The PSTN/ISDN switch-off

by Mark Rowe

Rod Tonna-Barthet, President & Chief Executive Officer at Kyocera Document Solutions UK, pictured, goes through the PSTN/ISDN switch-off: and what businesses need to know.

When it comes to comms, the pace of change is increasing and with a shift to remote working and study, the need to be flexible and fast is more important than ever. In 2015, BT announced that its PSTN/ISDN lines will be turned off in 2025. Given the rapid evolution in the way we communicate, now is as good a time as any to be prepared for this.

The decision to switch off has been made largely due to both technologies becoming outdated and unable to handle the volume, speed and quality of data in today’s increasingly digital world. But what do you need to know, and how can one prepare? The good news is there are plenty of ways to ensure your business can thrive both before the PSTN/ISDN switch-off and afterwards.

The PSTN supports a range of Openreach products which Communication Providers purchase at regulated pricing, selling to businesses and consumers, constructing their line rental, broadband and call package deal. ISDN is available in two common variants. Firstly, ISDN2 supports channels in pairs allowing you to have two ISDN to eight ISDN channels. ISDN30 is provided for larger business customers usually, with options to have between 8 ISDN channels and 30 ISDN channels per service. A single ISDN channel provides customers with one concurrent call at a time.

Voice Over Internet Protocol

Fortunately, there a number of alternatives to PSTN/ISDN that have become established in recent years, and will enable business operations to continue virtually uninterrupted after the switch-off. One of these is Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

VoIP allows low-cost telephone calls to be made anywhere through the internet, replacing the need for a landline connection. When speaking into a VoIP-enabled telephone, your voice is converted into data which is transmitted over the internet. Then, on the receiving end of your call, this data is converted back into voice, enabling easy and clear communication.

Any VoIP problems can be resolved remotely and efficiently, meaning that there’s no need to shut down operations or call in an engineer. This minimises downtime and ensures consistency in business operations.

Session Initiation Protocol

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is another protocol that will help businesses manage the transition away from ISDN. SIP is used to signal and control interactive communication sessions. Examples of session use include voice, video, chat, and instant messaging. The SIP protocol is used in many areas, such as providing VoIP and instant messaging capabilities, and other applications including 3G telephony.

In comparison to ISDN, SIP is cheaper on a per-channel basis and provides higher flexibility in terms of the range of telephone numbers you can have, and where you can have them. It is quicker to install and offers a robust business continuity service ensuring your business never loses calls.

Ultimately, your calls can now be made and received using solely your internet connection if you have a phone system that uses internet protocol (IP), such as VoIP or SIP. All of this can also be done in the cloud by hosting your phone system remotely.

End-to-end capabilities

Organisations must adopt end-to-end solutions to best deal with the PSTN/ISDN switch-off. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available that will ensure greater flexibility, higher resiliency and improved customer and employee experience. VoIP and SIP are very much ready to fill the void in this respect. The age of fixed landlines is coming to an end, and 2025 is very much on the horizon. This means the time is now for organisations to evolve and embrace alternatives to PSTN/ISDN. Those that embrace this new chapter in the telecommunications industry are the ones that will thrive.

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