Time is quickly running out for the traditional landline telephone service. Come 2025, legacy networks will be switched off, which means any small business, startup or freelancer still using old technology for their voice communications will need to make plans to upgrade their services now.
We understand that for many small firms - especially those without a great deal of technical know-how - this can seem daunting. But not to worry, we're here to help. Here's a brief summary of everything you'll need to know ahead of the upcoming landline switch off.
What is happening to UK landlines?
You may have heard talk about a major change coming to landline phone systems in 2025, but be unaware of how it will affect you. As phone systems are a vital part of any business, it's crucial you have a full understanding of what you need to do, and leave yourself plenty of time to make any necessary changes before the deadline.
Is BT turning off landlines?
Yes. By the end of 2025, the UK's traditional phone service network will be retired, which means any old-fashioned landlines using it will cease to function. Specifically, the phone line system that is being retired is the public switched telephone network, or PSTN. This is the network of switches, connections and cables that are used to make and receive a phone call and route voice traffic to its destination.
Why are traditional landline phones being switched off?
The landline hasn't really changed a great deal since the days of Alexander Graham Bell. While elements at the core of the network have been digitised, the basics remain the same, and this means they are increasingly struggling to keep up with the demands of modern communications systems.
As well as huge increases in phone and broadband usage putting pressure on these networks, they are also becoming ever-more unreliable, while at the same time they are also getting more expensive to maintain.
Who will be impacted by the PSTN switch off?
Even though many people and businesses in the UK have already migrated away from this telephone line technology to more modern alternatives, there remain a large number of landline users.
Although usage of this technology has fallen over the last few years, millions of calls are still made every day using these networks. Figures from Ofcom indicate that almost five million businesses still used this technology in 2019, while one survey found as many as 70 per cent of UK firms continue to depend on landline services for their phone line communications.
What legacy devices and systems will stop working?
The most obvious devices that will stop working after the 2025 landline switch off will be older phone handsets that are not compatible with any of the replacement technologies. This does not necessarily mean you'll have to upgrade your hardware, however. While older devices will no longer work, the vast majority of handsets made in the last few years have been futureproofed and will be able to work with newer technology.
Therefore, it's important to check your hardware before making a migration away from landlines to see if you'll have to budget for new devices.
In addition to older landlines, there are a range of other services that also depend on PSTN technology that may also need to be replaced. These include:
- Fax machines
- Lift lines
- Alarm systems
- CCTV cameras
- Door entry systems
- Payment terminals
What happens when BT stop landlines?
It's important you don't leave things to the last minute when planning a migration away from landline services. You may think that with around two years left to go, there's plenty of time to make the switch. But this doesn't actually leave you long to prepare, especially if you have to make major changes to your solutions. Therefore, the sooner you plan for this, the better.
How will Openreach begin withdrawing PSTN services?
The process of withdrawing PSTN landline services is already underway. The first stage is what's known as the 'stop-sell' point, which refers to the latest date at which firms will still be able to buy new landline services. This is taking place on a phased basis around the UK, and in some parts of the country has already passed. For those remaining, however, this will happen by the end of 2023.
After this, no more new landlines will be purchasable, allowing BT Openreach to focus on ensuring systems are ready for the final switch-off.
When are traditional landline phones being switched off?
The date you need to keep in mind is 2025, as this will be when the UK's landline network is officially retired. By this point, BT expects all customers - both domestic and business users - to have moved to digital alternatives.
What do I need to do to prepare my business for the PSTN switch off?
As well as checking your phone handsets for compatibility with digital technology, you need to make sure your underlying broadband connection is able to cope with the extra traffic. In most cases, this shouldn't be a problem, but if you're based in a 'not spot' with poor connectivity, you might need to look at other internet options.
It's also important to remember that the landline switch off won't just affect calls. As noted above, there are a range of other services that rely on this technology, and if you don't take these into account, you could be in for a nasty surprise.
Therefore, it's vital you conduct a full audit of your IT and communications environment to see what might be affected. It can be easy to overlook systems such as CCTV cameras and lift lines, as they don't immediately spring to mind if you're focusing only on your voice calls.
What are the challenges of switching to digital phone technology?
If you plan ahead and take the time to fully understand what your options are, migrating to digital telephony solutions should be very easy. In most cases, all you have to do is select a provider and complete the online sign-up process - which can take as little as two minutes - and all the work will be done for you behind the scenes, usually with no need for an engineer visit. However, there are a few factors you need to take into account.
The first is ensuring you have an internet connection that's fast enough to cope with digital voice. If you're only expecting to have one or two active lines at a time, this should not be difficult. However, growing firms and those that are especially reliant on phone lines to do business may want to consider upgrading to a faster service.
Another factor to think about is what you'll do in an emergency. Unlike landlines, digital voice service won't operate in a power cut, so solutions such as a backup battery or the ability to automatically redirect incoming calls to a cell phone may be necessary - ask your provider what their solutions are for these situations.
What is replacing landline phones?
If you are still using a UK landline, it's clear you'll need to look for alternative solutions sooner rather than later to avoid running the risk of downtime. But what are the alternatives, and what can they offer to your business aside from ensuring you're not left with no phone service after the 2025 landline switch off.
What will replace landlines in 2025?
There are several options for replacing a traditional landline phone. Some firms may decide a mobile phone service is the way to go. This may be popular for home business users as a familiar option, as almost a quarter of households have already moved from landlines to these services.
Larger enterprises, meanwhile, may investigate options such as SIP service. However, for small business, the most popular solution is likely to be a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service.
Will Openreach provide the PSTN replacement products and services?
While BT Openreach will continue to manage and maintain the underlying systems necessary for digital phone services, such as an internet connection, it will be up to businesses to make sure they have secured the solutions they need.
While you could get a VoIP solution from BT, there are many other providers offering these services, so it pays to do your research. Don't just look at price - consider factors such as customer service as well. Take your time, read reviews and ask questions to make sure you know exactly what you're getting.
One of the benefits of this technology is there's no need to pay a separate line rental charge - everything you need is packaged as a simple per-user monthly fee. This means there are no hidden fees and you can easily scale up the services as your business grows.
How will a migration to digital voice services work?
Once you've chosen a provider, the migration process should usually be very straightforward. All you have to do is complete the signup online or over the phone and the work is done for you.
You'll even be able to migrate your existing numbers to your new service. Simply tell your company which numbers you want to keep and confirm that the company has permission and they'll deal directly with your previous supplier.
To find out more about how you can switch to VoIP and make sure you're ready for the 2025 landline switch off, get in touch with bOnline today.