In the third part of our interview series, we’re joined by Gamma’s Head of Product Management – Revenue Products, Sara Sheikh.
While the march to switch off Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) services gathers pace, Sara has been involved in developing Simple Swap, Gamma’s unique all-in-one service to replace legacy services with all-IP solutions.
Read on to find out everything you need to know to make this transition.
Q: How is the industry handling the PSTN switch-off?
Sara Sheikh: It’s safe to say there’s a lot of confusion in the industry, primarily due to a lack of clear, consistent messaging around the switch off. A lot of people are on the back foot.
Rather than being proactive and seeing this as an opportunity, they feel it’s something they have to do.
Q: What do businesses need to do now?
SS: Businesses should make sure they are fully informed on what is about to happen and when. There are two types of notification people need to be aware of: ‘End of Sale’ and ‘End of Life’.
When an End of Sale notification is announced for an exchange, businesses won’t be able to purchase new legacy lines or add new features to existing ones. For those who need to renew a contract, this will need to include all-IP services, be it SoGEA or FTTP.
When End of Life is announced for an exchange, all legacy solutions will stop functioning as the network is phased out. This is when all those legacy services need to be migrated to all-IP-ready products.
Q: Who is involved in the switch off and what are they doing?
SS: Openreach has decided to withdraw their Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) product because the PSTN network that provides this service is now being phased out. The network has been serving the country since the late 1800s – retirement is well overdue!
Any services provided on the network will also come to ‘End of Life’ – these include ISDN and ADSL. The switch off will impact any users of those services, including those who have a direct relationship with Openreach.
Q: How is the government involved?
SS: Futureproof, resilient, scalable, and affordable connectivity will be a determining factor in the UK’s economic success going forward, which is why the government has played a part in this switch off.
The government’s focus is to ensure that high bandwidth, full-fibre connectivity is available to as many locations as possible. They’re working to ensure that there’s enough competition within the industry and that we’re investing in those hard-to-reach locations.
Q: What are the major problems/successes to date?
SS: The major problem we’ve encountered is a lack of communication. Most people don’t even know this is happening!
This means providers like Gamma are trying to fill the gap by educating the business market on the change to come. We’re also addressing business market requirements by introducing new services and products that can facilitate a smooth migration.
To address the lack of communication, Gamma has created a landline replacement webpage, which has all the information people need to know about the switch off.
We’ve also announced the release of a new service, Simple Swap, to facilitate the migration. This service has had full industry involvement and is being created with the business market in mind. Simple Swap is uniquely designed to bring together Gamma’s Connectivity portfolio, number porting service and our recently launched single-line replacement solution, PhoneLine+.
Q: Will the December 2025 deadline be met?
SS: This is an interesting question as there are a lot of differing opinions. If not 2025, it will be shortly after. It’s inevitable.
Businesses need to see this change as a fantastic opportunity, not something they’re being forced to do. If you’re not on top of this and making the most out of it, someone else will be. Businesses must embrace this quickly to stay competitive.
Q: How is Gamma supporting the transition for businesses?
SS: Gamma is trying to make sure that everyone involved in this transition, from partners to customers, is aware of what’s going to happen, what the consequences will be and what challenges they might expect.
We’re also thinking about the full solution, not trying to sell individual products. We’re taking into account everything a business will need to consume as part of its transition.
In this light, we’ve created a proposition that will allow businesses to migrate legacy products to all IP solutions with one click, considering those all-important elements such as voice and porting. Gamma is in a unique position to consider the full solution for our customers.
Q: What are the main technologies available to businesses now and what do they enable businesses to do?
SS: The main technologies available now are Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) and Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SoGEA). Both classify as all-IP-ready products and do not require the PSTN network.
While SoGEA is a transition product that’s available in any location with Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), FTTP should be the preferred product to make the most of this transition. Scalable all the way up to one gigabyte, it’s fibre through and through.
FTTP also offers scalability with all the advantages of fibre connectivity. As the footprint grows, we expect demand to grow with it. The expectation is that, by 2025, we’ll have 80% coverage.
Q: What are the benefits of voice over IP products from a contingency/continuity standpoint?
SS: Voice over IP solutions use a company’s existing internet connection to transmit voice calls. This removes the need for legacy copper lines to make calls and instead relies on all-IP services.
In terms of continuity, the pandemic proved to be a good testing ground for VoIP services.
Those who already had a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) based solution in place didn’t skip a beat. They transitioned seamlessly when each lockdown hit, allowing them to carry on working as before.
Post-pandemic, we know that most organisations are adopting hybrid working. I wouldn’t think about this from a contingency point of view, but really about how we do business going forward.
What If something of the same scale happens again? Most businesses now recognise hybrid working as probably the best environment for both employees and organisations.
VoIP isn’t just part of a contingency or continuity plan, I think it’s going to be the only solution going forward.