The PSTN Switch-off: the risks Vs the opportunity (and what organisations need to know!)

May 23, 2024 | News

The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) has been the foundation of UK telecommunications for decades. However, as technology evolves and digital solutions prove more robust, the planned PSTN switch-off, now set to take place in 2027, marks a significant transition for businesses nationwide.

This shift isn’t just a regulatory mandate but a critical crossroad of risk and opportunity. While the risk lies in the readiness for such a substantial infrastructure change, there is an opportunity to use the moment as a launchpad for advanced technologies and a more digital future.

So, as we move closer to this pivotal change, organisations must understand the implications and prepare accordingly. Here’s what you need to know to ensure your business remains connected and efficient.

Understanding the PSTN Switch-off

The PSTN, encompassing traditional telephone lines and ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network), is set to be replaced by all-IP (internet protocol) networks.

This transition reflects the broader move towards digital technology, offering enhanced reliability, scalability, and functionality. The change means that voice services will be delivered via broadband, utilising VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology, which provides numerous advantages, including cost savings, higher quality voice calls, and integrated communication services.

For businesses, the switch-off means that any existing analogue phone systems will no longer function. But it’s not just about telephony; it also affects equipment like fax machines, alarm systems, and EPOS terminals that rely on PSTN lines. Therefore, the first step for any organisation is a thorough assessment of its current telecommunication infrastructure.

Identifying which elements rely on PSTN and ISDN is essential to understand the scope of change required.

The PSTN timeline

Understanding the timeline of the PSTN switch-off is crucial for organisations to plan and execute migration strategies effectively.

Following pilots as far back as 2021, Openreach terminated analogue services at exchanges in Salisbury and Mildenhall, transitioning entirely to fibre technology, setting a precedent for what other regions can expect. By September of last year, the sale of copper-related products came to a complete standstill. This “stop sell” phase marked a significant milestone, pushing organisations to accelerate their preparations for the end-of-life of copper-based services.

Upcoming milestones to be aware of:

2024 through to December 2026: During this period, businesses across the UK are expected to migrate to digital solutions such as VoIP and faster fibre broadband services. Early movers will experience benefits such as uninterrupted connectivity and a smoother transition from retiring networks.

January 2027: The final switch-off in January 2027 marks the end of the ISDN network. By this stage, Openreach anticipates that 85% of the UK population will utilise fibre services, enjoying the advantages of cost-effective, hosted phone systems.

Alternative connectivity types

Once PSTN is phased out, organisations and individuals must switch to modern alternatives that offer similar or improved functionality.

Each connectivity type offers different advantages, and the best choice depends on your specific needs, location, and budget. It’s essential to consult with a provider like Vaioni to understand what’s available in your area and which solutions best meet your operational requirements.

Here are some of the best options to consider once PSTN access is lost:

  1. FTTP (Fibre to the Premises)

FTTP, or “full fibre,” is one of the most robust broadband connectivity types available. It involves running a fibre optic cable directly to your premises, providing high-speed internet access. FTTP can support all your digital needs, including high-speed internet, VoIP, video conferencing, and heavy data transfers, with speeds often reaching up to 1 Gbps or more.

  1. SoGEA (Single Order Generic Ethernet Access)

SoGEA is a newer type of connectivity that provides broadband internet access without a traditional phone line. This is particularly useful for businesses and homes that no longer need a landline for voice communication but still require a reliable internet connection. SoGEA relies on the existing fibre/copper hybrid infrastructure but simplifies the ordering and maintenance processes by not bundling it with a phone service.

  1. FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet)

FTTC involves extending fibre optic cables to street cabinets, which connect to individual premises via traditional copper wires. While not as fast as FTTP, FTTC still offers significant speed improvements over conventional ADSL connections. It’s a cost-effective solution that provides better stability and faster speeds than older systems, making it suitable for many homes and businesses.

  1. Leased Lines

For businesses requiring guaranteed bandwidth and uptime, leased lines offer a dedicated connection that is not shared with other users. This can be expensive but provides symmetric upload and download speeds, ideal for hosting servers, large-scale VoIP systems, and extensive data transfers.

Planning Your Transition

Transitioning to a digital-first communication environment requires careful planning. Here are some steps your organisation can take:

  1. Evaluate your needs: Understand what your business requires regarding communication. How many lines do you need? What kind of data and voice services are essential for your operations? What are your growth projections?
  2. Choose the right service provider: Partnering with a reliable telecom provider is crucial. Companies like Vaioni offer bespoke solutions catering to business needs, ensuring that your transition and communications are seamless.
  3. Implement VoIP solutions: VoIP technology—such as Vaioni’s Business Voice solution—is not only about replacing your old phone system but also about enhancing your communication capabilities. Features like call forwarding, voicemail to email, and conferencing can transform how you connect with customers and colleagues.
  4. Train your team: Ensure your staff are well-prepared for the new systems. Training sessions and readily available support materials will help ease the transition and boost adoption rates.
  5. Test your setup (and test again): Before the PSTN switch-off becomes effective, thoroughly test your new setup to iron out any issues. This might involve checking compatibility with other technologies, ensuring robust data security measures, and verifying service reliability.

Leveraging the Change

The switch-off is not just a necessity; it’s an opportunity. Modern Business Voice solutions offer superior functionality and flexibility, making businesses more agile. With the proper setup, organisations can enjoy integrated communication suites, including voice, video, and text, all streamlined into one platform. This can lead to improved collaboration, productivity, and cost reductions.

With the deadline fast approaching, it is advisable to start your transition now. The longer you wait, the less time you have to adapt and the higher the risk of complications. Early adopters can benefit from competitive advantages by leveraging advanced features and capabilities.

While the switch-off is a significant milestone in the UK, signalling the end of an era, it’s the beginning of a more digital, connected future.

By understanding the implications, planning effectively, and embracing the new technologies, your organisation can navigate this transition smoothly and even use it as a stepping stone to greater operational efficiency and connectivity.

For more insights and tailored advice on transitioning your business communications, visit Vaioni’s Business Voice hub by clicking here.



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