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Why should businesses care about the PSTN/ISDN switch-off?
Thu, 10th Aug 2023

Does your business rely on a traditional landline or ‘analogue’ phone system? Then you need to prepare for the upcoming PSTN/ISDN switch-off…

To support the complex connectivity demands of today’s businesses, BT will be decommissioning all copper public-switch telephone network (PSTN) and integrated services digital network (ISDN) lines by the end of 2025.

So, why does this matter for business owners?

If you aren’t prepared for the switch-off, you could find yourself without a working telephone or internet until you upgrade to fibre. That’s because traditional phone and broadband systems use copper cables that BT is replacing with digital lines that aren’t compatible with analogue devices.

The majority of UK businesses will need to transition from a legacy system before the deadline, which will ramp up the demand for fibre services — meaning it’s crucial to plan ahead.

TMT’s telecom experts can help you make the switch to a more efficient, compliant telephony solution before it’s too late.
Eager to get started? Here’s everything you need to know…

Why is BT upgrading traditional copper lines?

In the UK, most of our phone systems are built on the foundations of copper wiring that have been in place since the late 1800s.
Unsurprisingly, these lines are becoming rapidly outdated and inefficient — not to mention increasingly expensive to maintain.

Meanwhile, the price of fibre is coming down, making this advanced technology more accessible for telecom providers.

As a result, to bring the UK up to speed with the entry-level broadband connectivity speeds offered by other European countries, BT has committed to retiring ISDN and PSTN lines within the next couple of years. It aims to give every household and business access to full-fibre connectivity that facilitates data transfers via glass cables at the speed of light.

The transition to fibre began with fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC). FTTC systems run internet connections along fibre cables from the phone exchange to green cabinets on the roadside and then deliver enhanced broadband connectivity to nearby premises via standard copper telephone lines. Openreach has reported that 86% of the UK can now access FTTC, and full-fibre broadband is quickly catching up…

With most of the UK now able to connect to some sort of fibre broadband, telecom providers are focusing on rolling out fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) solutions that directly provide superfast connectivity to your building.

According to a Thinkbroadband study, almost 49% of residential and commercial properties had access to FTTP broadband as of March 2023 — increasing from 18% in 2020.

Given this rapid growth, we can predict the percentage of premises with FTTP connections will approach 100% by 2025. For these reasons, it soon won’t make sense for BT to support copper networks — meaning end users will need to begin installing alternative solutions.

Why should business leaders care about the switch-off?

The end of ISDN and PSTN connectivity isn’t new or unexpected; BT announced it back in 2015. And yet, a recent report by National Business Communications (NBC) found that 62.1% of respondents still use legacy networks.

It seems this is mainly due to a lack of knowledge about the change, with NBC reporting that a concerning 19.4% of companies still don’t know anything about the end of copper lines.

Businesses urgently need to realise that it’s not just their internet connection at stake. If they don’t upgrade before the deadline, they could find themselves without a working telephone system.

Once the UK moves to a new fibre-based framework, any faults on legacy telephone lines could lead to a total loss of service, ultimately leaving your business without a broadband connection, live phone line and number.

This sudden loss of service would be disastrous for any companies that conduct business over the phone. According to BT Business research, customers will only call twice before taking their custom elsewhere, leading a missed call to cost £1,200 on average for SMEs.

Therefore, waiting for your current system to break down before booking a slot with a fibre engineer could lose you a lot of money and cause serious problems for your business.

If you haven’t yet thought about migrating to a digital telephony solution, don’t panic — there’s still time to act. But waiting any longer to switch could be detrimental to your operations much sooner than 2025, as Openreach plans to stop selling and repairing traditional phone lines as soon as September 2023.

So, considering all the risks, reviewing your communication needs and planning ahead is crucial. But where to begin?

What should your company do to prepare?

Let’s keep it simple: if you’re not using fibre, you must upgrade your telephone system as soon as possible.

‘It’s safe to say that if you haven’t bought a new connectivity solution in the last two or three years, it’s very likely that whatever system you’re currently using will stop working when the deadline comes around — or before if it develops issues due to BT stopping repairs later in 2023’, commented Scott Weedon, our chief technical officer (CTO).

Of course, several fibre-based connectivity options are available to you as you prepare for the ISDN switch-off, depending on your needs.

But remember: as we’ve established, the end of copper lines doesn’t just impact phone systems — it affects business broadband connectivity, too. So, investing in a solution that can support your telecommunication requirements both now and in the future is crucial.

Moving forward, you’ll need better connectivity options to harness the latest bandwidth-hungry technology. As such, TMT recommends embracing fibre and enjoying immediate improvements to call quality and the power to do more within your telephony system.

The PSTN/ISDN switch-off provides the ideal opportunity to upgrade to a business broadband and telephony system that’ll stand the test of time and unlock new connectivity capabilities for your day-to-day operations.

So, don’t wait to upgrade — speak to our experts to start your journey to fibre today.