The BT Openreach PSTN [Public Switch Telephone Network] and ISDN [Integrated Services Digital Network] switch off will be one of the biggest changes in the telecoms industry for over thirty years. It will see BT permanently switch off its ageing PSTN and ISDN networks by December 2025, bringing an end to analogue phone lines and moving communication technology into an entirely online space.
Here, Oliver Rowe, Founder and CEO of business connectivity provider, Fusion Communications, outlines these changes, why it is being brought into effect and how it will impact businesses, especially those who are unaware of the switch off.
What is the BT Openreach PSTN and ISDN switch off?
“The BT Openreach PSTN [Public Switch Telephone Network] and ISDN [Integrated Services Digital Network] switch off will be one of the biggest changes in the telecoms industry for over thirty years. It will see BT permanently switch off its ageing PSTN and ISDN networks by December 2025, bringing an end to analogue phone lines and moving communication technology into an entirely online space.
“This means around 16 million lines and channels will need to be upgraded to alternative products over the next six years, and thousands of businesses could be affected in the near future, especially those that are unaware of BT’s phasing out of ISDN technology.”
Why is the change being brought into effect?
“By allowing communications to be delivered over the digital and data networks, rather than the old analogue networks, the switch off will enable higher call quality and more functionality.
“If you work within the telecoms industry, the switch to IP technology makes perfect sense. Traditional phone lines are a legacy technology with high maintenance costs and many drawbacks. ISDN was originally designed to allow both voice and data services to be delivered simultaneously. However, just as we have moved on from the limited functionality of brick sized mobile phones, the introduction of high-speed internet access means ISDN technology is no longer relevant in the average workplace.”
What will be the impact on businesses’ communication?
“If any affected businesses have failed to switch to an alternative telecom system, they will ultimately be left without service from 2025.
“It’s not just phone services running over PSTN or ISDN lines that will be impacted – it’s everything that uses the old phone network, including broadband running over a telephone line, alarms, EPOS machines, door entry systems, CCTV and faxes.”
Will some businesses be affected more than others?
“The switch off will impact all businesses currently operating ISDN or PSTN, and every business needs to be aware of it so they can start planning now.
“Although the PSTN network won’t be shut down in full until December 2025, some areas in the UK are already seeing notices served on exchanges and analogue services in some places can no longer be ordered.”
In your experience are many businesses already aware of the switch off?
“Many companies we’ve spoken to don’t really understand the switch off and what it means for them.
“In fact, in a recent survey we conducted, half of businesses admitted they were completely unaware of the change. Of those who did know about it, more than half said they had no plans in place to move to a new system ahead of the switch off.”
What should businesses do now to prepare for the switch off?
“The switch will be more straightforward for businesses that have already embraced an all-digital model by moving their communications to the cloud, making calls over the internet and embracing video conferencing.
“Others need to get a plan in place now to ensure they have good data connectivity to enable them to run voice and data, either over the same line concurrently or over separate data lines.
“It’s important to make plans as soon as possible as there could be a lot of changes required, and when the date gets nearer there will be a surge in demand which will no doubt result in increased costs to switch to a new system.”
How is Fusion helping clients prepare?
“We’re helping our customers by ensuring they are aware and ahead of the game, and this includes assisting them in planning a seamless migration.
“Often, there is no upfront capital cost to make the switch, as businesses can simply move to an OPEX model where the phone equipment itself is part of their user licence.
“Others may not even want any equipment, as we can deliver services through their laptops, desktops and mobile devices.”
Will businesses be able to keep their old technology that currently operates over ISDN and PSTN or will this change mean investing in new technology?
“In most cases, updated equipment will be included in a business’ new package, as any existing phone equipment will be dated and largely analogue.”
Is there anything else businesses need to know in advance of the switch off?
“The most important message for businesses in to make plans sooner rather than later to avoid being hit by price hikes or lack of availability.”