Ofcom has announced that fixed-line and mobile network providers in the UK must offer a new ‘next generation’ text relay service to all customers who require it within the next 18 months.
The current text relay service service, which is available to people with hearing and speech impairments, involves an assistant who converts speech to text and vice versa for two people having a conversation. However, it can be slow and offers little opportunity for a genuine ‘real time’ conversation. In addition, a dedicated ‘textphone’ is often required.
Following a review earlier this year, Ofcom is mandating a number of changes to the text relay service. The new service will offer the option of an internet connection for simultaneous two-way conversation and will introduce a wider range of text-based equipment, including easier use of text relay via mobile phones.
Ofcom is now looking at the possibility of introducing speech recognition technology and video relay services in the future.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom Consumer Group Director, said “The new text relay service will provide a real improvement on the current telephone experience for hearing and speech impaired customers. Technology in this area is still evolving, so Ofcom will continue working to ensure disabled users can access reliable, up-to-date relay services which help them communicate more easily.”