Older couple using a mobile phone in the living room on the couch

If you’re a user of the National Relay Service (NRS), you should know that the way you access the service may change on 1 Feb as the CapTel technology is being switched off.

Important CapTel updates from the Department of Communications can be found online here.

While many telcos and agencies have been preparing for this, there are still some NRS users who have not set up alternative technology. If you, a family or friend uses CapTel to access the NRS, here’s what you need to know.

When and why is CapTel switching off?

In June 2019, the Department of Communication and the Arts announced a new provider for the National Relay Service. The change in provider has meant that proprietary CapTel technology will not work from 1 February 2020.

What are the alternatives?

There are a number of alternative options available to help keep you connected:

  • Handsets with extra loud volume for customers who are hard of hearing – for example, the Uniden SS E47 +1, which offers extra loud volume;
  • Mainstream apps on smartphones or tablets which assist those who are deaf or hard of hearing – for example, the official NRS App, or Skype calls with captions turned on;
  • Teletypewriters – TTYs allow you to send and receive text messages over the telephone network. People with little or no effective speech or hearing can conduct text-to-text conversations with other TTY users, or they can use the National Relay Service to conduct text to voice calls with other users.

If you are a Telstra customer, and you need support or assistance in selecting an alternative option to replace your CapTel phone, please contact us on 1800 068 424.

Why is the National Relay Service important?

The NRS is a government initiative that allows people who are deaf, hard of hearing and/or have a speech impairment to make and receive phone calls.

An effective transition is important because digital communication technologies have become fundamental to daily life for many members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. The Australian Digital Inclusion Index found that members of the community are significantly more likely than the general population to use the internet to do everything from making video calls to purchasing and selling products, contacting government agencies, and engaging with social media.

Our purpose is to build a connected future so everyone can thrive. The word ‘everyone’ speaks to our responsibility to help ensure all Australians can benefit from today’s modern communications technologies.


Stay up to date on important changes by visiting the Department of Communications website.