The Big PSTN Switch Off

What is “The Big PSTN Switch Off”?

For over a century, phone calls in the UK have been handled by the public switched telephone network (PSTN). This is the umbrella term for the complex infrastructure of telephone lines, satellite links, and switching centres which connect one caller to another when a specific phone number is entered.

But internet calls, video conferencing, and online collaborative tools have far exceeded the capabilities of PSTN, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

What’s happening?

The Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) will close in December 2025.

By then, every phone line in the UK will have moved to a fully digital network that uses Internet Protocol (IP) across a fibre-based service.

This won’t just affect voice services, it may also mean you need to upgrade your broadband.

Any equipment that currently uses the PSTN will stop working: alarms, EPOS machines, door entry systems, CCTV, faxes, and so on.

The Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) will also stop working.

Why’s this happening?

Our current network is old and difficult to maintain. As an essentially 20th century technology, the PSTN is increasingly out of kilter with the demands of 21st century communications.

Traditional phone usage is changing everywhere as people switch to mobile and internet communications. We all expect much more from modern phone services than the traditional technologies can deliver.

Digital is the answer.

What does this mean for me?

At some point before 2025, you’ll need to move from PSTN to the latest IP technology.

To help make that possible, Openreach is busy rolling out the full fibre network (fibre to the premises or FTTP) in phases across the UK and will stop providing traditional phone lines in all exchange areas by September 2023.

What does ‘stop sell’ mean?

It means that once an exchange area is over 75% full fibre-enabled, traditional phone line services, and copper and fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) broadband, will cease to be available to new and existing customers at fully fibre-enabled premises.

So if full fibre is available to you at your premises, you can benefit from our low cost, reliable, Superfast Full Fibre Digital Service if you choose to upgrade.

If you decide you don’t want to move to a fully digital network just yet, your current service will still work as it does until the switchover.

Why act now?

CommsNet Solutions Ltd are already helping businesses to make the switch, migrating customers onto modern IP phone systems that run on fibre in place of the outdated copper wires that PSTN uses.

Most businesses pay for both phone service and internet access – switching to IP calling brings both under the same roof for lower overall cost, as well as a host of other benefits including high-quality video conferencing and improved accessibility.

Openreach is dedicated to this hard deadline and has been preparing for the switch off since 2016. In the public sector, a great deal of systems including rail and motorway infrastructure will need to be updated to function after the PSTN switch off and this work is underway. But the private sector needs to take the initiative to adopt IP services now instead of down the line.

2025 may feel like it’s a way off in the future, but in reality it’s under two years away. This is why it’s absolutely crucial that businesses that have not already switched to IP telephony or VoIP make a start on it now; the sooner you adopt the new technology, the sooner your business can benefit from IP calls.

How can my business prepare?

Businesses that don’t adopt cloud phone systems before the PSTN switch off will face severe business disruption in the following areas.

  • Unable to make or receive calls
  • Many Broadband connections rely on a PSTN line and these will cease to operate.
  • Many alarm systems are also connected to a company’s phone lines, and if these are still operating on legacy hardware by the time the switch off comes, they will be rendered inoperable.
  • Lift Alarms and other emergency lines often run on PSTN and will need to be upgraded before 2025.

At CommsNet Solutions Ltd we are aware of how organisations use currently use PSTN lines, but control over the hardware is in the hands of the customer and much of this equipment will need to be swapped out or updated before the deadline. The better the preparation a company takes in advance, the easier its IP transformation will be.

Some businesses may need to retire outdated equipment, and draw up strategies for new opportunities offered by IP including call analytics and customisable hold messages. This will require extensive planning, so should be completed sooner rather than later to prevent a stressful and costly transformation closer to the deadline.

CommsNet Solutions Ltd will plan and implement the full migration from the discovery phase to final on-site testing.

How can I adopt these services by 2025?

We are ready to help firms make the transition as smoothly as possible, whether it involves swapping old handsets for new ones all at once, or through a phased approach that sees critical systems retired and upgraded one by one.

We can handle the installation of new hardware such as IP phones, as well as ongoing maintenance to ensure that the transformation is as simple as plug and play for your company. Swapping in IP phone services needn’t be a long or painful process, and you don’t even need to change your phone number or existing settings, such as hold recordings.

Once a business has adopted IP telephony, it only pays for what it needs and can easily scale its systems up or down at any time. Between now and 2025, a company may rapidly expand, move location, or enter a new market and seek stats on how its new customers respond to its calls. On a legacy phone system, this would mean added hardware and maintenance costs, limitations on where it can move, and complicated oversight to draw statistical insight from calls.

Adopting IP calling is very much part of the wider digital transformation that businesses around the country are undergoing. Just like the most intense period of the pandemic saw widespread digital transformation in the adoption of hybrid work suites and cloud collaboration software by many businesses, the time between now and 31 December 2025 will be a crucial proving ground for the continued operations of all companies.