Avoid getting caught out by the Big PSTN Switch-off

It’s already the end of February 2022 and everyone is saying “where is the time going!” The telecoms industry is gearing up for a revolutionary change, the “Big PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) Switch-off” in 2025 – that’s only 3 years away and we know, from experience, that many home and business owners will be scrabbling around, at the last minute, trying to prepare themselves, wishing they had acted sooner.

The fact is the work has already started – you may have noticed more Open Reach vans around than normal recently – and in some European countries the PSTN switch-off has already happened so the UK needs to be ready.

We have been researching the facts and are able to share what we’ve found to help prevent that mad scramble at the 11th hour.

What is the PSTN Switch-off all about? British Telecom (BT) has operations in around 180 countries and is the largest provider of fixed-line, broadband and mobile services in the UK. In a bid to catch up with the latest technology it will be moving all its customers away from the old analogue Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to a fully digital network. This also applies to the ISDN (Integrated Service Digital Network) lines too.

ISDN may be a more up to date technology than the traditional switches system, but everything will be transferred to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) in 2025. New digital technology is just so much better. At a basic level, using the flexibility of the Cloud, people will be able to make and take calls on any device, from anywhere and everyone can keep the same number they’ve been using. Business applications and systems will link smoothly with video chats, calls and group collaborations making conference video calls to customers and colleagues much easier.

“Time and tide wait for no man”. The English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, coined this phrase back in the 15th century and epitomises how quickly time moves on without us even noticing. With the switch-off in just 3 years (and counting…) there is a lot to do before the switch-off happens. You may well be saying “that’s ok, we don’t really use the landline system that much, we probably won’t notice it.” Sadly, the switch over will affect more than just the phones; anything connected to your phone line, such as door entry systems and security alarms, will also need to be updated. It needs planning to make sure, when the switch is flicked, businesses and homes are not plunged into telecoms darkness.

Switching to IP reduces cost all round. The PSTN infrastructure is vast, expensive to maintain and, in many cases, unsightly and bad for the environment. It’s become the norm to see telephone cables hung across streets but, underground, there are thousands of miles of cabling to consider – most of it dates back over 100 years. Now, with the advent of mobile and internet communications for everyone, money will be saved and steps are being taken to repair the environment.

What should you be doing to prepare?

In the first instance, it’s important to future-proof your connectivity.
Your connections need to be robust with a high bandwidth and low latency (in other words, no lag or delay) which is adaptable with changing technology. Cloud-based communications demand resilience and digital voice services are no different because connections need to be good and reliable, voices need to be heard clearly and data security tools and collaboration systems operate in “real-time”. So, there is no time like the present to check the systems you have and ensure they will be able to cope with the changes – are they robust enough to handle today’s applications and systems and will they cope with upgrades and (as yet unknown) new technology?

Make sure your other services are not left out.
As well as door entry systems and security alarms, businesses use phone lines for any system that requires data and information passing in and out of a premises, through a wire, such as fire and smoke alarms, cash machines and payment tills at banks and shops. 3G is being phased out and power cuts could be a potential disaster, so it’s really important to work out, now, what is running on your PSTN or ISDN line and consider one of the following actions to take.
(i) You could switch all your systems to IP mode – if that’s available.
(ii) You could also upgrade your services to equivalent systems that are IP enabled or
(iii) You could use an Analogue Telephone Adapter (ATA) device is a device for connecting traditional analogue telephones, fax machines, and similar customer-premises devices to a digital telephone system or a voice over IP telephony network.

Consider your equipment
This could be the ideal opportunity to look at how your business uses your current equipment, especially if you may have staff working from home, if you employ hot-desking or have several satellite offices or branches. Like any business equipment it’s worth carrying out an audit of what you have to see if it performs as you need it to and if it’s fit for IP activity. It’s also a good idea to investigate accessories like headsets or more mobile phones. There is so much choice it’s worth thinking about now.

We have an extensive range of IP devices and solutions for you to choose from as part of your upgrade. Depending on what you’re using at the moment, you may be able to reuse some equipment with your new digital service. Ask us for advice if you’re not sure.

Planning ahead will pay off in the long-term
Upgrading to a digital phone service will allow you to run your business as you do at the moment, but it will also provide you with the opportunity to improve the way you work and communicate. It can be quite daunting to imagine the scope of cloud-based systems because they offer features you may not be used to or had even thought possible, such as fully integrate your system with mobile devices and apps and detailed analysis and reports about the usage by staff and customers.

It also allows you to re-evaluate your business and decide what to do about the phone lines you currently have such as do you want to keep your existing numbers – this is advisable as your customers tend to have your business numbers in their phone and it saves on the cost of re-printing new business cards for everyone.

Accepting change
Finally, the other issue you may have is that, as a business, your staff may be concerned about the changes and how they will be affected. Now is a good time to ease them in gently. We all appreciate that it’s much easier to accept change over time and, by preparing your teams, in advance, when the switch over comes your teams will hardly notice it. We are able to provide you with all the support materials and advice your staff need to help them understand and become more knowledgeable about the technology – especially, as it will also affect their home communication systems.

Whatever you decide, we can help you every step of the way, from planning to installation.

For more information about our Digital Business Solutions, contact us on 01283 735300 or email: hello@wdslimited.com or visit our website: wdslimited.com

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