Is your business ready for the PSTN switch-off?   

The UK’s Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) will be fully closed down on December 31, 2025, and all phone lines will need to be moved to a fully digital network that uses internet protocol (IP) across a fibre-based service. This switch-off will impact every single phoneline within the UK.

Despite the scale of the transition, according to one recent survey, 29 percent of UK respondents were completely unaware of the switch-off and a further 19 percent were aware but not fully informed. And, when it comes to UK businesses, 27 percent haven’t developed a migration plan.

With the switch-off now just eighteen months away, it’s important for businesses to act now.

What is the PSTN switch off and why is it happening?

In November 2017, the telecoms industry announced its intention to retire analogue telephone networks such as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) by the end of 2025.

The migration has been driven by the telecoms industry. The old analogue networks that have been in operation for decades have reached the end of their serviceable life. More and more businesses and households were making the transition away from analogue services towards VoIP. Rather than maintain two networks, providers sought to streamline operations. Furthermore, they argued it is difficult to source the parts required to maintain or repair analogue connections as suppliers are no longer manufacturing them.

By switching to new digital phone lines throughout the UK, it will allow communications providers to offer consumers and businesses better quality phone services with new digital features.

The upgrade of the UK’s telephone lines is not a government or Ofcom programme. As a result, questions about the PSTN switch-off and upgrade programme should be directed to your service provider.

What are the implications of the PSTN switch-off?

This is a once-in-a-lifetime technological transition which has the potential to impact many businesses across the UK.

As well as switching to a new voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) telephone service, you will also need to check that any devices or services connected to your existing phone line can continue to work with the new service. Devices which might potentially be affected include handsets, routers, care alarms, smoke or security alarms, fax machines, electronic point of sale (EPOS) machines, and closed-circuit television (CCTV). 

Businesses need to prepare now to ensure a smooth transition with minimal disruption.

What do businesses need to do ahead of the PSTN switch-off?

As of September 2023, UK telecoms providers have stopped selling analogue phone lines to new customers to help prepare for the transition.

Every organisation and household will need to switch to a VoIP telephony service. Broadband services will transition to full fibre and single order broadband services, which don’t rely on landlines.

It was originally hoped that ultrafast broadband would be available across the entire country as part of the transition. However, this work isn’t expected to be fully completed by the December 2025 deadline. Where ultrafast broadband services are not available, you will need to add digital voice services to whatever broadband service is currently available in your area.

Check your devices ahead of the PSTN switch-off

It is also recommended that you check whether your existing devices and services currently connected over PSTN services will work over the new technology. 

You can check by contacting the company who provided the device or service or by checking the manufacturer’s website. Manufacturers of such hardware can use the BT Openreach Test Lab service to check compatibility. This service emulates some of the conditions when an analogue line migrates to a digital line.

If devices are not compatible with a digital service, they will need to be upgraded or replaced.

What are the concerns about the transition?

The UK Government has explained that “The analogue landline carries a low voltage power connection directly from the telephone exchange, which is sufficient to power some basic corded handsets without needing to plug them into the wall. This means that in the event of a local power cut, these corded handsets will continue to function as long as the telephone exchange still has power.” 

However, “Digital landlines cannot carry a power connection, which means handsets and routers must be powered from your home power supply, and they will not function in a power cut unless you have a backup power system such as a battery or generator.”

In response to this concern, and to prevent future service disruption, “telecoms companies are required by Ofcom to take all necessary measures to ensure uninterrupted access to emergency organisations for their customers, including in the event of a power cut.” 

Consequently, the switch should not present additional risk. Nevertheless, critical infrastructure providers are encouraged to put back-up power solutions in place.

What are the benefits of the transition?

New digital services will be available following a switch from traditional analogue landlines to VoIP telephony. This includes advanced digital voice features, such as call forwarding, auto attendants, call recording, virtual meetings, instant messaging and caller ID services. 

In addition, digital voice offers new opportunities for integration with productivity and customer relationship management (CRM) software. It enables seamless integration with CRM, email, calendar and other collaboration tools, helping to optimise workflows and boost automation and efficiencies.

It may be that there are also cost savings to be made as part of the switch. Businesses should talk to their telephony and communications service providers as soon as possible to negotiate the right replacement services.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *