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When Is The ISDN Switch Off?

ISDN switch off

With the start of BT’s ISDN switch off rapidly approaching, we’ve taken a look at the realities of what BT Openreach are doing, along with a run-down of what you can expect in 2020. With a range of ISDN alternatives available, take a look below and prepared to start future-proofing your business.

When is the ISDN switch off?

ISDN is set to be switched off by BT in 2025, with no new orders being taken after 2020 as part of a 5 year phase out.  

What is an ISDN line?

Simply put, an ISDN line is the main carrier and most popular way of making phone calls across the world. The Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) allows you to make phone calls, video calls and other services using digital transmission using a traditional Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Launched in 1986, it allowed BT to move old fashioned landlines to digital, and allowed businesses to simultaneously support an analogue phone line alongside digital data services.

Back then, the speed at which data could be transmitted meant that ISDN allowed for better connections, and even video communication, in a way not possible before.

Why is ISDN being switched off?

In the 80s, 90s and early 00s, ISDN was the gold standard of fast digital connections, allowing data transfer and internet access at 128mbps; the fastest possible at the time.

However these days systems that use ISDN are a little outdated. Broadband internet connections like DSL, WAN and cable modems have taken connection speeds to a far higher level, and ISDN systems can no longer compete. Although the lines have been completely overhauled since the 80s, they are still basically the same technology, and more or less on a par with traditional phone lines which have been around since the 19th century!

BT’s decision to invest heavily in VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has also supported its decision to phase out ISDN, as it no longer makes strategic or financial sense for them to update their outdated systems. Moving away from ISDN also allows them to concentrate on more up-to-date technology, and create a service built for the future. However as time passes since the announcement BT have already faced several challenges.

What are the alternatives?

The future, or more accurately the now, of telecommunications is VoIP and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). VoIP doesn’t use traditional landlines to make connections, but instead enables both voice and video calls on a global scale using just an active internet connection. Making the switch not only makes calling far cheaper, but also makes it far easier to set-up as there is no physical lines to be installed. 

In choosing to focus on VoIP, BT are really only following the prevailing trends in UK organisations. Around 40% of businesses have already moved over to VoIP systems, with more following suit every day. 

How to future-proof your business

From 2020 BT will no longer be taking new ISDN orders, and you shouldn’t really be looking to buy a new ISDN system now anyway. If you are in a position where a new phone system makes sense for your organisation, then now is the time to upgrade to VoIP, or to consider moving to a hosted PBX system. This is a great option for smaller businesses who want to free up physical space and IT staff time, and want to lower their upfront costs.

However, if you are one of the 2 million BT ISDN customers, then there’s no need to panic. The clock is ticking, but you’ve still got five years before the switch off, and there’s plenty of time to work out exactly what you want to do. You’ll want to do your research and ensure that any choice you make works best for your business. There’s no reason to rush, and for many organisations sticking with their ISDN network for a few more years is a perfectly valid choice.

Once you decide to move to a VoIP system or a hosted cloud network, the process is pretty seamless. Many suppliers may well be able to upgrade your existing system to SIP trunks, meaning you won’t even have to buy a new telephone system. You’ll also need to ensure that your current internet connection provides enough bandwidth to cope with the new network.

If you are thinking about changing your system, or just want to understand the options in a bit more detail, get in touch with us. Our services are now trusted by thousands of SMEs and larger businesses around the UK. Take a look at our SIP Trunk or cloud phone services to see how we can help you.

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