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Making the Switch: Navigating the move from ISDN and PSTN, By Simon Horton, Vice President International Sales at Sangoma

With many forced to shut their doors for two years, alongside making up for lost business amid a cost-of-living crisis, small businesses are under more pressure than ever. And now, they are facing a new threat, as the UK prepares for the ISDN and PSTN switch off in 2025, a service that has remained unchanged since 1986. National Business Communications has reported that while consumer landlines continue to decline, nearly 70% of UK businesses are still using landlines within their company. The scale of businesses that this will affect is huge.

The planned switch off of ISDN and PSTN services, announced by BT, has been decided due to these outdated technologies no longer being able to deliver the volume of quality of voice data needed in an increasingly digital world. The announcement has left businesses scrambling to ensure they upgrade their connection services ahead of the 2025 deadline. For many small, local businesses, this not only requires upgrading their entire phone system but installing an internet connection for the first time.

This move signifies to businesses a shift towards improved communication technologies, but companies must be prepared ahead of the switch, or risk their communications being cut off entirely from customers or prospects.

As more people turn to remote working and hybrid solutions, technology must evolve to cope with the change. Businesses must recognise that BT’s decision to move its voice network to VoIP technology offers new opportunities and a liberation from fixed office/ shop infrastructure that limits customer communications.

As the deadline looms closer, companies must be aware of their options and make sure the switch does not impact their customers or their customer service. Switching now could be the first step towards a business-wide digital transformation that is needed to keep up with not only local, but national competition.

Finding a new communications system

With the time slowly running out to organise new business communications before the ISDN switch off, SMEs need to prepare and find a new connection before time runs out. Those who put off planning for the switch, risk being left behind and being cut off.

With the absence of ISDN and PTSN communication systems, SMEs and larger businesses can move to full Voice over IP (VoIP) and Unified Communication (UC) services. The benefits of UC platforms, allows companies to implement a variety of communication devices and software, not just voice calls but also instant messaging, content sharing, and video conferencing regardless of physical location. The flexibility of UC systems provides businesses with a single, streamlined interface aimed at helping improve user experience and productivity.

With plenty of options available for businesses, it is down to IT managers, and business owners when it comes to smaller companies, to review their communications and internet access and evaluate what is the best option for their business, either a VoIP or UC solution.

The continued move to more digital communication offerings allows companies increased flexibility to manage communications from both home and the office as well as provide digital opportunities for new growth. The opportunities for digital communications are endless, but the time to act is now.

Mitigating disruption during the switch

Whilst time is of the essence, businesses must also ensure a smooth transition from older communication systems to a newer more digital solution. But this cannot be rushed, and must be fully integrated within the existing infrastructure, in order to prevent any disruption for customers during the switch.

Both UC and VoIP solutions, allow both larger companies and SMEs to create a communications package unique to their own business. And those businesses who are looking to completely overhaul their previous communications systems can also opt for a newer unified communications package, allowing them to migrate to a digital solution at their own pace, ensuring they fully integrate the new system with the old.

Starting the process slowly and at a manageable pace will allow businesses to control their communications switch internally, and ensure customers are not impacted by the ISDN switch off.

The future of business communications

Over the past decade, business technologies have developed at an exponential rate and as companies look to digitally transform their internal operations, they must also look to innovate their communication systems alongside this.

As the move away from ISDN and PSTN gathers pace on the run-up to the switch-off, this presents businesses with a range of possibilities and advantages, including securing reliable communications systems, implementing cloud-based maintenance, and increasing collaborative working.

ISDN and PSTN brought a wave of high speed and data transfer, but it is time to innovate and move to VoIP and UC solutions to stay ahead of the competition. Companies must take charge of the future of their communication systems and begin preparing for the switch-off before it’s too late.

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