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BT switch off - what the future holds for your small business

Posted by Amina Addow on Nov 17, 2020 11:56:53 AM
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 BT switch off - what the future holds for your small business

As part of the conscious shift from traditional landlines to mobile technologies Openreach has announced that no new traditional telephony orders will be issued after December 2020. The move brings to an end the use of analogue phone lines and moves communications technology into an entirely online space.

We outline what a landline-free future will look for your small business.

What is the BT shut down?

BT plans to switch off all functionality for analogue phone lines, ceasing operation of traditional telephony as we know it. 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.

What is an ISDN line?

ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network and allows phone and video calls to be made via the PSTN (Public Service Telephone Network). This technology uses the same line for voice and data through the PSTN which BT and Openreach use for their telephony. This is considered traditional landline phone service, which has been used for years now.

Why is this switch-off happening?

Other forms of technology have been greatly improved over the years and have made significant upgrades since it originally started. ISDN, however, has not made any of these changes. Maintaining these outdated systems is more expensive and now is the time for a new and improved system.

What will replace ISDN?

The main alternative to ISDN is VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone systems. This form of technology is a cloud-based system of communication. This low-cost internet-based system increases flexibility and productivity for the company as a whole.

VoIP is a great system allowing easy and efficient communication with inclusive virtual meetings through voice and video. Some other features incorporated in VoIP products are call recording, call routing, forwarding and HD conferencing.

What are the advantages of VoIP compared with ISDN?


Compared to having broadband bundled with a landline small businesses could see their costs cut in half. Hosted VoIP solutions are also more affordable than on-premise solutions. These systems cover support, maintenance and updates. 

If your business would prefer an on-premise solution, the system functions on existing hardware and networks. VoIP will also save your small business on domestic and international call charges. In some locations, WiFi to facilitate calls can be available free of charge.


IP phone systems have multiple channels such as instant messaging, call conferencing and also a service that can transcribe voicemails and transfer into emails. Allowing communications to be unified and maintained in one application.

Expansion and location

VoIP has many features that allow your business to operate from anywhere in the world as long as reliable WiFi is available. Cloud phones aren’t disadvantaged from geographical restrictions allowing small businesses to set up offices abroad at no further cost - all while keeping a UK number.

Backup and security

Most VoIP providers operate on ‘hosted systems' which means that technology, security and software updates are handled externally. With cloud technology, security and software updates are handled by the cloud provider and updated automatically leading to minimal downtime for your business.

What should small businesses do to prepare for the change?

ISDN switch-off means completely overhauling your existing telephone systems and your small business would need to take this action before your ISDN service are completely shut down.  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.

There are other steps to consider when making the switch to VoIP:

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.

Does your office phone system support VoIP?

Most new office phone systems already support VoIP, but it’s always important to check if you can replace your entire phone system with an IP one. The process of switching to a cloud-based telephony service will become much easier. This can also help with set up and running of your new system overall.

What to consider when upgrading to an IP phone system

What connectivity do you currently have and is it able to support VoIP?

Above all, your business needs to analyse whether your current internet bandwidth is able to support VoIP. For example, a VoIP phone system has a much better chance of being reliable over a business fibre connection as they can prioritise voice traffic ahead of normal data making them suitable for use with both voice and data simultaneously.

What features do you require for your VoIP system and will your requirements change in the future?

Ahead of time decide which features your small business is interested in and needs to succeed. Your VoIP provider will be best suited to describe each feature to you and tailor an IP Phone solution for you. Next, decide whether your requirements in the future due to expansion etc, this will mean requiring more ‘seats’.

How long would it take to install the phone system and when would your business need it running by?

Normally, VoIP phones don’t require any formal installation by an engineer at the premises. However, due to the shutdown of the landline, there may be a shift in demand.

Overall, make sure you have the correct broadband, features needed and timeline on when to implement your new VoIP system.

How 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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