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Tech Check

How will BT’s decision to switch off ISDN lines in 2025 impact on your business?

In 2016 BT announced that from 2020 people and businesses would no longer be able to purchase ISDN lines as they would be switched off in 2025.

The reason for switching off ISDN lines is nothing more sinister than an acknowledgement that telecommunication technology has changed (and continues to change) far in excess of anyone’s expectations.  As a result, BT has decided that moving to IP (Internet over Protocol) is in the best interests of its business customers.

The switch off will have the biggest effect on smaller businesses as they haven’t been able to make the same investment in the more advanced communication platforms that larger companies have made during the last decade.  Estimates suggest this group could include up to 2.4 million companies, more than 42% of the UK’s SMEs.

Admittedly, the outlook is now a little different as the deadline edges closer.

ISDN lines will be available up until September 2023 before those still using them are forced into staggered migration that will run from April and December 2025.  However, that doesn’t diminish the need for everyone still using ISDN lines to carefully consider what they need to do to make sure the ISDN switch off doesn’t impact on their ability to stay in contact with customers and, more crucially, to continue to do business uninterrupted.

As you can imagine as business telephony specialists ‘what happens if I have ISDN?’, ‘how will my business be affected if I don’t act?’ and ‘what are my alternatives after the BT 2025 switch off?’ are questions we are being asked every day.  We thought it would be worthwhile to answer these questions in our blog.

What happens if you still use ISDN lines?

ISDN will be around for a while longer, but it is old tech and once the switch off happens, it will be obsolete tech.  This is why we always tell our clients that if your contract is close to ending, you should really start looking for the best alternative as quickly as possible.

How will your business be affected if you don’t start thinking about life after the 2025 switch off?

Although the switch-off won’t happen until 2025, any business still using ISDN will start to feel the effects long before then as the level and quality of service provided by the existing networks begins to suffer through a lack of investment and attention.

In real terms these effects will include increasingly poor call quality, an increasingly less reliable service, an inability to add lines or amend your service as you need to and less opportunities to find the most cost-effective telephony service.

However, the real impact will naturally hit hardest on the day of the switch off.

Although the severity of the impact will depend on how much you use ISDN technology and the type of hardware you use, any methods of communication (and today that primarily means voice calls and faxing) that use landlines will stop immediately.

If you consider just how much you (and your customers) rely on these methods of communication, you will immediately recognise that you need to start the process of moving to an alternative as quickly as possible.

What are your alternatives following BT’s 2025 switch off?

There are two main alternatives, SIP and hosted VOIP.

SIP uses virtual phone lines instead of physical lines in the way ISDN does.  For us it is the best alternative if your phone system operates from your premises because you can add and remove lines quickly and easily when you need to and maintain some control over the quality and cost of your calls.

From a more practical perspective is may also make the switch easier as most existing systems are fully compatible with SIP.

Hosted VoIP (or Voice over Internet Protocol) systems use internet lines rather than phone lines.  This means you are effectively renting part of an external infrastructure to support your phone system but that does come with benefits.

It means upgrades in functionality and maintenance charges will be included in your package and that adding new lines as you grow can be done immediately and cost effectively.  This makes it a good choice for businesses who don’t want to maintain their own phone system within their premises and for businesses who are likely to continue operating remotely on some level.

While the switch to VoIP is easy in theory there are two practical questions for you to answer:

  1. Is your current internet connection fast enough to support the required audio quality and system reliability?
  2. Is your phone system definitely VoIP compatible?

There is actually a third option, a hybrid telephone system.

Hybrid systems combine some of the benefits of a hosted system and a VoIP system (direct dialling, voicemail, conference calls ling and IVR or Interactive Voice Response functionality) while allowing you to keep control of and continue to make use of your current hardware.

If you have a lot of remote or branch offices a hybrid telephone system solution could be well worth exploring.

Whichever of these alternatives suits your business and the way you want to work best, our advice us always to make a definite decision and make the switch sooner than later.

While the prospect of changing telephone systems probably isn’t an appealing one, it will save you a great deal of extra, last-minute work not to mention the potential for losing crucial business days as we get closer to the BT 2025 switch off and the demand for (and cost of) finding a quick fix starts to rise.