What’s the longest queue you’ve ever been in? Was it a joyous queue, like getting into Wimbledon, where everyone was having fun and the queue was part of the whole experience? Or was it grim and anxious, like outside the passport office?
If you wait until 2025 the queue to transition off the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is more likely to be passport office than Wimbledon. There will be millions of residential lines to deal with, BT will be inundated, and the normally responsive B2B communications suppliers may have far longer lead times.
In this guide, however, we are not out to scare you about the consequences of inaction. We want to inspire you with all the exciting opportunities digital connectivity offers your business. We want to show you that getting ahead of the PSTN Switch Off queue will reap benefits for your business you had never thought of.
Firstly, we will explain what the PSTN Switch Off is, and what it means in practical terms for your business. Then we will investigate all the opportunities for your business by acting sooner rather than later:
- Enabling hybrid working with enhanced flexibility
- Scalability & future proofing
- Increased reliability and security
- Cost savings
- Smooth transition
What is the PSTN Switch Off?
The PSTN Switch Off is the process of decommissioning the legacy copper-based Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) infrastructure and migrating all voice communications to an all-IP network. This means that traditional phone lines will no longer be available, and all voice calls will be transmitted over the internet using VoIP technology.
There are several reasons why the PSTN Switch Off is happening in the UK.
- Firstly, the PSTN network is becoming obsolete, and it is costly to maintain.
- Secondly, there is a decline in the use of traditional voice services, as people are increasingly turning to messaging and video calling services.
- Finally, the shift towards all-IP networks will enable better integration of voice, data, and video services, resulting in more efficient and cost-effective communication systems.
The PSTN Switch Off has already begun in the UK, with a stop-sell in place in several regions in the UK. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2025. This means that all PSTN-based services, including voice calls, will cease to function after this date. However, it’s important to note that different regions may have different timelines for the final switch-off, so it’s important to check your location for specific details.
What the PSTN Switch Off means in practical terms for your business
The PSTN Switch Off is a significant change that will impact all businesses that rely on voice communications. It’s important to understand the implications of this transition and how it will affect your organisation. Some of the key reasons why the PSTN Switch Off matters to you include:
- Upgrade of hardware and software: Businesses will need to upgrade their existing communication systems to support VoIP technology. This may require investment in new hardware, software, and infrastructure.
- Staff training: With the switch to VoIP technology, staff may need training to ensure they are comfortable with the new system and know how to use it effectively.
- Security considerations: VoIP technology presents new security challenges that businesses will need to consider. It’s important to ensure that your systems are secure to prevent unauthorized access or data breaches.
Which services use the PSTN?
The PSTN is used for traditional phone lines, including analogue lines, ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) lines, and PSTN-based broadband services. These can often include low profile, but mission critical services like alarms and lift emergency buttons. So ahead of the switch off, its critical to understand exactly what processes in your business will be impacted.
What will replace the PSTN?
The PSTN is being replaced by Voice over IP (VoIP) technology which is a a flexible and cost-effective solution that offers more advanced features than the PSTN. With VoIP, you can make and receive calls from anywhere with an internet connection, and you can also send messages, video, and multimedia content. VoIP is also more scalable than the PSTN, making it easier to add new lines and users as your business grows.
Now we’ve covered the technical basics of the PSTN Switch Off, we will look at the exciting opportunities for your business by getting ahead of the queue:
1. Enabling hybrid working with enhanced flexibility
The digital telephony services replacing PSTN, such as VoIP, offer a range of enhanced features beyond what traditional telephony can provide. The crucial one is Unified Communications; the ability to integrate telephony and IT. In other words, employees can have their telephony as part of their desktop. This means that wherever they are working, in the office or remotely, they can have the same set up. This is essential for efficient hybrid working as people do not have to adapt to different set ups in different locations. Wherever people are, they can have the full functionality of voicemail, call forwarding, conference calling, and even video calling, all from their digital device.VoIP can be integrated with other productivity tools like email, and customer relationship management software, which joins the user experience with customer experience. VoIP systems can be used on mobile devices via apps like Microsoft Teams, so even people on the move can seamlessly use full functionality on their personal device.
