Ofcom has today approved BT’s enhanced text relay service, representing a significant step in improving telephone calls for consumers with hearing and/or speech impairments.
Text relay enables people to communicate with others via a relay assistant who acts as an intermediary to convert speech to text, and vice versa, for the two people in conversation.
The new service approved by Ofcom today will enable users to have faster, more fluent conversations, and use a variety of devices to access the service – including easier use of text relay on the move via smartphones and tablets.
In October 2012, Ofcom ruled that a next generation text relay service must be made available to all UK landline and mobile customers by 18 April 2014. Following today’s decision, BT can offer its next generation text relay service to its own customers as well as provide wholesale access to other communications providers so they can serve their customers.
Ofcom has assessed BT’s planned next generation text relay service against detailed criteria and performance targets. These include minimum requirements covering staff training; service performance; technical resilience; and complaints handling.
Ofcom will monitor the new service to ensure it continues to comply with the required standards.
Ofcom has also commissioned benchmarking research to compare the current and new relay service. In addition, Ofcom will closely monitor developments in speech recognition technology, which may support further improvements to text relay services in the future.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “We‘ve taken another significant step in our work to ensure that users can access reliable, up-to-date text relay services.
“Once in operation, we will be monitoring the performance of BT’s approved next generation text relay service closely to ensure it continues to meet Ofcom’s expected standards.”
BT’s next generation text relay service will be available on the following devices from 18 April 2014: existing textphones and Braille readers; Windows based personal computers and laptops (using the following Windows operating systems: XP, Vista or Windows 7); Intel based Linux personal computers and laptops; Intel based Mac Operating System (“OS”) X; mobile telephones running Android 4 OS; and tablets running the Android 4 OS. BT has confirmed to Ofcom that its next generation text relay service will also be available on other Apple products (iPhones and iPads) by 30 June 2014 (subject to Apple approval). Find out more about BT’s accessible service at www.bt.com/includingyou