalgia aspect, but I'll have to seriously consider dropping it to save money. All the things that make a home phone "special" will be gone.
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Message 5 of 28

Re: Call Sign - notice of withdrawal

I hope/assume there is an option to port my Call Sign number to another BT account or another provider account at least?

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Message 6 of 28

Re: Call Sign - notice of withdrawal

@jamesrbutler 

No, they are "virtual" numbers and cannot be ported out.

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Message 7 of 28

Re: Call Sign - notice of withdrawal

To add to this, communication providers will want to withdraw features that were specifically implemented for the current industry wide PSTN technology that is used today as this is being withdrawn in 2025 with a nationwide stop sell in September 2023. So it's of no surprise that call sign is being one of them.

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Message 8 of 28

Re: Call Sign - notice of withdrawal

@jamesrbutler 

As long as you inform people who use your other "virtual" number, that they will need to call your main number in future, it should not be a problem, which is why BT have given you plenty of notice.

As @jac_95  has said, it was a purely PSTN exchange function which modified the ringing current timing which was sent from the exchange line card. It has no digital equivalent.

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Message 9 of 28

Re: Call Sign - notice of withdrawal

There are probably very few BT customers that use ‘call sign’ , it’s a little unrealistic to expect any time, energy , or expense to be spent on what at best is a niche feature being inter-grated into DV if it was hardly used in the PSTN network.
As already explained, with a PSTN switch , the caydence of the ringtone sent from the exchange (which is an alternating electrical current around 90v applied to the line ) changes depending on which number was called, normal ringtone …. ring-ring , pause , ring-ring , or ring,ring,ring,ring for the call sign number, the ‘sound’ the phone makes indicates which number was being called.

An optical network doesn’t have any voltage , the ‘signal’ for the phone to ring , is simply a digital signal that the device responds to.
You ask , as a telephony only customer , why is it being removed now , when you could potentially benefit from it until your individual traditional exchange is closed ?, but the fact is , it’s a facility that no provider has an obligation to provide, and BT have decided to remove it, giving you fair warning of its removal 

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Message 10 of 28

Re: Call Sign - notice of withdrawal

@Keith_Beddoe - My understanding is that all landline telephone numbers will be 'virtual' post-switchover, i.e. not physically connected or tied to the exchange.

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