UK businesses are facing a deadline to refresh their telephony services before the end of 2025. Are you switched on about the PSTN switch off and how this affects you?
Driven by Openreach as they push the move towards a full VoIP services network for the UK, the telecoms industry is a-buzz with jargon, creating mass confusion within the business consumer market. Whether you’re using copper or fibre cables to support your business, it’s easy to get tangled up in the terminology and to make the wrong decisions about what is right for you today.
As the clock continues ticking on the countdown to 2025, we wanted to present to you the main terminology out there and the potential business impacts coming to you.
What is the switch off?
Openreach, a wholly-owned subsidiary of British Telecom (BT), installs and maintains the UK’s telephone cables and exchanges (including the phone and broadband networks that run through them). The team have been tasked with shutting down the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and moving us all to a ‘full fibre’ network. Come December 2025, the entire UK PSTN network will cease to exist and all Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) products will move to ‘End of Life’ – more on that later.
But don’t let this date fool you. Many areas of the country have already moved to a Stop Sell phase, meaning that no new contracts are available for WLR products. This also means that more than 75% of premises in those areas have access to products that use the ‘full fibre’ network. It could be that your local exchange is due to be switched over soon. If you contact us here with your address, we can make some initial checks on your behalf and offer feedback on the position right now.
The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) has been in general use since the 1800s, which is why the move to All IP (internet protocol) is long overdue.
The legacy platform uses underground copper wires to provide households and businesses with a reliable means to communicate, but the hardware has seen a steady decline over the last decade. It was designed primarily for analogue telephone calls. Nowadays, the service is almost entirely digital and can facilitate basic features such as caller ID, call waiting and voice messaging.
With an astronomical amount of data being generated and transferred every second, it’s clear that the PSTN – and its low bandwidth – just can’t cope with modern requirements. Not sure what we mean by bandwidth? Imagine low bandwidth as your garden’s hose, high bandwidth as a fire truck hose, and data as the water flowing through. Should be easy to guess which one can move more water at a faster rate…
In terms of physical media, PSTN is a mix of copper wires, cables, fibre optics and wireless. It’s an important ingredient in the infrastructure of network technologies. It’s also important to note that traditional telephone networks don’t just support calls. They’re embedded into card readers and even alarm systems. But hefty installation charges and a fee per line make this legacy hardware as costly as it is outdated. As we mentioned previously, the PSTN switch-off is long overdue.
A telephone exchange is a telecommunications system that, through ‘switching’, ensures calls are made and received. A phone call will be routed through several switches which operate on local, regional, national, or even international systems.
The desk phones within your region will be connected to a local exchange via a copper or fibre optic line. Once you make a call from your office, that call moves through your local exchange, to your receiver’s local exchange, and then to the receiver’s phone in their office. Openreach, as well as other companies such as City Fibre, are currently moving through these exchanges, creating our soon-to-be fully fibre country.
All Internet Protocol (IP) could be described as the language that broadband-connected devices use to speak with each other and transmit data. When it comes to business telephony, All IP networks (or the latest mobile technology) are what businesses should be operating on.
The quality of a business call is vastly improved with the expansion of broadband services. All IP networks provide faster connections, thanks to significantly bigger bandwidth than the PSTN, as well as access to high-performance features, offering a richer experience for your customers.
There’s no getting away from the cost benefits of an All-IP solution. Traditional phone lines see companies charged for each minute of their time.
With an All-IP setup, businesses are charged a fee monthly – not by the minute. You can even transfer calls to your colleagues for free. This can work out to huge savings. On top of that, scaling of services is flexible and in the hands of the owner – meaning you pay for the data you need, rather than a flat rate.
Your teams are also offered a better work-life balance, as All IP solutions are the backbone of a solid remote or hybrid working strategy. With both business and residential premises able to benefit from the full fibre rollout, home workers can enjoy superfast connectivity, regardless of the situation. This means that they can get on with their work even with Netflix on and multiple devices scrolling through TikTok at the same time.
All IP solutions even support recruitment strategies as remote positions allow businesses to search farther afield for the right candidate. The talent pool just became an ocean.
The only downside? Once we’re all working efficiently from home, the rare yet much-loved ‘snow day’ won’t blag us all a free day off work.
Openreach is using the term ‘Stop Sell’ to describe the locations in which it will no longer be possible to buy WLR products. This includes all ISDN and analogue lines. Check out the current stop-sell locations here.
Openreach has announced its intention to move to national Stop Sell of WLR products in September 2023.
Once an exchange area is over 75% full fibre-enabled, Openreach will cease the sale of traditional phone line services, copper – including ISDN – and Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) to new and existing customers hoping to renew their contract.
End of Life
Sounds pretty final, right? Once Stop Sell is completed throughout the UK, all WLR products will move to End of Life.
By the end of December 2025, the PSTN as we know it will cease to exist. All businesses should move to an All IP solution before this date.