2. Scalability & future proofing
Unlike traditional PSTN lines such as ISDN, VoIP doesn’t limit the number of users to physical lines. You can scale up and down without adding any physical infrastructure. This is not only incredibly cost effective but means you can respond instantly to fluctuations in users to deal with business peaks. Also having good bandwidth enables your organisation to adapt to the exponential rise in data emerging technologies like generative AI and 5G will create.
3. Increased reliability and security
Digital communications are typically more reliable than traditional phone lines, which can be affected by physical infrastructure issues. VoIP services, for example, offer high-definition audio quality and have fewer interruptions, ensuring consistently clear communication. Much of the old copper network was laid decades ago. So lines degrade overtime and it is very hard for engineers to track down and fix this degradation. This leads to intermittent faults that are difficult to resolve at pace.Many VoIP services offer strong encryption and security features to ensure that communications are secure. This is particularly important when employees are working remotely and dealing with sensitive information. You should always seek VoIP services from suppliers, with ISO certifications and reliable uptimes on their infrastructure. For instance Gradwell has ISO certifications and our 99.999% uptime tracker.
4. Cost savings
Digital telephony services are generally more cost effective than traditional landline services. As mentioned already, long-distance calls are much cheaper on VoIP and similar services. But crucially, the maintenance and hardware costs associated with traditional phone lines will be a thing of the past. The sooner you move your business off the PSTN, the more you save.
5. Smooth transition
While the switch may seem daunting, getting ahead of the queue and taking action now gives you ample time to plan and implement a smooth transition. There will be lots of legacy lines, like alarms and sensors, that sit on the PSTN, and they will take time to map out. A good comms supplier will help you identify all these lines and suggest cost-effective future-proof alternatives, building an implementation plan that takes all these services into consideration.
What you should do about the PSTN Switch off to get ahead of the queue
If you’re an IT manager or responsible for telecoms, you should get ahead of the queue and start preparing for the PSTN switch off as soon as possible. Here are some steps you can take:
- Evaluate your current infrastructure: Assess your current telephony infrastructure and identify any equipment that is PSTN-dependent. This includes fax machines, alarm systems, and other devices that rely on the PSTN to function.
- Plan your migration: Develop a migration plan that outlines how you will move from the PSTN to VoIP. Identify any potential risks and challenges and plan how to mitigate them.
- Choose a VoIP provider: Research and choose a VoIP provider that meets your business needs. Consider factors such as reliability, scalability, features, and cost.
Remember, migrating to digital telephony isn’t just about avoiding the queue for the PSTN switch off – it’s about embracing the future and unlocking exciting opportunities for your business. So why wait? Get ahead and make the most of your digital future.
PSTN Switch Off FAQs
How much will the PSTN switch-off cost me?
In the long term, you should save money as a result of switching. IP is typically cheaper to run than the old copper network as it uses the internet, not expensive infrastructure.
Apart from IP, are there other PSTN alternatives?
No. All telecommunication will be conducted through the internet, which means businesses must move to an IP form to prepare for the Big Switch Off, like VoIP.
Can I keep my current landline number with the PSTN switch-off?
Yes. Unless you change broadband providers, you will be able to keep the same business phone number, so there shouldn’t be any disruptions to your operations.
What happens if I don’t switch to IP before the PSTN switch-off?
If you don’t make the switch before the PSTN is turned off, you risk losing your telecommunication services entirely. It’s important to transition to an IP-based solution, like VoIP, well in advance to avoid any potential disruption.
Will the quality of my calls be affected after the PSTN switch-off?
IP-based solutions like VoIP typically offer equal if not superior call quality compared to traditional PSTN lines. The quality can be influenced by your internet connection, so it’s essential to ensure you have a stable and high-speed connection.
Is the PSTN switch-off going to affect the security of my communications?
IP-based communication solutions come with robust security features, including encryption and secure protocols. However, like any internet-connected technology, it’s important to take appropriate cybersecurity measures. This includes using strong, unique passwords for your systems, keeping your software up to date, and training your staff in basic cybersecurity practices.
What kind of hardware do I need to make the switch to IP?
The specific hardware you’ll need will depend on your chosen IP-based solution. In many cases, you can use existing devices, like computers and smartphones, with the addition of simple peripherals like headsets.