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2020 PSTN Switch Off

Are you confused about the 2020 PSTN Switch Off?

2020 Networks can provide a no-nonsense guide to the changes that will be happening in terms of your business, and help prevent you from being targeted by unscrupulous companies.

In 2015, BT announced its intention to switch off its PSTN and ISDN networks by 2025. This gave us almost decade to make the switch.

What does this announcement really mean?

PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) is the same phone line most people have at home, using circuit-switched copper phone lines. While it may have evolved over the years, PSTN is a very, very old technology, operating on the same fundamental principles as the very first public phone networks of the late 19th Century.

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network), by contrast, came into use in the late 1980s. ISDN allows both voice and data services to be delivered over digital lines simultaneously. ISDN was well-suited to businesses, as it could support early video-conferencing systems at the same time as an analogue phone line. For a time, it could also offer the fastest internet access available (128 kbps). Naturally, since ISDN is no longer the place to go for video-conferencing or a fast internet connection, its USP has quickly been eroded.

So, BT is removing old tech. What will replace it?

BT is moving its entire voice network to voice over IP (VoIP). VoIP has been a proven platform for voice for some time now. It works. If your business has renewed its telephony sometime in the last few years, you may have been told about it (but don’t be surprised if you haven’t, since IP is a whole new game that has been growing steadily in the background, with more and more businesses realising the benefits demonstrated by the early adopters).

VoIP has many advantages over PSTN and ISDN too;

Why is BT flicking the switch?

By converging all services – voice, data, video, and even broadcasting – to the IP protocol, BT only has to maintain one network, not several. It is also worth bearing in mind that 2025 might not be Doomsday for ISDN. The date is not set in stone.

It is BT’s intention to stop selling PSTN and ISDN by 2020 and shut it down completely by 2025 – but this is assuming it has managed to switch all customers over to IP services before then. This means that a viable alternative must be available to everyone well before 2025. For many businesses today, ISDN is still the best they can get. BT will not turn them off before they have an alternative firmly in place.

What should you do?

You will no longer be able to buy any additional PSTN or ISDN lines from 2020. While 2025 may seem a long way off, 2020 is only just over two years away. If your current traditional telephony contract is up for renewal within the next few months, now is the time to start exploring the benefits of VoIP and SIP technologies.

Assuming you are in an area that can support VoIP technology, there are two things you need to consider:

1. Is your internet connection good enough to deliver VoIP?

While VoIP does not use very much data when compared with other services like video, you must ensure you have enough bandwidth to deliver voice on top of everything else your office does. Some say you need 8Mbps down and 1Mbps up as a bare minimum for a small office, but we would  recommend a dedicated “assured” broadband to handle voice only traffic. Even if fibre isn’t available, a standard ADSL or ADSL2+ is suitable to support the solutions we can offer.

2. 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), or just invest in an IP-enabled on-premise PBX (the box that connects your internal phone system to the external phone network). A hosted telephony solution is often the preferred way to deliver VoIP services into an organisation.

Is it ever worth buying ISDN today?

Given the advantages of VoIP over ISDN, in most cases we would recommend investigating whether VoIP is right for your business, and if not now, considering how you will make the move in a few years’ time. And there are still some circumstances where ISDN is a good solution, for example as a disaster recovery or failover option.

Whether or not the 2025 date will stick remains to be seen. The final date is dependent on how successful UK wide fibre rollouts are, as without the connectivity to run there is no real alternative to ISDN. Connectivity in the UK is getting faster and more stable, so who knows it may happen even sooner than 2025. But while the date may move by a few years here or there, the one certainty is this; ISDN and PSTN are outdated technologies that are simply not as good as modern VoIP. So don’t stay in the past.

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