Preparing for PSTN Switch-Off: Best PSTN/ISDN Alternatives for Businesses

The age of fixed landlines is coming to an end. This means the time is now for organisations to evolve and embrace alternatives to PSTN/ISDN.


When it comes to comms, the pace of change is increasing and with a shift to remote working and study, the need to be flexible and fast is more important than ever. 

The UK’s broadband and telecommunications company BT announced that its Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) phone lines will be turned off in 2025. Given the rapid evolution in the way we communicate, now is as good a time as any to prepare for this move away from the old analogue PSTN to a fully digital network.

The decision to switch off legacy PSTN/ISDN has been made largely due to both technologies becoming outdated and unable to handle the volume, speed, and quality of data in today’s increasingly digital world. The good news is there are plenty of ways to ensure your business can thrive both before the PSTN/ISDN switch-off and afterwards. 

So, what do you need to know about PSTN/ISDN, and how can you prepare for a move away from PSTN/ISDN to better digital communications networks?


Older and Slower PSTN/ISDN


The PSTN supports a range of Openreach products which Communication Providers purchase at regulated pricing, selling to businesses and consumers, constructing their line rental, broadband and call package deal.

ISDN is available in two common variants. Firstly, ISDN2 supports channels in pairs allowing you to have 2 ISDN to 8 ISDN channels. ISDN30 is provided for larger business customers usually, with options to have between 8 ISDN channels and 30 ISDN channels per service. 

A single ISDN channel provides customers with one concurrent call at a time, which can be quite inadequate for business. Fortunately, there a number of alternatives to PSTN/ISDN that have become established in recent years.


Faster and Better PSTN/ISDN Alternatives


Alternatives to PSTN/ISDN that have become established in recent years, and will enable business operations to continue virtually uninterrupted after the switch-off include:


1. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)


One of these is Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). VoIP allows low-cost telephone calls to be made anywhere through the internet, replacing the need for a landline connection. 

When speaking into a VoIP-enabled telephone, your voice is converted into data which is transmitted over the internet. Then, on the receiving end of your call, this data is converted back into voice, enabling easy and clear communication.

Any VoIP problems can be resolved remotely and efficiently, meaning that there’s no need to shut down operations or call in an engineer. This minimizes downtime and ensures consistency in business operations. 


2. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)


Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is another protocol that will help businesses manage the transition away from ISDN. SIP is used to signal and control interactive communication sessions. Examples of session use include voice, video, chat, and instant messaging. 

The SIP protocol is used in many areas, such as providing VoIP and instant messaging capabilities, and other applications including 3G telephony. Comparied to ISDN, SIP is cheaper on a per-channel basis and provides higher flexibility in terms of the range of telephone numbers you can have, and where you can have them. It is quicker to install and offers a robust business continuity service ensuring your business never loses calls.

Ultimately, your calls can now be made and received using solely your internet connection if you have a phone system that uses internet protocol (IP), such as VoIP or SIP. All of this can also be done in the cloud by hosting your phone system remotely. 


3. Hybrid systems


Other alternative options you may want to consider for your business are Hybrid Phone systems and Hosted Phone systems. A Hybrid Phone system can utilize your existing infrastructure but gain the benefits of IP technology, while Hosted Phone system everything is cloud based and you are effectively renting the phone system for your use.


In Conclusion


Organizations must adopt end-to-end solutions to best deal with the PSTN/ISDN switch-off. Plenty of options are available that will ensure greater flexibility, higher resiliency, and improved customer and employee experience. VoIP and SIP are very much ready to fill the void in this respect. 

And with the age of fixed landlines coming to an end, and 2025 very much on the horizon, this means the time is now for businesses to evolve and embrace alternatives to PSTN/ISDN. Those that embrace this new chapter in the telecommunications industry are the ones that will thrive. 

Rod Tonna-Barthet is President & Chief Executive Officer at Kyocera Document Solutions UK. Connect with him on LinkedIn.