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  • Writer's pictureAngela Sanna

Get switched on to the switch-off

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

What does it all mean? How will it affect me and my business? What are my options?

With so much information out there about the impending ISDN switch off in 2025 you might be feeling a little overwhelmed with all the jargon and what to do and when! Don’t panic though, we’re going to help cut through the technical jargon and get back to good old-fashioned basics to help you make an informed decision about your next move (if you haven’t already made it!).

So, what IS the ISDN Switch-Off and when is it happening?

BT began shutting down networks in 2020 and will stop taking new orders starting 2023. By December 2025, PSTN circuits will be shut off completely. This is a major step towards the United Kingdom’s mass IP-network migration, with VoIP core networks set to replace all of the outdated legacy technology.

So, if you are still using ISDN should you start thinking about an alternative option now?

The answer is…absolutely!

This gives you time to review your connectivity in advance of the inevitable surge of enquiries and the consequential increase in lead times, especially if the telephone is essential to your business. Your own research could become time consuming and confusing. We would advise not to purchase an off-the-shelve product as it might not be suitable, especially if you’ll experience a business growth and need to rapidly expand or move premises. If you haven’t already received advice, we can help educate you by outlining the options available for your specific location and requirements.

What is an ISDN line?

Simply put, an ISDN line is the main carrier and most common way of making phone calls across the world. The Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) allows you to make phone calls, video calls and other services using digital transmission using a traditional Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Launched in 1986, it allowed BT to move old fashioned landlines to digital and allowed businesses to simultaneously support an analogue phone line alongside digital data services.

What is PSTN – the Public Switched Telephone Network. PSTN has origins that date back to the dawn of the telephone age and allows calls to be made over copper lines. It’s often known as “traditional telephony” – or the good old landline.

Why is ISDN/PSTN being switched off?

Essentially, they’re being switched off because they’re obsolete. The copper network is slow, ageing and increasingly prone to outages. It simply doesn’t have the capacity to reliably provide everything modern businesses want to use their connectivity for, from video conferencing to cloud computing.

In the 80s, 90s and early 00s, ISDN was the gold standard of fast digital connections, allowing data transfer and internet access at 128mbps, the fastest possible at the time.

However, these days systems that use ISDN are a little outdated. Modern fibre lines can now provide speeds in excess of 1000MB. Although the lines have been completely overhauled since the 80s, they are still basically the same technology, and on a par with traditional phone lines which have been around since the 19th century!

What are my options?

There are two alternatives to ISDN. These are hosted VOICE OVER INTERNET PROTOCOL (VoIP) and SIP trunks.

What is VoIP?

VOICE OVER INTERNET PROTOCOL (VoIP) is a cloud-based phone system which means all calls (incoming and outgoing) are sent over an internet connection. VoIP helps businesses become more efficient by enabling flexible work environments through hot-desking, home working and extending the service to mobile devices.

What are the benefits of VoIP?

Better quality calls, dynamic call handling and more competitive cost per minutes – VoIP phone systems offer increased flexibility and more advanced features for any business. Some of the main benefits include:

Lower Costs

Calls are cheaper on VoIP compared to traditional phone lines, in particular international calls. VoIP routes calls through the internet – which means you don’t have to contend with other people for data carriage.

Higher Scalability

If you have your eyes set on expansion, VoIP is an ideal solution for your business. You won’t have to purchase additional hardware or extensions to scale your operations since your phone network is digital. VoIP is able to accommodate a higher bandwidth, so accommodating surges during peak seasons will be a breeze. Opening a new branch will also be easier, since your communications will be unified in one digital network.

Supports Multitasking

Making calls is just the beginning when it comes to VoIP lines. You can hold conference calls, install call queuing, and collaborate with your team by sending videos, photos and documents – all whilst in the middle of a conversation. VoIP also lets you collaborate on calendars, share presentations and desktops and send instant messages.

Increased Accessibility

The world of work is changing. Cloud-based VoIP services let you make calls from anywhere using any device. All you have to do is add your device to the cloud network and route your calls. If you’re unavailable at the moment, you can direct your incoming calls to someone else or have the voicemails sent to your email.

What is SIP?

SIP is one set of rules that allows different devices to transmit voice, video and other forms of media in real-time. Many hosted VoIP solutions will use SIP as an underlying technology, so there is often a lot of cross-over.

In the context of phone systems, we usually hear the terms SIP-Trunk and SIP Channel. Generally speaking, these are what are required to connect a digital phone system to the phone network (or PSTN). With a SIP Channel roughly equating to the digital version of a phone line, allowing a single concurrent call into / out of the system.

What do I need to do next?

The bottom line is that you need to start planning for the ISDN switch-off as early as possible to make sure you’re making the best decisions for the company. This switch is a huge opportunity, even if it feels like a bit of a hassle. The alternatives to PSTN/ISDN can revolutionise your business processes, by giving you the capacity and services to properly exploit the latest technology.

And with that in mind, the sooner you make the switch, the better for your business.

This event isn’t only a chance to upgrade your phone system; it’s also an opportunity to make your entire business communications more seamless and efficient. Download our FREE guide here to see what it means for your business.

Are you ready to make the switch?

If you are thinking about changing your system, or just want to understand the options in a bit more detail, get in touch with us. Our services are trusted by hundreds of SMEs and larger businesses around the UK.

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