What is the Great Switch Off?

  • What is the Great Switch Off?

    What is the Great Switch Off?

    The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) has been the backbone of telecommunications for almost 150 years, enabling voice calls for residential and business use across the UK. However, with the rapid advancement of digital technologies, the time has come for the PSTN switch off.

    In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this change, the implications for businesses and consumers, and the future-proof digital solutions that are reshaping the telecommunications landscape.

    The PSTN Era

    The PSTN revolutionised communication by establishing a reliable and widespread network for voice calls. With the introduction of the internet in the 1990s, it was adapted to provide data connections over the same technology. However, the PSTN is essentially a network of copper wires, making it susceptible to degradation, interference and even bad weather, affecting both voice and internet connections. In addition, the telephone exchange equipment is reaching its end of life and becoming harder to source and costly to maintain.

    The All-IP Future

    The switch off of the traditional telephone network is primarily driven by the aging technology and technological advancements in telecommunications. The PSTN has become costly to maintain meaning the closure gives communications providers the opportunity to retire outdated infrastructure, reduce maintenance costs, and focus on delivering modern services.

    While we’ve come a long way since dial-up internet, some still struggle with slow internet connections, particularly in the age of hybrid working and video streaming. Full fibre broadband is here to change this.

    Instead of copper wires, Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) uses fibre optic cables to provide internet services, making it much more robust than the legacy network and offering speeds of up to 1Gbps. The full fibre network is currently being rolled out across the UK, with over 10.4 million premises able to access ultrafast broadband as of June 2023.

    For those unable to access FTTP right now, SOGEA is the best option for future-proof connectivity. Using a combination of copper and fibre technology, SOGEA provides speeds of up to 80Mbps with no need for a landline.

    For those who still require telephony, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is here.

    VoIP uses a reliable data connection, such as FTTP, to carry voice communications, meaning phone calls are no longer run over the PSTN but via the internet instead.

    Implications for Businesses

    The switch off has significant implications for businesses that rely on traditional telephone services. Organisations must transition to IP-based solutions to ensure uninterrupted voice communication. This shift presents opportunities for businesses to adopt Unified Communications (UC) solutions with advanced features like video conferencing, collaboration, and integration with other digital systems. However, it also necessitates infrastructure upgrades and careful planning to ensure a smooth transition and minimal disruption to operations.

    Any businesses using services such as payment terminals, alarm systems and lift lines, connected via a landline, will need to review these services with their provider and ensure they have an IP-based alternative in place when the telephony network is switched off.

    Implications for Consumers

    For consumers, the closure of the network brings both challenges and benefits. Traditional landline phones will become obsolete, and consumers still needing a fixed phone will need to ensure they have a fibre-based broadband connection and VoIP-compatible handset.

    Emerging Alternatives

    Now you know your options for replacing your broadband and voice services, it’s worth exploring how mobile can benefit both businesses and consumers in an All-IP world.

    It’s not only the fixed telephony network that is going through significant changes. The UK Mobile networks are currently retiring the 3G data networks and focussing on faster 4G and 5G rollouts. These advances in mobile networks enable users to access various communication apps and services that offer voice and video calling capabilities, further encouraging people to use mobile phones as their primary means of communication as consumers in particular move away from PSTN telephony.

    Make the Move

    The PSTN switch off marks the end of an era in telecommunications but it’s also the beginning of a new digital future. While it poses challenges for businesses and consumers, it also opens up new possibilities with advanced digital communication technologies. It’s important you jump onboard and embrace this change, or you could lose service.

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