A recent survey revealed that over 62% of businesses are still using landlines and over 44% do not fully understand that the public switch telephone network (PSTN) and integrated services digital network (ISDN) will be switched off in 2025.
The copper telephone network has been in use since 1876. In the last few decades, advancements in telecommunications have evolved exponentially – and with the introduction of the internet and the development of a connected world, the demands on networks have expanded to include higher quality, faster connections. The PSTN simply can’t support the needs of the modern telecoms system, so providers such as BT and Virgin have stopped investing in it, focusing instead on providing high-speed digital networks needed for applications today and in the future.
While most of us rely on our smartphones for making calls, accessing social media, consuming content and staying connected, a surprising number of people and organisations still rely on the traditional landline.
Many people in the UK, for various reasons, don’t have broadband or a mobile phone and can only make calls or seek help in an emergency by using their landlines – also known as POTs: plain old telephones. People’s wellbeing, health, safety and quality of life are likely to be affected when the PSTN is phased out by the end of 2025.
Proactive preparation is vital
In 2020, BT Openreach started phasing out the sale of PSTN. Among the products and services that the PSTN switch-off will affect are:
- some emergency call alarms used by the elderly
- card payment terminals
- electronic point-of-sale (EPOS) tills in shops
- some CCTV systems
- lift alarms
- some traffic lights
- fax machines
Yet approximately 2.4 million businesses in the UK still use PSTN or ISDN networks and about 33% of large organisations at least partly rely on them, which brings considerable impact both operationally and societally. Businesses and local authorities must consider the true impact on those who will struggle with this change – while also recognising the many opportunities it presents to modernise and upgrade their communications systems.
Future-proofing your network
Many organisations are unaware of this opportunity or are not looking in future-proofing terms, and are instead investing in/maintaining the status quo. Quite recently, one local authority spent almost £400,000 having 1,000 analogue lines adapted to continue delivering existing services.
Instead of this short-termism, such investment of time, money and effort could be put towards modernising the service – improving voice solutions and networks. Despite its higher initial cost, the new digital solution will save organisations and individuals money in the longer-term, as it will be easier to maintain, guarantee less downtime, and require a smaller amount of networking equipment.
Keeping communities connected
Kent County Council has launched the Kent Community Foundation Digital Inclusion Fund to extend connectivity to support disadvantaged and vulnerable citizens. Several councils are considering how to tackle digital poverty by rolling out wi-fi as a utility, providing connectivity to communities and individuals who cannot afford to be online and supplying them with internet-enabled devices. Others are exploring the possibility of redirecting fibre connections closer to areas with greater population density, and thereby providing broadband to the local community for a reasonable fee, if not free.
For domestic users, the necessary changes will improve the quality of service they receive and the range of features they can access. Their value could be even greater for people who are more vulnerable, who might otherwise become more alone and isolated without a landline. A digital connection means personal alarms will always be on, giving instant connectivity to emergency services, video links to a GP, reducing the risk of infections and many other possibilities.
Working smarter and faster
For businesses and government organisations, there will be other advantages:
- Reduces costs – the need for a separate voice network is eliminated, along with the need to purchase and maintain expensive private branch exchange (PBX) equipment.
- Improves scalability – it’s easier to flex the capacity of voice lines needed at different times due to seasonal fluctuations.
- Increases flexibility – voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services offer many more features and greater flexibility than PSTN services which can directly improve productivity.
- Supports hybrid working – users’ telephone numbers can be redirected to any device, enabling them to seamlessly work from home.
We must ensure that this transition is pain-free and inexpensive for citizens, especially those who may be vulnerable and whose landline is also their lifeline. By implementing the right solution, organisations can take advantage of the numerous benefits offered by the opportunity, while improving their productivity and cost-savings in the long-term, rather than simply spending to maintain the status quo.
Find out how we can help you make a seamless switch: