BT has announced it will begin phasing out ISDN lines in 2020 and will switch them off within five years. 2025 may feel a long way away right now, but it’s never too early to start preparing for the upcoming switch off. Here’s everything you need to know, including how to work out if you have an ISDN line, and how to future proof your business so that you don’t get left behind.

What are ISDN lines?

Do you remember the sound of dial up internet? Well, the Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN) is effectively the service that introduced faster internet, replacing dial-up during the 1990s. It provides transmission of voice and data services, although it is primarily used for voice. It consists of physical lines connected via telephone exchanges around the world, and transmits across the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).

Why are they being phased out?

The short answer is that they are old, outdated technologies. BT introduced ISDN lines over 30 years ago, and the network (PSTN) it transmits across has been in use since the 1800s. More recently, connectivity has advanced greatly, particularly with the roll-out of fibre internet providing a much more viable alternative. In London, BT Openreach haven’t installed any new ISDN lines since 2014, so the switch off is already well underway.

How to tell if you have an ISDN line?

You might not know! Most businesses have no idea what kind of line they have, as long as it works then there is no need to think any more about it, but with the big switch off fast approaching how do you find out? The chances are if you can make and receive multiple calls at the same time you probably have an ISDN line. It should be stated on your bills and if not your provider will be able to tell you.

How will the switch off affect businesses?

By 2025 ISDN lines will be obsolete and according to Growth Business, 42% of SMEs still use ISDN lines. That means that around 2.4 million UK businesses aren’t ready for the switch off and still currently rely on ISDN lines for their telecommunications.

Alternative technology

The recent investment in the UK communications network means that fibre connections are much more widely available and affordable to small businesses, so internet-based telecommunications like VoIP (Voice over IP) are a great alternative. This cloud-based system means you are no longer restricted by traditional phone lines, and offers advanced call features as well as being extremely flexible, scalable, mobile and cost-saving. Here are just a few of the features of implementing cloud hosted phones:

  • Scalable – pay as you grow
  • Mobile – Connect from anywhere with a data connection
  • Lower Cost – Installation and call costs are considerably cheaper than traditional systems
  • Secure – Call encryption
  • Retain your existing phone numbers
  • Phone numbers not restricted by geographical location

To find out more about VoIP technology take a look at our recent blog post on the 5 reasons to upgrade your business phones.

Are there requirements to switch?

The main thing is to have a reliable and strong internet connection, like fibre. So if you haven’t already, then you might want to think about upgrading. We can help you with this, just get in touch. Other than that, it’s really just down to your individual business needs and preferences.
VoIP settings can be quickly and easily changed at any time during or after setup, but you might want to start thinking about which of the following features would be useful to your business:

  • Conference calls
  • Caller ID
  • Call forwarding
  • Interactive Voice Response (e.g. a welcome message and dial in options)
  • Voicemail and Voicemail-to-email
  • Call recording
  • Contact directories
  • Custom ringtons (e.g. for all or individuals, or for external or internal calls)

Existing Businesses: How to future-proof your business

If you’re among the 2 million businesses that still have an ISDN connection, you should start thinking about switching to a cloud-based system sooner rather than later. Here are some top tips to consider:

  1. Find out when your contract is due to end or be renewed – This will give you an idea of when you can make the switch and will give you your own deadline for research.
  2. Don’t be tempted to automatically renew your existing contracts for the sake of an easy life in the short term.
  3. Switch to cloud telephony services as soon as you are released from your current contracts – This will save you a great deal of money and time in the long run.
  4. Begin growing new users and clients onto cloud system – Even if you haven’t fully migrated onto the cloud as a business yet, it is better to set up new users on this system rather than waste time and money adding them to the legacy system, only for this to be scrapped in the near future.

New Businesses: How to future-proof your start-up

If you’re in the process of setting up a brand new business, make sure you take the following points into account to prevent setting up an already outdated company:

  1. Pay attention to where you’re setting up – If you’re moving into shiny new offices, make sure you do it in an area with strong internet connectivity. To ensure a reliable cloud telephony service, you need access to a reliable Wi-Fi network and 4G (soon to be 5G). If you’re in a poorly serviced or remote area you will fall at the first hurdle.
  2. Don’t buy outdated hardware – With the ISDN switch-off on the horizon, there’s no point investing in outdated hardware like traditional desk phones and phone lines. All of this will be obsolete in the very near future, so you’ll just be wasting your money.
  3. Set up with cloud telephony – The future of voice communications rests in the cloud, so start your business with a cloud-based telephony service to ensure you won’t be left behind. This will allow you to work from anywhere, grow and integrate your team seamlessly, save an enormous amount of money on lines and contracts and maintain high levels of productivity at all times.

Take action now before the 2025 switch off. Whether you’re an established business or a budding entrepreneur, moving your business communications to the cloud is the most flexible, cost-saving and scalable solution. Give Sensible a call on 03333 583 689 if you would like some help or advice from our expert team about the best solution for your business.