The PSTN switch off and the impact on business

Backbone of telecommunications in the UK, allowing voice calls to homes and businesses for almost 150 years, the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is set to be switched off, thanks to the rapid advancement of digital technology

In this article, we explore the reasons for this change, the implications for businesses and consumers, and the future-proof digital solutions that are reshaping the telecommunications landscape.

When PSTN was all you needed

A reliable and widespread network for voice calls was established with the PSTN and it revolutionised communication across the UK. When the internet was launched in the 1990s, the PSTN was adapted to provide data connections using the existing technology. But what is essentially a network of copper wires, the PSTN is susceptible to degradation and interference, with voice calls and internet connections being impacted.

The equipment within the telephone exchanges that make it all possible, is also old and less reliable with spares and maintenance becoming ever more difficult. Which all makes the imminent change more understandable.

The future is All-IP

The switch off of the UK’s traditional telephone network is being driven by technological advancements in telecommunications, that will make a lot more valuable features available to residential and business users.

Although we’ve come a long way from the days of the dial-up internet, there remains a huge disparity in the speed of connections for some users, often in the same locations. Full fibre broadband is set to change this for everyone.

Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) uses fibre optic cables instead of copper wires, to provide internet services. This new network will be more robust than the old PSTN network and will allow data transfer speeds of up to 1Gbps.

This new full fibre network is currently being rolled out across the UK and as of this summer, more than 10 million properties are able to access ultrafast broadband and all the benefits that bestows.

The ISDN switch-off will follow the PSTN switch off in 2025 and whilst many businesses have already switched to a VoIP telephony solution, an estimated 2 million are still using ISDN. For these businesses and anyone who cannot access a fibre solution, SoGEA is their best option.

SoGEA, or Single-order Generic Ethernet Access, is a next-generation connectivity solution that provides quicker, easier installation, with faster connection speeds, increased reliability and reduced cost. SoGEA combines copper wire and fibre technology, to deliver speeds of up to 80Mbps without a landline.

It is hoped this will be the catalyst for the remaining businesses to switch to a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution. VoIP uses a reliable data connection, such as FTTP, to carry voice communications via the internet, instead of running these calls over the traditional PSTN.

Implications for Businesses

The switch off will impact businesses that rely on traditional telephone services and it’s important organisations transition to IP-based solutions in plenty of time, to ensure uninterrupted voice communication.

This is an opportunity for businesses to adopt Unified Communications (UC) solutions, which have the added benefits of advanced features such as video conferencing, collaboration tools and integration with similar digital systems.

However, with the opportunity comes the necessity for infrastructure upgrades, which will require careful planning to ensure a smooth transition with minimal disruption to daily operations.

Any business that rely on services such as payment terminals, alarm systems and lift lines, which traditionally connect via a landline, will need to review these services with their providers to ensure they have an IP-based alternative in place when the PSTN is switched off in 2025.

The emerging alternatives

While discussing options for replacing broadband and voice services, it’s worth exploring how mobile can benefit businesses in an All-IP world, given the UK Mobile networks are retiring the 3G data networks to focus on rolling out 4G and 5G.

These advances in mobile networks enable users to access various communication apps and services that offer voice and video calling, further encouraging people to use mobile phones as their primary means of communication, as consumers in particular, move away from PSTN telephony.

Making the move

The well-publicised PSTN switch off closes one chapter in telecommunications, whilst ushering in the new digital future and whilst it poses challenges for businesses, it also opens up new possibilities with advanced digital communication technologies.

So don’t delay and get onboard now before you have to make your decisions in a rush as the switch off date looms. Embrace this change, or you could lose the vital services your business relies on.