The PSTN Switch Off: Everything You Need to Know

by Audrey Oh

In 2025, British Telecom (BT) will permanently switch off analogue phone lines. This may seem some time away, something to worry about later, but businesses must understand the implications of the change and how to prepare for it in good time. Which services are being switched off? What will it mean for your business — and what are the alternatives? Read on to find out everything you need to know about the PSTN switch off.

What Is the PSTN Switch Off?

BT has announced its plans to switch off all public switched telephone network (PSTN) services by 2025. The PTSN consists of the telephone lines, cables, satellites, microwave transmission links, cellular networks and other hardware required to allow traditional analogue telephones to communicate with each other. It brings together the world’s circuit-switched networks to provide the infrastructure and services for public telecommunication.

The final switch-off is scheduled for 2025, but BT is phasing out ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) and PSTN from 2020 when it will stop allowing businesses to acquire these services.

What Will Replace PSTN?

When PSTN is no more, consumers will make all phone calls over broadband using VoIP systems. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), sometimes called IP telephony, allows voice communications over IP networks such as the internet. VoIP does not require a circuit-switched network. Instead, data is transmitted over a digital network in chunks, via “packet switching”. BT plans to switch to a system where all voice calls are internet-based and delivered via a fibre network. 

VoIP calls can be made using a wide range of devices, including desktop computers, mobile phones, landlines and pretty much any other internet-ready device. 

Why the Switch?

By eliminating the need for undersea cables, telephone lines and all the other technology required to run the PSTN, BT will dramatically cut the cost of maintaining a public telecommunications system. The new system will run on one fibre network that provides the broadband necessary for VoIP. By funnelling all its services into IP, BT can reduce its costs and improve the service it offers to customers. 

Many businesses have already recognised the benefits of VoIP. According to research by Wisdom Plexus, by 2021, there is expected to be 3 billion VoIP users. IP telephony saves businesses money as it requires no new hardware to be purchased and allows low-cost international calls. VoIP offers the ultimate flexibility as calls can be taken from any internet-enabled device worldwide. Most VoIP providers offer a wide range of advanced business features too, such as audio conferencing and inbound call management, meaning it’s easy to customise the service to meet business needs.

By focusing solely on the VoIP offering, BT can plough all its resources into delivering the service consumers are increasingly demanding. 

How Will the PSTN Switch off Affect My Business?

Over 2 million UK businesses will be affected by the PSTN switch off. A large number of small businesses still rely on faxes and landline telephones. If this is you, start planning for the switch now. A move to VoIP can be simple, quick  — and it could save your business a lot of money. 

What VoIP Options Are Available?

Switching to VoIP is a simple process. Choose an on-premise solution or opt for a hosted service based in the cloud. The latter is an increasingly popular choice as it requires no storage space and none of the hassle of maintaining equipment. With a cloud-based VoIP service, your business can use all the necessary technology for a small monthly subscription. Upgrade and add features as your business scales or remove services you no longer need. Most providers offer a rolling monthly contract, so it’s easy to make changes as business needs develop.

A Summary of Key Terms and Dates

That’s a lot of jargon and dates to get your head around, right? Here’s a summary that may help:

  • PSTN — Public Switched Telephone Network. All of the technical equipment, such as cables and telephone lines that allow traditional telephone communications to take place. 

  • ISDN — Integrated Services Digital Network. Launched in 1986 as an advancement on traditional landlines, ISDN allows the simultaneous digital transmission of voice and data services, enabling features such as video conferencing, which were previously unavailable.

  • VoIP — Voice over Internet Protocol. Allows voice communications over IP networks such as the internet. VoIP calls only require an internet connection and can be made on many different devices without the need for traditional landlines.

  • Hosted Voice — a hosted telephony solution using VoIP and based in the cloud. Allows small businesses to access all the features and functionality of VoIP without having to purchase, manage or maintain hardware on-site.

  • 2020 — BT will stop allowing businesses to acquire PSTN or ISDN as it begins to phase out these services.

  • 2025 — BT will switch off all PSTN and ISDN services.

While the terminology may seem confusing, the process of switching from analogue to VoIP is straightforward and likely to deliver a host of business benefits.

Contact us today and let us answer your questions about making the switch or arrange a demo of our hosted voice solution

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