UK’s PSTN Switch off: All of Your Questions Answered

14 March 2022, 04:18 GMT
By Lucy Kaplan

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If you would like some support changing over to VoIP telephony or fibre broadband, talk to one of our specialists who can provide you with expert advice.

What is the PSTN Switch Off?

In 2017, Openreach announced that they are turning off the old analogue PSTN in 2025. The PSTN supports several products including ISDN lines which many businesses have, these could be ISDN2 or ISDN30 lines depending on the size of your business, and WLR (Wholesale Line Rental).

The important thing to understand is that it won’t just affect voice services, but also broadband services will need to be upgrading. Plus anything that connects to the PSTN such as alarms, EPOS and CCTV will also need upgrading.

What does PSTN stand for?

PSTN stands for the Public Switched Telephone Network. This was originally made up of the traditional copper wire telephone system which was designed for analogue voice communication.

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) was then introduced within the PSTN in the late 1980s, a digital version of the analogue phone line which allows the transfer of voice and data over PSTN copper lines.

When will my landline be switched off?

Your PSTN line, or landline, will be switched off at the end of December 2025, along with all other fixed lines, which includes broadband, will no longer be available. 

Will Openreach meet this deadline?

Openreach are confident that they will meet the deadline of withdrawing all products reliant on the PSTN by 2025. If businesses or consumers have not managed to switch over to a different telephony solution by then, they will be left without service.

Why is Openreach withdrawing the PSTN and ISDN network?

As PSTN has formed the infrastructure for our telecommunications system in the UK since 1876 when the first ever telephone call was made, unsurprisingly it has become antiquated and costly to maintain. ISDN has also become outdated now, having been overtaken by newer technologies such as fibre broadband. Openreach are switching off the PSTN and ISDN network to pave the way for a fully digital network which can meet the demands of the new digital era.

How do Digital Voice Services Work?

Digital Voice Services or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) are calls which are made over the internet rather than via wires, as they are with PSTN. The speakers’ voices are converted into a series of digital packets which are transmitted across the internet.

Why is Digital Voice better than traditional phone services?

VoIP offers higher quality calls, more features and more flexibility than traditional telephony. Switching over to IP telephony enables businesses to benefit from the numerous advantages of integrated communications, including messaging, rich presence and video communication.

Can Digital Voice work during a power cut?

Your VoIP hub must have power for you to be able to make calls using a Digital Voice service. However, you can forward calls from your desk phone to your mobile so can use your VoIP system this way if there is a power cut.

How will Openreach begin withdrawing PSTN services?

Openreach will be switching off services at each telephone exchange in turn. The first stage is to announce a “stop sell” date for each exchange. After this date no new affected services can be ordered and changes to existing services, no matter how minor, cannot be made.

There are already over 200 exchanges that will be in the Stop Sell phase by January 2022. Two years after the stop sell date all services cease at that exchange.

What lines and services, such as alarms and payment terminals, will be impacted by the closure in 2025?

All technology that uses the old phone network system will be impacted, that is, all non-voice services connected to PSTN or ISDN lines. This includes devices such as alarms, EPOS machines, door entry systems, CCTV, and faxes.

What legacy devices and systems will stop working from 2025?

The Public Switch Telephone Network currently supports WLR, ISDN2 and ISDN30, Local Loop Unbundling Shared Metallic Path Facilities (LLUSMPF), Narrowband Line Share and Classic Products so these will no longer be operational. Products such as Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Lines (ADSL) Broadband and Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) Broadband will also be affected as the underlying WLR telephone service which supports the broadband is being withdrawn.

Will Telecoms devices still work after PSTN?

Telecoms devices will still work but there will be no service to them.

Who will be impacted by the PSTN Switch Off?

Everyone will be affected by the switch-off, both at home and in terms of their business, as it involves the termination of the old phone network and all non-voice services connected to PSTN or ISDN lines.

Will Openreach provide replacement products for the PSTN Switch Off?

Several replacement products for the PSTN will be available, depending on the needs and the location of the user.

