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BT ISDN switch off: how will it really affect your business?

Posted by Amina Addow on Sep 25, 2020 11:00:00 AM
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BT ISDN switch off: how will it really affect your business?

National telecoms provider BT has announced they will shut off their ISDN and PSTN services. The move brings to an end the use of analogue phone lines and moves communications technology into an entirely online space.

BT will no longer offer businesses the ability to acquire ISDN and PSTN after 2020, with the total switch off occurring in 2025. Here's what your small business needs to know in the run up to the switch-off.

How will it impact business communications?

The move comes as part of cost-saving efforts by BT.

Over 2 million UK businesses will be affected by the switch off. Primarily, these will be small companies. The biggest impact will be felt by those with heavy use of  landline telephones. Businesses will need to look for alternative methods of data transmission to maintain communication coverage.

What Is ISDN?

ISDN, or Integrated Service Digital Network, is the first iteration of high-speed internet. It was the evolution of dial-up, yet had similarities to its predecessor in that it utilised hard-wire phone line connections to enable communication. ISDN first appeared in the 90s and revolutionised internet connectivity. Many credit the technology as being the ground-work for modern, faster internet solutions. The service enables businesses to send data, such as voice calls or images, through their phone lines using the internet.

What Is PSTN?

The Public Switch Phone Network, abbreviated to PSTN, is what you might refer to as the classic analogue telephone system — the system that enables landline connectivity.

This centuries-old technology was introduced during the 1800s and allows for information to be transmitted through a network of copper wires. Businesses have been using PSTN as their primary method of transmitting phone call for many years. For millions of operations, PSTN is the foundation of communication.

What is the BT 2025 switch off?

 BT plans to switch off all functionality for analogue phone lines, which means they will cease to operate. Following the announcement, BT also stated they would no longer sell ISDN or PSTN services after 2020 in preparation for the move.

After the switch off, there will be no maintenance or recovery of phone lines, and any data sent will no longer be carried through ISDN and PSTNs. You could opt to switch to another supplier to maintain your current system, but with BT being the largest provider, we will likely see others follow their example soon.

Why is the switch-off happening?

For businesses currently using ISDN and PSTN systems, the idea of the BT 2025 switch off might be a bit frustrating. Given that the company is offering you opportunities to maintain your systems, they are effectively forcing you into a change.

The result for BT is the costs of maintaining the system are incredibly high and rising. This also means prices go up for the end-user. ISDN and PSTN services are simply not optimised for modern business. There are plenty of other methods of data transmission available that are cheaper, faster and more reliable.

It is the combination of factors at play here that has led to the BT 2025 switch off. The company wants to move businesses over to its more cost-effective products

Who will be affected?

The BT 2025 switch-off will impact all businesses currently operating ISDN or PSTN.

The switch-off will affect a large volume of small businesses, as these organisations are less reliant on more advanced and diverse communication platforms than larger companies, meaning they haven’t needed to upgrade their systems.

42% of SMEs still use analogue lines to transmit data. That’s around 2.4 million businesses. And, while many bigger companies and national brands have already updated their data transmission systems, not all have made the switch. Roughly 33% of larger firms still operate on ISDN or PSTN. Essentially, there are still a lot of British companies reliant on fixed landlines for communication.

If you send data through landline systems, then the BT 2025 switch off will likely have consequences for your business.

How will your small business be affected?

How much of an impact the BT 2025 switch off will have on your business all depends on how wide-spread your use of ISDN or PSTN technology is. When it comes to switching to internet services, there isn't much of a challenge. If your small business is using ISDN, upgrading options like fibre-optic connections is simply a matter of changing your service provider package.

What are the alternatives?

When it comes to adapting business technology following the BT 2025, the big push is towards Voice Over Internet Protocol which is a method of data transmission over the internet. This allows for voice message and images to be set over without the need for ISDN or PSTNs. 

The practicalities of switching from ISDN to VoIP

Switching from ISDN to a VoIP/cloud-hosted phone system isn’t as complicated as you might think.

The first step is to get a spec together outlining exactly what your business definitely needs and maybe some “nice to haves”. Then you can do some online research or call some cloud telecom providers to see what they offer. This should get you to a point where you have some options to consider and prices to compare.

Assuming your business is in an area that has access to VoIP technology, you need to consider two things:

Is your internet connection good enough to deliver VoIP?

While VoIP doesn’t use very much data when compared with other services like video, you still need enough bandwidth to deliver voice on top of everything else your office does. Some VoIP providers suggest 5Mbps down and 2Mbps up as a bare minimum for a small office, but really the bandwidth you need depends on your individual needs and Quality of Service (QoS) priorities. The reality is, if you don’t have enough bandwidth or a QoS commitment you could experience poor audio quality or intermittent service and miss out on the full benefits.

Does your office phone system support VoIP?

Most new office phone systems already support VoIP, but if yours doesn’t, you can either replace your entire phone system with an IP one (worthwhile if your handsets are looking tired). It might also be a good time to think about switching from a fixed, on-premise phone system to a cloud-hosted telephony service. This way, you get to manage your phone system via an online control panel hosted in the cloud.

Time to switch

We’re already helping a number of UK businesses transition from their legacy ISDN systems to our cloud-hosted phone system. Everything from number porting to hardware setup is managed by our customer onboarding team.

To find out more check out our specialist packages.

Topics: Latest, VoIP

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