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PSTN Switch Off 2025 - What does this mean for my business?

In 2015, BT announced that the PSTN would be switched-off by 2025 in favour of IP voice based services but what does this mean for your business? 


 

Despite being the largest shake-up of the telecoms industry in over 30 years, there are still many users of traditional telephony systems yet to realise this change is coming and to consider what this means for them. 

For many, 2025 will still seem far away but with PSTN based products going End of Sale from 2023, the time to prepare your organisation is now to ensure the continuation of your critical communication services.

In this blog post we answer some of the main questions you should be asking to help you to prepare for the approaching deadline. 

 


What is the PSTN network?

PSTN stands for Public Switch Telephone Network. It includes copper wires, fibre telephone lines and other equipment dedicated to allowing users at different sites to communicate by voice using analogue signalling. Most landline telephone services are delivered over PSTN and have done successfully for many decades. Communication Providers (CPs) purchase Openreach products which use this network at regulated prices which they then sell on, often wrapped up in their own broadband and line rental package deals. These products include: Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) products such as basic and premier PSTN lines, Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN2 and ISDN30) and broadband products which rely on these products to work.

Why is the network being withdrawn in 2025?

Over the last decade many CPs have built their own, modern internet protocol (IP) based telephone networks and services which operate over broadband. Customers can now choose from a wide range of Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to make calls, with broadband services seeing huge increases in reliability and quality over the past decade. At the same time, legacy PSTN infrastructure has become more costly to maintain and difficult to maintain, and the way in which consumers make calls has changed significantly with many choosing to use mobile services over landline.

For Openreach, which was created in 2006 through an agreement between Ofcom and BT, these changes mean that they are now focused on developing the fibre network rather than legacy PSTN.

What other services may be impacted by the withdrawl?

PSTN currently supports WLR, ISDN2 and ISDN30, Local Loop Unbundling Shared Metallic Path Facilities (LLUSMPF), Narrowband Line Share and Classic Products.

Many providers make it clear to consumers that the loss of these products will mean unless they transition to digital alternatives, they will not be able to make or receive calls. What is often less clear to consumers is that the withdrawl of the PSTN network will also impact:

  • ADSL Broadband
  • FTTC Broadband
  • Digital Telecare Systems Operating Over ADSL and FTTC
  • Analogue Telecare and Critical Care Systems
  • Analogue Fire Alarm Systems
  • Analogue Payment and Card Processing Services

For ADSL and FTTC broadband, this is because the underlying WLR product over which broadband is supplied will be turned-off. The withdrawl of PSTN also means that analogue critical care and security systems may also be impacted.

What will these services be replaced with?

Openreach are now focused on developing the fibre network and they will not provide VoIP services to the c16 million telephone lines that will be transferred to IP-based networks. Consumers will need to purchase VoIP services, such as YorVoIP, from Communication Providers (CPs) that run ‘over-the-top’ of broadband lines to provide voice and allow calls to be made/received.  

In the run-up to 2025, Openreach will test and release new products to replace those being retired. These will largely be Single Order (SO) variants of existing services, including:

  • Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA) to replace FTTC
  • Single Order Transition Access Product (SOTAP) to replace ADSL
  • FAST to replace G.FAST

It is worth bearing in mind that these new broadband services may you to invest in new equipment and that when Single Order (SO) broadband products are provided there will be no voice on the telephone line and no dial tone.

If you want to continue making or receiving calls you will need to work with your CP to implement some form of on-premise or hosted VoIP solution. If you operate other ‘Over-the-Top’ services such as telecare, alarm, critical care or security systems, you will need to consider adapting or replacing these with digital alternatives before the end of 2025.  If you need advice on how to ensure your systems are ready for the PSTN switch-off, we have tried and tested experience delivering VoIP telephony and digital solutions for customers in the public, housing and care sectors. Check out our YorVoIP and YorWiFi webpages or contact us for advice.

How and when will Openreach start withdrawing service?

Openreach’s strategy for withdrawing PSTN services is still undefined as to whether this will be at exchange level, geographical area or premise technology availability. Trails of the withdrawal have begun in two exchanges, with the first starting in September 2019 in Salisbury and the second in January 2020 in Mildenhall.

In June 2023, BT will no longer accept new WLR CPs for establishment and in September 2023 will issue a ‘Stop Sell’ which means that no new WLR or ISDN lines can be installed. In April 2025, BT will migrate any orphaned assets to their single order variants so that they do not lose service. Any services which have not migrated to their Single Order variant by December 2025 will receive a one month grace period before they stop working and services are cancelled.

Will replacement products be more expensive?

Consumers who only require voice on their lines will be able to purchase a low-bandwidth variant of SoGEA and FTTP. There has not been much more information published about this so far and no indication of cost has been provided. 

What is Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP)?

Voice-over-IP telephony essentially uses broadband, rather than traditional telephone lines to allow users to make phone calls to one another. Upgrading to VoIP is normally a straightforward and easy process, with users able to retain their existing telephone number and either purchase a new VoIP handset (which work in the same way as traditional phones) or buy an analogue-to-digital adaptor for their existing handsets if available.

Switching to VoIP services, such as YorVoIP, can offer consumers users lower-cost calls and better call quality. For organisations, it can provide premium PABX features, greater flexibility and customisation, as well as significant reductions in cost compared to traditional call systems. 

How do I prepare analogue telecare systems, alarms, payment terminals and other services?

These services will need to be tested with BT’s new SO products and IP technology. You should also speak to your service provider and/or equipment manufacturer to ensure you won’t lose critical services.  Openreach can provide line test facilities for testing equipment against their individual line configurations. 

What does the 2023 WLR and ISDN ‘Stop Sell’ mean?

This means that from September 2023 there will be no new line installations for both products - this includes conversions, increase of ISDN channels, address changes, start of a stopped line or working line take over.

Line transfers between providers will be accepted in order to protect consumer rights so long as no changes are made to the product during the transfer.

Calling and network features, including caller display, presentation number and features to prevent nuisance calls such as anonymous call rejection, will still work with the exception of the two trial exchanges.

Will Openreach meet its 2025 deadline?

Openreach are confident that the December 2025 deadline will be met. In April 2025 Openreach will work with CPs to migrate customers who have not already switched to Single Order (SO) variants to new products to ensure they do not lose service. The exact process for doing this is still to be decided and there are still questions as to how Openreach will identify line use and what contractual obligation consumers will be under to move.

Disclaimer: Yorcoms takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided in this article. The information contained within is based upon our best knowledge of the situation to-date and may change.

 


If your organisation is considering switching to VoIP as a result of the PSTN switch-off, check out YorVoIP or contact us to discuss your options.

 

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