ISDN/PSTN Switch Off: What it means for you

Apr 11, 2022 | News

Most businesses will have heard about the upcoming ISDN/PSTN switch off. Whether they’ve made plans to deal with the disruption is a different matter. According to various surveys, a significant number of SMEs haven’t thought about the impact of the change.

And when businesses do think about the switch off, they tend to focus on the impact on telephony. In fact, the consequences will be far more wide reaching than that.

There’s no cause for anxiety, though. You do need to act, but making the switch to faster connectivity and all-IP communications should be seen as an opportunity to make your business better. Here’s what you need to know now:

What, why, when?

BT is switching off two networks in 2025.

  • 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.
  • ISDN – the Integrated Service Digital Network. ISDN provides digital services, sending data across the telephone network. It first appeared in the early 1990s and revolutionised telecommunications.

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.

As we’ve said, the final goodbye for these services will come at the end of 2025. That might seem a long way off, but in effect the switch off has started already.

That’s because BT has stopped selling new ISDN lines in some areas, and will stop selling them everywhere in 2023. Businesses that want to upgrade their communications are already moving to all-IP alternatives.

What services will be affected by the switch off?

All services that use the copper phone network will be affected. That includes traditional “landline” telephony, so the ISDN-based PBX in your office (if you have one) will become obsolete, at least in its current form.

But that’s not all. PSTN supports other services, like Wholesale Line Rental (WLR). That in turn gives you ADSL and FTTC broadband. These will also stop at the end of 2025.

That means you may need to upgrade both your broadband and the services that connect to it. Depending on what your business does, that might include CCTV cameras, security alarms and payment terminals. 

Taken together, this represents the biggest shake up to communications and connectivity in decades, so you need to be ready.

What should you do now?

So how can you prepare for this major change? The first step is simply to have it in mind. If you haven’t thought about alternatives to your ISDN or PSTN service yet, now’s the time to start.

That’s because you want to replace your current service with an alternative that’s right for your business. If you haven’t switched by the middle of 2025, you run the risk of BT forcing you onto its most basic service, which might not be the best choice for you.

The other thing to remember is that this switch is a huge opportunity, even if it feels like a bit of a hassle. The alternatives to PSTN/ISDN can actually 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.

What are the alternatives?

So what are the alternatives? As far as connectivity is concerned, most businesses will opt for one of three choices.

  • Full fibre. Full fibre (FTTP) connectivity is being rolled out around the UK, and the Government has said that by 2025 85% of the country will be connected for gigabit broadband (with speeds of at least 1 Gbps). It has committed to connecting the remaining 15% by 2030.
  • SOGEA (Single order Generic Ethernet Access). SOGEA gives you the equivalent of an FTTC broadband service, but without the telephone line. SOGEA only transmits data, so your voice services will have to switch to digital. Maximum download speeds are up to around 80Mbps.
  • SOFAST (Single order G.Fast). This is the same as SOGEA but for, and offers download speeds up to around 300Mbps.

One you’ve updated your connectivity, you need to purchase an “over the top” voice product. This simply means that your voice service will use the same connectivity as the rest of your data traffic. Options include:

  • SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) Trunking. SIP Trunks modify your existing PBX to combine a full VoIP phone system with multimedia communications in one complete package.
  • Hosted voice. This puts your telephone exchange in the cloud, giving you access from anywhere, the option to make work calls from laptops and smartphones (as opposed to desk-based handsets), and a range of powerful call management features.
  • Basic VoiP. For small offices or home workers, a single line Voice Over IP service might be all you need.

The benefits of all-IP

If you start thinking about these options now, you won’t be caught out when the switch off happens. And if you can update your network earlier than 2025, you can start benefiting from faster, more reliable technology sooner.

Because that’s the big bonus here. Although it might feel like a problem you don’t need right now, the technology that will replace ISDN/PSTN can make your business more productive, efficient and cost-effective. You just need to choose the most suitable replacement.

If you need any help with that, the team at Vaioni is happy to talk you through the options. Get in touch with us here.

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