What is the FTTP Priority Exchange Rollout?

The FTTP Priority Exchange Rollout allows Openreach to transition to alternative products earlier. WhenFTTP gets to 75% availability within a certain area, Openreach can designate that exchange as a Priority Exchange. At that point, a 12-month notice is given to stop the sale of copper-based products at premises where FTTP is available. If you want a new service or you want to switch suppliers, you will only be able to buy FTTP irrespective of whether you would prefer another service.

Openreach has been rolling out the FTTP Priority Exchange program in tranches, with a new tranche being announced every three months. Currently, there are four tranches, totalling 220 exchanges, which have been designated Priority. The first stop sell of copper-based products happens for 13 of those Priority exchanges in June 2021, with further stop sells in October, January, and April.

What alternative products have Openreach introduced?

Openreach have introduced various broadband products which will replace the traditional broadband based on the PSTN service and are referred to as Single Order Broadband:

  • FTTP
  • SOGFAST
  • SOGEA
  • SOTAP

Single Order GEA (SOGEA) and SOGFAST are new broadband packages which use the same technology as GEA FTTC (Fibre-to-the-Cabinet VDSL or GFAST (for Ultrafast speeds)) with the exception that they do not share the line with a WLR service (the PSTN network isn’t enabled for the line). SOGEA and SOGFAST offers the same data rates, performance, and VDSL technology as FTTC and GFAST, is available in the same geographic areas as FTTC/GFAST, and with the additional benefit of being a true all IP solution broadband service to meet the demands and reliance of today’s and future connectivity solutions.

Will new Fibre products be more expensive?

Many providers have raised this as a concern as currently consumers can purchase a line to make and  receive calls for as little as £10-15 per month whereas a full FTTP service usually begins at about £50 per month. This is a significant increase for those who only want voice capability on their lines. For customers who only require this and have no need for broadband, a low bandwidth variant is expected to be offered. There has been little information published on this to date though.

What do I need to do to prepare my business for the PSTN Switch Off?

If you currently have a PSTN or ISDN contract you’ll need to think about switching to an IP telephony solution when your contract is up for renewal. Upgrading your systems now means that you can take advantage of the benefits of VoIP and hosted telephony sooner whilst futureproofing your business. Making the change sooner rather than later will give your business plenty of time to transition to the new system and learn how to make the most out of its features.

You’ll need a business-grade broadband solution to get the most out of your VoIP system and to consider your hosted telephony options to see which would suit your business best.

How do I connect to a Digital Phone Line?

Changing to a digital phone line means that all of the devices and services connected to your existing phone line will need to be able to work via a router and your service provider may need to provide you with a new one. Some routers may allow you to plug your existing analogue phone handset into the back of them rather than the wall socket. If not you may need to be provided with, or buy, additional or new equipment. When you switch, your service provider should give you more information on what you need to do.

If you have other devices or services connected to your existing phone line, like a care alarm, smoke or security alarm, you’ll need to check whether the device or service will work over the new technology. You can check by contacting the company who provided the device or service or by checking the manufacturer’s website.

What if I don’t have a Broadband connection?

You will need a stable broadband connection to use VoIP once PSTN services are terminated. The higher the speed of your broadband the better for call quality, so although reasonable call quality can be achieved with a low speed connection, a higher speed connection is recommended to get the best performance out of a VoIP system, alongside other cloud services.

How can EBC Group help my business with the PSTN Switch Off?

EBC Group can support you in making the switch from PSTN to IP telephony. We offer a range of telephony solutions to suit your business needs, from hosted phone systems and SIP trunking to VoIP handsets. Working with leading communication software providers means, we can provide solutions that are cost effective, scalable and delivered via our independently owned communications infrastructure. Our team of experts take the time to get to know your business and find the best solution for you, assisting you throughout the process, including the implementation of your solution. We also offer a full range of high speed, business-grade connectivity solutions from FTTP to lease lines.

For more information on our telephony and connectivity solutions, contact us.

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