The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) switch off is set to bring the country’s longest-standing communication technology to an end.
It’s been long overdue, but what does it mean for your business?
Luckily, Gamma’s Product Marketing Manager Helen Owen has the answers. In our first PSTN switch Off Q&A, we sat down with Helen to find out how the switch off is set to shake up communication as we know it.
Q: Why aren’t more businesses talking about the PSTN switch off?
Helen Owen: The switch off is not widely known outside of the telecoms industry. It was news to me when I joined Gamma a year ago.
It’s likely only those living and working in Salisbury and Mildenhall – whose exchanges have already gone to Stop Sell – are aware of it. As well as those near priority exchanges that have moved to Stop Sell recently and are rapidly counting down to ‘End of Life’.
Since Openreach’s original announcement much of the activity has been happening behind the scenes. Their teams have been getting the infrastructure in place, ready for the move to an All IP future. In the meantime, attention has been drawn towards other significant events such as the global pandemic, Brexit and more recently climate change.
Q: Do you think the PSTN switch off will be discussed more widely going forward?
HO: Yes, I do think this will change as the project gathers momentum. It has to.
We have a key date at the end of 2023. From this point, WLR phone lines will no longer be available nationally for new contracts. The only option available will be an All IP solution.
It’s going to take a coordinated effort from everyone within the telecoms industry and supply chain to make sure that this happens in good time. Otherwise, we’ll end up with chaos when phone lines come to End of Life in 2025.
Q: Is the All IP rollout happening at the same time as the PSTN switch off?
HO: I’d say it’s happening in parallel rather than simultaneously. These are two separate activities with two separate timelines.
The switch off is very much controlled by BT and Openreach who own the current copper-based PSTN. A large chunk of the IP network is at the behest of Openreach, but there are other companies involved in rolling out and provisioning fibre.
The switch off can only occur if the All IP network has reached a sufficient level of coverage across the UK. This coverage will ensure businesses and consumers have access to alternative products when the time comes.
Q: Where can businesses go to find out more about the switch off?
HO: There are plenty of resources available online if you search ‘switch off’ or ‘All IP rollout’, but a lot of it is confusing and full of industry jargon.
The Gamma team have created a knowledge hub or ‘one-stop shop’ on our website, dedicated to the PSTN switch off. You can find it under our solutions page titled ‘Landline replacement | PSTN Switch Off’.
We’ve brought together information that’s relevant to businesses of any size – be it micro or multinational. There’s even a map you can search to see when your area is set to be impacted.
The aim is to help people understand what’s happening around the switch off and rollout. We detail how it will affect businesses, the communications they use today and will use tomorrow. It also includes a checklist to help readers determine what solution they should be looking at.
The page is a work in progress. We will continue to update it as project timelines move forward and more information comes in.
Q: What advice would you give to those worried about changes to their telephony infrastructures?
HO: Businesses shouldn’t be worried about the changes, but they shouldn’t put off dealing with them until the last minute. Delaying plans will mean your choices become limited. Find out when your current contract is up for renewal and use this opportunity to speak with your provider about an All IP solution.
I know 2025 seems a long way off, but the national Stop Sell of phone lines as we know them is 2023. From this point, you won’t be able to buy an existing type of phone line or copper-based broadband connection for new or renewed contracts.
It’s not that far away. Move sooner rather than later and consult our landline replacement page for advice. You can compare materials to work out which solution is a better fit.
Don’t panic. See this as an opportunity to invest in technology that can move your business forward.
Q: How can businesses determine which solution best fits their needs?
HO: Technology moves fast. Working out what solution is the right fit for your business can be a daunting task. The good news is the solutions being rolled out in the All IP push will be with us for quite some time.
IP solutions are so much more flexible compared to the technology that we use today – technology that runs on lines that have a finite capacity. With a high-capacity connection, you can scale the amount of information (data) and communication that runs through your network.
The solution you choose will grow and scale with your company while supporting changes in your working patterns, seasonality and even remote and hybrid working.
As I said previously, there’s a lot of information out there. Making an educated decision when moving to an All IP solution is a positive thing, and Gamma is always on hand to help.
Q: Why is VoIP considered to be a more flexible option?
HO: Voice over IP – or ‘voice over the internet’ – uses your broadband connection to transmit voice calls. It’s a great thing in my opinion as it manifests itself as software.
Your broadband connection allows you to use so many gigabytes or megabytes per second. With VoIP, you’re using an element of that to transmit your voice calls as well. This allows businesses to scale the bandwidth they need as the company fluctuates or grows. It’s significantly easier than putting in new phone lines and a lot less digging up of the street!
Being software, VoIP solutions can be updated in the background. PhoneLine+ is a great example of this. We regularly push out bug fixes and upgrades behind the scenes. It means our customers are always getting the latest technology.
A VoIP solution enables you to use different hardware to make your voice calls. Today I’m using my laptop, but you could use a mobile or a tablet. You get to choose when and where you communicate.
In many cases you can enhance your existing hardware to use VoIP technology, so you’re not losing any investment. It’s adaptive technology.
Q: VoIP solutions are being touted as more cost-effective than PSTN. How is this calculated?
HO: With a VoIP solution you only need access to a broadband connection to make calls. This eliminates the need for a separate phone line.
Most businesses nowadays don’t even use their phone lines. These were purely set up to provide them with internet access, yet they still pay a monthly line rental fee.
You will incur a licence fee charge for your VoIP solution, and maybe even a minute bundle, but removing the line rental element will make things significantly cheaper.
You’re also removing the cost and complexity of running two contracts at once. For some businesses, particularly those that use lower levels of data, this will also reduce running costs.
Q: Thanks, Helen. Do you have any remaining advice ahead of the All IP rollout?
HO: My advice would be to consider your options now and don’t leave it to the last minute. This technology being rolled out is truly transformative.
It’s an exciting prospect for businesses because there are so many benefits to draw from these more modern and cost-effective solutions. Once you’ve made the switch, you’ll wish you’d done it sooner.