Is your business ready for the BT Openreach switch-off?

The day-to-day disruption caused by the pandemic may not be a distant memory quite yet, but while some features will fade over time, remote working looks to be one that is set to stay.

Knowing that COVID-19 would leave their business vulnerable if they were still using traditional infrastructure and technologies, many companies have rushed to adopt cloud solutions that would support remote workforces during the pandemic. In fact, our own Vodafone Business UC with RingCentral has become a great example of the difference a collaborative, central solution can make to communication and productivity both in and out of the office.

Ultimately, cloud spending grew by 37% in the first quarter of 2020 alone. You could also see this level of cloud adoption as suggestive of widespread digital transformation, and a world of business no longer bound to one location by legacy tech. But what if you weren’t one of the organisations to take the plunge during the pandemic? Are the phone and internet networks you are using up to scratch?

The answer, for a significant number, is no – and the situation is no longer one that can be ignored. Findings tell us that just eight per cent of businesses in the UK are ready for the by end of January 2027 PSTN (Public Switch Phone Network) switch off. More companies must prepare – and quickly.

What is the January 2027 network switch-off?

From December 2020, businesses have ceased to be able to purchase ISDN and PSTN circuits in the UK. The Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN) is the first iteration of high-speed internet, and the Public Switch Phone Network (PSTN) is the traditional analogue telephone system that enables landline connectivity (from the 1800s, no less).

The PSTN circuits will be shut off completely by end of January 2027 as a major step towards the UK’s mass IP-network migration, with VoIP (voice over internet protocol) core networks set to replace outdated legacy technology. However, PSTN is still the foundation of communications for millions in the UK, which poses a business continuity risk as the country moves to an all-VoIP environment.

Why is this happening, and who will be affected?

The justification for this change is twofold. First, there are the cost implications. By switching to all-VoIP, national telecom providers (such as BT) only have to maintain one network, which is much cheaper for them.

Second, technology has progressed considerably over the last couple of decades. While PSTN / ISDN networks were useful at the time, IP networks are much more versatile and conducive to supporting the modern ways of working. With the impact of the pandemic on where and how we work seemingly here for good, the increased mobility associated with all-IP opens up a host of new possibilities for businesses. Rather than being ‘tied-down’ to a fixed line, anyone with any form of smart device connected to the internet can now effectively work from anywhere. As a result of this increased flexibility (and a host of additional benefits such as; cost savings, better infrastructure resilience and access to more detailed analytics) enterprise spending on cloud infrastructure has exceeded that of on-premises hardware.

It is estimated that the switch-off will impact over two million local UK businesses. While those businesses that often use fax machines or landline telephones will take the brunt of the switch, essentially any UK business still relying on legacy communication infrastructure will be impacted one way or another.

If you are one of these businesses, how can you prepare?

Any businesses relying on ISDN/PSTN lines or legacy telephone systems should review their communications infrastructure as soon as possible.

In this new remote/hybrid world of work, cloud technology and digital transformation are fundamental to modern business models, enabling better collaboration between partners, more personalised customer engagement, higher employee innovation and productivity, and highly accurate insights from real-time data.

All these things drive growth and give businesses a better chance of thriving post-pandemic.

Telecom operators are encouraging customers to consider VoIP. This is a method of data transmission that allows for voice messages and images to be sent over the internet using your current hardware. And VoIP can easily be integrated to work with your phones and fax machines. You simply turn your landline-reliant fax machines and phones into hardware with internet connectivity using an adaptor device.

Take time to understand your infrastructure, and there are several great partners out there who can help you make your migration successful. Solutions like Vodafone Business UC with RingCentral take your communication needs and combine them in one cloud-based platform.

Easy to use, easy to navigate, and easy to implement – solutions like these are fast becoming the go-to services for those looking to leave the PSTN and ISDN legacy networks.

Where should I start?

There might feel like a lot to think about, but if you break it down, the list of information you’ll need isn’t so long:

  • The number of locations

  • The amount of bandwidth you have at each site

  • The telephone numbers you own

  • Make sure to track call volumes and note any numbers you can lose in the switch over. Take this as an opportunity to start from scratch, cut back on costs and reflect better on what you’re going to need in the future

  • Put a plan in place and choose a provider

  • Remember to evaluate your infrastructure and hardware catalogue and assess what is ready for migration. Keep in mind that even though it may still be working, the infrastructure you’ve been relying on was designed 40 years ago for a completely different way of working. So, it could hinder rather than facilitate your growth

What then?

Businesses that haven’t yet done so have a real opportunity to make all their communications efficient, not just update a phone system. What you decide on will completely depend on your specific requirements, but with a plan in place and having identified an experienced partner or vendor to work with, everything should fall into place.

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