The ISDN telephone switch-off: Why you need to take action now
Introduction: The need to upgrade your phone lines
Telecoms is a vital part of any business. But if you’ve been stuck using the same legacy phone lines for your voice calls or other key office technology functions for many years, the chances are you won’t be making the most of what the latest technology can offer.
However, there is an even more compelling reason for firms to upgrade their telephony solutions sooner rather than later. That’s because there is a major change coming in the communications market in the coming years – the switch-off of ISDN and analogue phone networks.
ISDN, which stands for Integrated Services Digital Network, is a set of standards for voice and data communications, which allows a single telephone line to carry not only voice calls, but also video and data. For many firms, this is likely to be the backbone of their phone network, with many phone lines reliant on this technology
The switch-off is set to take place in 2025, so if you’re still using ISDN or other legacy tools, the clock is ticking. It might seem like this is still a long way away, but you have less time than you may realise to evaluate your options and secure the technology you need for the future.
However, awareness of the coming change is still low and many firms, particularly smaller businesses, may find themselves confused by what will be required of them and what options are available. So what do you need to know about the switch-off and the impact it will have on how your firm communicates?
The coming ISDN switch-off
The decision to switch off older telephone systems comes from network operator Openreach, which is aiming to migrate people away from older, less reliable communication technologies and on to digital services such as VoIP. This means many technologies that businesses have relied on for many years will no longer be available.
What’s changing and why?
The system that is being retired is the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), which is a series of copper telephone lines, fibre optic cables, microwave transmission links, satellites, undersea telephone cables and mobile networks that allow for calls to be made using analogue voice data. Currently, the plan is for this network to be withdrawn at the end of December 2025, with affected products no longer being sold after 2023 in preparation for this.
There are a number of issues with this network, with Openreach noting that in addition to ageing, unreliable technology, the system is becoming difficult to maintain, as many of the necessary spare parts are no longer being manufactured. What’s more, the firm explained that “many of the people who designed, built and operated the system are retired or close to retirement so skills are increasingly scarce”.
PSTN supports a number of Openreach products that are collectively known as Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) products, which is why you may hear the switch-off referred to as the WLR withdrawal. These products include the likes of WLR3 analogue, ISDN 2 and ISDN 30, which are likely to be the backbone of many firms’ voice communications systems.
Tools like on-site PBX will be among the most commonly-affected solutions for many businesses. However, voice calls are not the only systems set to be affected by the move. Many small and medium-sized firms will use these phone systems for other uses, including card machines and alarm lines, so firms will have to take these elements into account when considering a migration.
Moving to a more capable future
The move to a fully digital communications network in the UK may be seen as long overdue. Indeed, many of our European neighbours are already much further down the road to a digital future, with France scheduled to complete its migration by the end of 2020, and Germany already having switched off analogue networks at the end of 2018.
A digital-first environment should not only be more reliable than existing copper-based lines, but will create a range of new opportunities for businesses to access more advanced features and support more specialist services. For businesses, it should encourage them to look at technologies such as cloud telephony and SIP services. In addition to this, many firms will need to consider their data solutions if these currently run over traditional broadband or FTTC via an analogue line.
A SIP solution will replace an ISDN connection and connect firms to communications networks over the internet. This can bring a range of benefits to businesses, including lower costs, improved flexibility and greater freedom when it comes to your phone lines, including virtualised numbers, automatic redirection and much greater resiliency.
What the migration means for your business
The switching off of ISDN and other outdated communications products will mean…
Download the White Paper to see more.