You may have heard of the ISDN switch off, and then again you may not.

According to recent research, nearly half (46%) of UK SMEs have no idea that their existing analogue phone and ISDN services will be switched off in 2025.

Even when they have heard of it, small businesses remain largely unprepared. The same survey found that a majority (77%) haven’t done anything to prepare themselves for the disruption the ISDN switch off may cause.

In other words, there’s a dearth of knowledge around what the ISDN switch off is, and what it means for smaller businesses. In the rest of this blog, we’ll aim to answer the most pressing questions about what promises to be the biggest shake up to telecommunications in the UK for over 30 years.

First things first, what’s it all about?

In 2025, Openreach will switch off the ISDN network for good.

Openreach has been talking about making this change for years, and now the countdown has well and truly begun.

It has already stopped selling new ISDN lines in a couple of trial areas, and over 200 exchanges across the country will be in this “stop sell” phase from January 2022.

In 2023, Openreach will stop selling new ISDN lines everywhere. That also means you won’t be able to make any changes to the ISDN services you already have. Your communications will effectively be in a state of stasis.

Looking to switch to VoIP ahead of the ISDN switch off?
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But my landline works just fine – why fix what ain’t broken?

ISDN is essentially the old copper telephone network, which was upgraded in the late 1980s to handle basic digital traffic as well as voice calls.

ISDN and traditional voice services (PSTN) have served us well for years, but they’re starting to creak. They can’t handle the demands modern businesses put on their communications services, and as they age, they’re also becoming more prone to outages.

BT has taken the decision that it just isn’t worth the money or manpower to keep the old copper phone network going.

A few years ago, it wouldn’t have been able to make that decision. ISDN was the only game in town. Even when the first Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services appeared (think early Skype), they were unreliable and prone to freeze or drop out.

As you probably know, that’s no longer the case. Internet-based voice services are now perfectly capable of handling all your telephony and communications needs.

What exactly is VoIP?

To put it simply, VoIP roots your voice traffic over the internet. That means you no longer need a separate phone line. Your internet connection works for all your data: voice, video, email, web browsing and so on. It all goes through the same pipe.

That’s possible because connectivity has progressed rapidly in the last couple of decades. ADSL (copper) broadband morphed into faster, more reliable ADSL2.

More recently, most businesses (and homes) have switched to fibre internet, usually in the form of Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC). FTTC uses fibre optic lines to take data from the internet to your local street cabinet, switching to copper for the final bit of the journey to your premises.

And now there’s Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) too, also known as full fibre. FTTP uses fibre for the entire journey, making it lightning quick. Various flavours of uncontended leased line are available as well.

What all this means is that internet speeds have rocketed. The best FTTC speeds are around four times quicker than the best ADSL2 speeds. FTTP is so fast that most small businesses probably don’t have use for it just yet.

For VoIP, the evolution of broadband has created the right conditions at the right time. VoIP calls are now clear, cost-effective and reliable.

What benefits does VoIP bring to my business?

First and foremost, VoIP tends to be cheaper than landline telephony. You pay for the service rather than the calls, usually on a per-user basis, giving you a predictable monthly bill that doesn’t change, regardless of the number of calls you make in a month.

Early VoIP services were peer-to-peer, meaning they created a connection between two (or more) individual computers. Today, most are hosted in the cloud. That creates lots of benefits for business. Here are a few:

  • VoIP is available anywhere. You just need an internet connection. As long as you have that, you can have exactly the same telephony service at home as you have in the office. And you can access it from a handset, smartphone or laptop.
  • VoIP is supremely scalable. Add and remove users in a couple of clicks. It’s that easy.
  • VoIP is hassle free. It basically takes a load of hardware off your hands (an on-site PBX, for example) and gives you some software instead. You manage it via an app or portal. It’s up to your provider to keep the hardware in good shape.
  • VoIP can be more than calls. Unified Communications (UC) bundles VoIP voice services with video, chat, instant messaging, conferencing and collaboration tools to meet all your communications needs in one convenient package.

We could go on, but it’s fair to say that VoIP solves a number of modern business challenges in a way ISDN can’t match. It offers easy scalability and multichannel communications. It equips remote or semi-remote (hybrid) workers. It offers an OpEx pricing model that means you don’t have to fund any major upfront investment.

Are there any challenges with VoIP? Well, you need to make sure you have suitable connectivity. While VoIP isn’t particularly data hungry on its own, services like video conferencing do require decent bandwidth.

Do I need to act now?

Do I need to act now?

That will depend on your individual circumstances. If you’ve recently invested in a new on-premise PBX that uses the ISDN network, you probably want to maximise ROI before switching to VoIP.

If not, it’s well worth considering. Many small businesses are switching to cloud-based VoIP well ahead of the ISDN switch off so they can start getting the benefits sooner.

They may have seasonal peaks in activity that require easy scalability. They may have decided to implement permanent hybrid working and equip a nomadic workforce. They may simply have calculated that VoIP can save them money.

Whether you want to switch right now or not, it’s certainly true that you need to be aware of the 2025 deadline and be ready to act well in advance of it. If you leave it too late, you may be forced onto a VoIP service that you haven’t chosen, and that isn’t the best fit for your needs.

So, start your research now, and let NSL be your guide. We’re experts in making technology easy to understand and easy to adopt.

We’ll give you all the details you need in a way that’s tailored to your business’ particular challenges and opportunities. We’ll take the time to answer your questions and showcase the services we think will best fit your requirements.

Every business will have to adopt VoIP sooner rather than later. NSL can make the process painless and bring significant benefits at the same time.

For more information on our VoIP and UC services, please get in touch.