UK PSTN Switch Off Begins: How Will It Impact Your Business

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uk pstn switch off

With ISDN and PSTN network shutdowns beginning in 2020, it’s important for UK businesses to future proof. 

It may be the UK’s best kept secret this year. Coronavirus, Brexit negotiations and the future of work have taken over our social media platforms as of late, but another revolution is quietly happening in the UK telecoms industry – the closure of its PSTN networks and a transition to all-VoIP networks – and it begins in 2020.

The move has been driven by the telecoms operators that are concerned about the rising cost of maintaining legacy PSTN equipment, attracted by the network simplification which all-VoIP offers and motivated by a need to remain competitive in price. We’ve collected a quick FAQ on the PSTN/ISDN shut down and what it means for local businesses. 

What is happening with the 2025 network switch-off?

From 2020 onwards you will no longer be able to purchase integrated services digital network (ISDN) and public switched telephone network (PSTN) circuits in the United Kingdom. As of 2025, the PSTN circuits will be shut off completely. This is a major step towards the United Kingdom’s mass IP-network migration, with VoIP core networks set to replace all of the outdated legacy technology.

What is ISDN?

Integrated service digital network (ISDN) is the first iteration, launched years ago, of high-speed internet. ISDN first appeared in the 90s and revolutionised internet connectivity. Many credit the technology as being the groundwork for modern, faster internet solutions. 

What is PSTN?

The public switch phone network (PSTN) is what you might refer to as the classic analogue telephone system—the system that enables landline connectivity. This centuries-old technology was introduced during the 1800s and allows for information to be transmitted through a network of copper wires. Businesses have been using PSTN as their primary method of transmitting phone calls and fax transmissions for many years. For millions in the UK, PSTN is still the foundation of their communications, which poses a business continuity risk as the country migrates to an all-VoIP environment.

Read our blog: How to Setup a VoIP Server at Home and In Your Office

Classic British red colored pay telephone booths in London, England, UK. Horizontal composition.

Why are the telecoms providers migrating everyone to VoIP all of a sudden?

The move comes as part of cost-saving efforts from national telecoms to stop supporting legacy technologies that do not adopt economies of scale. By switching to all-VoIP, telecoms providers only have to maintain one network, which is much cheaper for them. It’s estimated that over 2 million local UK businesses will be impacted by the switch-off. The biggest impact will be felt by those with heavy use of fax machines or landline telephones. UK businesses will need to look for alternative methods to maintain communications coverage.

 Read our blog: How UCaaS can save local councils money 

 Who will be affected?

The UK 2025 switch-off will impact all businesses currently operating on ISDN or PSTN. The switch-off will affect a large volume of small businesses, as 42% of SMEs report that they still use analogue lines to transmit data. That’s around 2.4 million businesses in the UK. And, while larger enterprises have already updated their systems, not all have made the switch. Roughly 33% of larger firms still operate on ISDN or PSTN. If your business falls into this category, then the UK 2025 switch off will have consequences for your operations. 

Read our blog: VoIP Phone Systems for SMBs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Options for UK businesses in the face of this shutdown

The telecoms operators are encouraging customers to consider voice over internet protocol (VoIP). VoIP is a method of data transmission that allows for voice messages and images to be sent over the internet using your current hardware. How VoIP works for your phones and fax machines is simple. Using an adaptor device, you can turn your landline-reliant fax machines and phones into hardware with internet connectivity.

In essence, VoIP means you can use your current devices to send information to other devices, but through the internet. The result is minimal change to your systems while maintaining communications coverage, even after the UK 2025 switch off.

Waiting will cost you: Now is the time to consider cloud

If you’re still using ISDN/PSTN lines or legacy telephone systems, this announcement is a gentle nudge (that year over year will turn into a hard push) for you to review your business communications infrastructure. VoIP, unlike traditional solutions, does not run over copper lines, making line rental redundant. The only thing you need is an active internet connection.

Ultimate Guide to VoIP

Understand Voice Over Internet Protocol

What VoIP is and how it benefits business

Get the guide

40% of the UK market has already recognised that switching to a VoIP solution provides a number of key benefits. VoIP is much more flexible as it’s delivered over an internet connection and does not require the procurement of another “line”.

With RingCentral Cloud PBX, our customers save on average 42% on their monthly phone bill, with some saving as much as 70% when they switch from ISDN and PSTN lines.

Read this Forrester report for more info

How is that achieved?

Easy to buy, easy to set up: Auto-provisioning of VoIP telephones allows for quick installation with no capital expenditure, and with converged voice and data, there’s no line rental costs.

Flexibility and Scalability: Your phone number isn’t tied to a physical location, which allows you global access to your number over the internet. Internet-based phone systems also have no user-limits. Geographic and international numbers can be redirected to your VoIP phone or softphone, meaning one phone with countless numbers. 

Disaster Recovery: Where your internet connection fails, RingCentral provides an automatic failover capability to ensure you don’t miss a call.

Put modern technology to work for you: What does switching to VoIP mean for your business?

  • Significant cost savings
  • Avoid system failures/outages
  • Avoid having your manufacturer end support of an old phone system
  • Improved experience for your customers
  • Increased productivity and collaboration: agile companies are 1.7x more productive and 1.5x more profitable
  • Evolve the flexibility and mobility of your business communications
  • Simplify security with one solution that is continuously up-to-date
  • Enable unmatched collaboration across meetings, projects and critical customer interactions

To avoid the challenges and risks for the networks switch off, and operational issues in deploying VoIP when there is a mass reactive demand, you can act now to develop a fully resourced plan, based on your specific needs and solution delivery. The PSTN switch-off also presents an opportunity for UK businesses to introduce new technologies for driving efficiencies, reliability, and ultimately lowering costs at the same time. The preparation and planning in the near-term will increase chances of long-term success in adapting to this new era of communications, as well as reduce the likelihood of being caught in the backlog of reactivity when 2024 hits. 

Now read the ultimate guide to what VoIP is and how it benefits businessGet the guide


    Ashima Bhatt is the Senior Manager of Product Marketing for RingCentral’s core Message, Video, Phone product offering. She uses RingCentral as a platform to share with the world how to connect people in meaningful and compelling ways to build forward.

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