The PSTN Switch Off: Are you Ready?

Organisations that rely on PSTN lines for their business communications could be affected when the PSTN switch off occurs.

PSTN Switch Off

The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) has been the backbone of telecommunications for most of the 20th century. However, with advances in digital and mobile technology, communications have evolved. Many countries are now preparing to switch off PSTN in favour of newer technologies. Estonia and Sweden have already switched off their PSTN networks. In the UK, the PSTN switch off will happen on 31st December 2025. While there is currently no fixed date for the PSTN switch off in Ireland, it is expected soon after. After this, everything will shift to digital telecommunications, such as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and cloud-based platforms.

Yet, even with the PSTN switch off looming ever closer, many companies still haven’t considered what the effects will be on their businesses.


Why is the PSTN switch off happening?

The copper-based PSTN infrastructure has been the standard for decades. These analogue connections are stretched to their limits, unable to cope with modern demand and difficult to maintain.

Some digital services such as ADSL and FTTC still rely on copper cable. But the switch to IP-based systems will also offer significant advantages over these in terms of speed, efficiency, scalability and integration with new technologies, such as cloud computing, VoIP and video conferencing.

88% of businesses still rely on analogue services provided by copper cables. These include local authority offices, GP surgeries, care homes, pharmacies and retail outlets. The PSTN switch off will affect their operations if no action is taken. Retailers, for instance, could experience difficulty accepting payments through card terminals during the switching process. Broadband, alarm systems and CCTV cameras could all be affected. In the UK, 51% recognise that they could experience disruption if the PSTN switch off occurs before they migrate to VoIP alternatives.

Which is why organisations and businesses that currently depend on PSTN must begin a migration plan.


Audit your infrastructure

Identify landline-based phones, or other devices, such as ISDN, that will be affected, and what will be needed to make these systems compatible with IP-based systems. Switching to VoIP doesn’t necessarily mean buying new handsets. Compatible handsets can be converted using an adapter. There is also the option of using ‘softphones’ via laptops, tablets and PCs.

Digital voice services rely on a stable internet connection, so this might require an upgrade. Take future requirements in account when assessing your connectivity needs.


Weigh up the options

Once you understand the issues you may face and your ongoing needs, you can explore the various options available.

SIP trunking – With this option, you retain full control over your PBX (Private Branch Exchange) system. Your provider supplies connections (SIP trunks) to your existing PBX. It’s highly scalable with businesses typically paying per line, sometimes with additional licences for advanced features.

Hosted PBX – Your solution provider manages all hardware and software in the cloud, meaning there is little IT involvement for the business. Typically, hosted solutions operate on a pay-as-you-go model depending on the number of users and offer a wider range of features such as voicemail, auto attendants, call forwarding and conferencing.

Unified Communications (UC) – Platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, integrate various services including voice, video and messaging into a single solution. These are popular for enhancing collaboration and improving productivity. With Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS), phone systems can be accessed via a platform from a range of devices.

Hybrid solutions are also available, based on organisational need.


Plan ahead for the PSTN switch off

As with any tech upgrade, it’s important to put a plan in place that takes account of business continuity. A good solutions provider will be able to advise and supply what’s required to mitigate downtime and business risk.

Develop a migration plan – Meet with stakeholders to develop a timeline for a smooth transition. Consider additional needs, options, budget and training for staff.

Establish back-up options – Mobile phones and a secondary internet connection may be useful in case issues arise during the transition.

Test – Before the switch-off, conduct testing to ensure new equipment, systems and protocols are functioning as expected.

Train – Provide training to staff on systems and protocols, so they know what to expect and how to use new systems such as VoIP or UC platforms.

Communicate – Inform your customers and clients about the changes and what it means for them, especially if they rely on PSTN-based communication.

Technical support – Make sure there are systems in place to address technical issues and provide support to staff, partners and customers.


Turn the PSTN switch off into a digital transformation opportunity

The PSTN switch off will impact many organisations, but it’s also the ideal opportunity to review your communication needs and upgrade your systems, so your business can benefit from new technologies out there. Of those businesses that have already transitioned, 42% report that they increased their technical capabilities, adding new applications such as call recording and transcription.

With the right communications provider on your side, you can get the best possible solution for your needs and embrace the business advantages of new technologies.

Talk to DigitalWell for specialist advice, support and a full range of voice and connectivity solutions. Make sure your business is ready for the PSTN switch off.