The clock is rapidly ticking down towards one of the biggest shake-ups in the UK communications network for generations. In 2025, the legacy phone lines that have formed the backbone of the country's infrastructure since the 19th century are finally being retired.
Phasing these systems out in favour of more modern, digital voice services will require all businesses to take stock of their phone situation to see how they'll be affected. If you're still dependent on legacy technology to make and receive phone calls, it's also a great opportunity to upgrade to something more modern - and save yourself a lot of money in the process.
Navigating the switch from legacy landline phones by 2025
If you haven't done so already, you'll have to make preparations for moving away from legacy landlines by 2025. But it's important not to leave this until the last minute.
Experience from other countries that have already undergone similar shifts, such as Germany, has shown that if you wait too long, you may be in for a nasty shock if systems you rely on suddenly stop working. Therefore, it's important you plan ahead while there's still plenty of time to explore your options.
What will happen to landline phones in 2025?
The simple answer is that landline services in the UK will stop working in 2025. But in a little more detail, what is happening is that BT Openreach is switching off a system called the Public Switched Telephone Network, or PSTN. This is the legacy phone service commonly referred to as landlines and consists of a network of switching centres and telephone lines, typically connected to users at the end of the service by copper cables.
Why are landline phones expected to be phased out in 2025?
While it's had some upgrades over the years, the basics of the system still use the same technology pioneered by the likes of Alexander Graham Bell. But as time has passed, these PSTN switch based systems have become more and more outdated.
It's not just the fact that these networks struggle to cope with the extra bandwidth demands placed on them by modern phone and internet services, but that they are increasingly unreliable and expensive to repair.
As a result, the telecom industry has determined it's no longer cost-effective to keep the system running, especially as many people have already migrated to other solutions.
What are the options once landlines are phased out?
There are several options for alternatives to PSTN when the big switch off happens, but the most common is likely to be a system using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This is a digital service that uses the same cables that deliver your broadband connection in order to transmit voice data.
You may already have used this, whether you're aware of it or not. For example, if you've ever made a voice call using a service like WhatsApp, that's VoIP. End-users shouldn't notice any difference to their customer experience, so for most firms, it should be a seamless transition.
There are other options for companies that need to migrate away from PSTN, such as SIP trunking, but these are typically more suited to larger businesses with many users. For small firms, startups, freelancers and entrepreneurs, VoIP is likely to be the best way to go.
How to prepare for the switch from a landline phone
Making such a shift to the way you make and receive phone calls may seem daunting, but don't worry - it's not. In fact, the switching process is as easy as one, two, three and in many cases can be completed in just a couple of minutes. However, there are a couple of things you'll need to be aware of in order to make sure the move is a success.
How can people get digital voice if they want to switch?
There are plenty of telecom companies offering VoIP services, so it's important you do your research and find one that's right for you. A low price is of course important, but also be sure to look at customer reviews and see what guarantees they have to offer. At bOnline, for example, we have a rating of 4.8 out of 5 on Trustpilot and are recognised as the most awarded business VoIP phone for UK businesses with one to five employees.
What are the challenges of switching to digital phone technology?
The first thing you need to do is find out whether or not your existing hardware - in particular your handsets - are able to work with the technology. If you've bought new equipment at any point in the last few years, the chances are they'll already be compatible with VoIP services, but older legacy handsets may need to be replaced. Therefore, this is something you might need to budget for.
Additionally, you'll need a decent broadband connection to get the most out of the technology. However, how fast this will need to be will depend on how many users you expect to be making calls.
If you've only got one or two employees who will be using a phone line simultaneously, a speed of around 3 to 5 Mbps is considered adequate. As the average broadband speed in the UK stands at 59.4 Mbps as of March 2022, most businesses should have no problems. However, there do remain several broadband 'not-spots' around the UK, so if you're based in one of these, it's worth checking beforehand that your internet connection will be up to the job.
Will any other services that use landlines be affected?
As well as landline phones, there are a range of other services that may still depend on a legacy phone line to operate. While not exhaustive, some of the most common equipment that may still use outdated PSTN technology includes:
- Fax machines
- Lift lines
- Alarm systems
- CCTV cameras
- Door entry systems
- Payment terminals
If you use any of these, you should check with operators or manufacturers to determine whether or not they will need to be upgraded as part of the 2025 digital transformation.
Can I keep my existing landline numbers?
Yes. In fact, that's one of the great things about switching to digital phone lines. All good VoIP telecom providers should be able to migrate existing numbers to the new technology. You simply have to tell your supplier which you want to keep and confirm they have permission to move the numbers, and they'll do the rest for you.
However, this isn't your only option. If you want to expand your reach or appeal to new audiences, services like bOnline let you select any geographical or non-geographic numbers for use with your VoIP, no matter where your offices are located. This includes codes such as 020 for London, 0121 for Birmingham and more.
Why is switching to digital telecoms a good thing?
Despite the upcoming deadline, you shouldn't be looking at the switch to a digital phone service as simply something that's being forced on you. Instead, treat it as an opportunity to revamp your commuications and take advantage of the wide range of extra features that VoIP can provide.
They might be call handling tools such as menus and forwarding to enhance your customer service, comprehensive reporting data to help you improve your strategy, or value-added functionality such as integration with a range of key business tools like CRM systems.
Will these digital landline phones truly be better?
Yes. In addition to the multitude of new capabilities on offer, evidence suggests that in terms of quality, VoIP offers a major improvement over traditional landlines. For instance, 82 per cent of users say their calls are clearer than their old landlines, while 88 per cent reported improved levels of service.
What if my landline and broadband providers are different companies?
You may think that, if your phone system is going to depend on your internet connection, you would need to have the same voice and broadband provider. But while it can offer a range of advantages and savings from getting your deal as a bundle from one partner, such as bOnline, it's not a requirement.
VoIP is what's known as an 'over the top' technology. This means it's carried using your existing internet connectivity, but it's not directly tied to it. In other words, as long as you've got a broadband connection, it doesn't matter which telecom company is responsible for the connection, as it won't make any difference to the quality or capability of your digital services.
What if I don't need extra features?
If it sounds like all the extra features that VoIP services offer are unnecessary and will simply add to the cost of the service, don't worry. We know that some companies, especially smaller businesses, don't need anything more than the ability to make and receive the occasional phone call, so we offer solutions that cater especially to these firms, as well as those looking to expand their functionality.
With bOnline, our basic VoIP packages start at just £6 per user, per month (plus VAT). That gets you up to 100 outbound minutes and unlimited inbound calls, and still gives you services such as call forwarding, out of hours call management and voicemail, while also being much cheaper than an equivalent legacy landline package. And if you want to upgrade to more services as your business grows, this is easy too.
Get in touch with bOnline today to learn more about VoIP and how we can help you navigate the landline 2025 switch off.