It’s important to reiterate that many exchanges have already entered the Stop Sell phase, so these changes could impact your business before 2025.
Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) does exactly what it states on the tin. Put simply, FTTC broadband uses a fibre optic connection that runs from your provider to your roadside cabinets. The cabinet then connects to your home or business through a copper wire.
Unfortunately, broadband speeds with FTTC can be far slower than full fibre connectivity because multiple users share just one connection. Strength is also dependent on the distance between the cabinet and your office HQ.
This technology’s use of copper wire means the service is on its way out. Once the PSTN switch-off is complete, this will also mean the End of Life for FTTC.
Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) creates connections via the internet and is the fastest type of fibre on the market.
It’s considered ‘full fibre’, offering a dedicated fibre optic cable connection from your local exchange to your business. It’s also considered an advanced fibre delivery method, replacing the outdated part-fibre, part-copper broadband connections that FTTC uses.
Great for business use, FTTP can work efficiently in several devices at once. If you’re working with a tablet, laptop or mobile, FTTP delivers speeds much faster than FTTC without slowing down your other devices. There’s also less chance the internet will cut out halfway through an important conference or file-sharing session.
As we mentioned previously, once FTTP is available to more than 75% of properties within the catchment of an exchange, the stop sell of WLR products will take effect. This makes FTTP a popular choice ahead of the PSTN switch-off.
Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SoGEA) is quite a mouthful, but it’s best described as ‘broadband without the landline’.
That’s right, wave goodbye to those pesky line rental costs. With SoGEA, you only foot the bill for your broadband connection. That also means dealing with one less provider.
Purchasing is simple as everything can be amalgamated into one order. However, you will need to make sure your telephone calls are already using a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) product like our cloud phone system to enable you to make and receive calls.
SoGEA uses the same infrastructure as FTTC so it’s cheaper than FTTP and easy to install. However, it doesn’t quite offer the speeds FTTP can boast. It’s a great option for smaller businesses or those who don’t yet have FTTP access ahead of and beyond the PSTN switch-off.
Businesses with greater connectivity demands should opt for FTTP as soon as it is available in their area.
Check when full-fibre broadband will be available in your area here.
A Private Branch Exchange (PBX) is your business’s very own personal telephone exchange. Built and managed within your HQ, the equipment can facilitate all your internal calls while routing external calls to your local exchange.
It can be an expensive strategy and there are now fewer suppliers of on-site telephone systems supplying the UK as many have already moved towards cloud VoIP as their main product offering whilst pulling out of manufacturing and supplying on-site systems. This is primarily due to installation, maintenance and subscription costs mounting up to be non-competitive with cloud VoIP telephony in today’s marketplace.
It’s not just the cost that’s driving business buyers towards All IP solutions. With an analogue or ‘traditional’ PBX setup, phones can only be used onsite. Remote working is either out of the question or very expensive for a secure solution.
Not having to rely on a landline setup makes your telephone system much more reliable. If your office needs to close due to damage or extenuating circumstances, your teams can still make and receive voice and video calls from home or on the road. All IP solutions also offer scalability as new users, numbers or services can be added at any time.
A traditional PBX system can be limiting, but software enhancements in recent years have led to the introduction of more developed solutions. A Hosted PBX or Cloud PBX (a VoIP phone system – more on VoIP below) better complements agile working, as services are hosted and therefore delivered entirely via the internet. For this reason, they can also be classed as All IP solutions.
Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) uses your existing internet connection to make calls, eliminating the need for a landline. Your phones can connect to the internet wirelessly or through an ethernet cable. Calls can be held, switched, recorded and much more.
With VoIP, calls connect directly to your broadband. This means there’s no need for a complicated on-site installation – something you would experience with a traditional PBX setup. You’ll also forego the cost of additional handsets, as employees can use the service by downloading an app straight to their phone or desktop.
VoIP offers flexibility. With an on-premises PBX, you’re relegated to your office. If you need to work from home, you’ll have to rely on your personal mobile or home landline for work calls which can come across as unprofessional. You’re also limited to the number of features you can use.
VoIP means your device will work wherever the connection is stable. Perfect in a hybrid setting.
From the ground to the Cloud
The PSTN switch-off will see many businesses finally bid farewell to the days of traditional dialling, and for good reason. All IP solutions are set to boost productivity by around £59 billion each year. There are savings to be made by making the right choice at the outset, but businesses must consider migration sooner rather than later.
Using the internet to route calls is more economical, offers improved customer experience and promotes efficiency and collaboration within your teams.
Acknowledging the PSTN switch-off and acting now will bring your communication services up to date and improve business functionality. Now that you’re armed with the terminology, it’s time you made the right call for your business. All IP solutions can be scaled and suited to your needs. Speak with one of our experts today to find out how the PSTN switch-off might impact you, and what the perfect fit for your company looks like.