Guest blog: What is the ISDN switch-off?

Businesses that use telephones will need to ensure their phone system runs over an internet connection rather than traditional telephone lines by 2025.

This comes as BT has announced plans to switch off the traditional telephone ISDN network and migrate all phone systems online by 2025, affecting millions of businesses across the UK.

Rather than having on premise equipment, a phone system is hosted in a data centre delivering a host of features that are available on a traditional phone system but transported via the internet.

What is ISDN?

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) is a circuit-switched telephone network system, designed for digital transmission of voice and data traffic over copper wires.

Many businesses who underwent a phone system installation pre-2010 are likely to have a traditional business telephone system which uses ISDN technology. As of August 2013, there were approximately 3.2 million active ISDN lines in the UK.

Launched in the 1980’s, ISDN supported early video conferencing systems and the fastest internet speeds available, with the ability to transmit vast amounts of data required for video communication.

But this was an expensive option and IP networks fast replaced ISDN as the new cost-effective and more simple video conferencing solution.

Why is ISDN switching off?

It’s the same reason as no longer using a Nokia 3310, but on a much larger scale. BT will be replacing its entire voice network as ISDN has become outdated technology and transmission through IP networks has been replacing it, supported by services such as fibre broadband.

Traditional telephone systems will eventually become obsolete as they will not be compatible with the new technology replacing ISDN.

Is this a positive step?

Technology is always evolving; communication services are no different. New phone systems which run over a superfast internet connection can improve call quality and offer advanced features such as on-hold messaging, call forwarding, CRM integration and voicemail-to-email.

With the correct equipment and hosting in place, VOIP traffic is prioritised and wouldn’t experience any interference.

With a VOIP connection, calls can be received from portable devices such as a laptop or mobile phone by linking up all equipment and in-office computer applications. Perfect for remote working and businesses with multiple offices – resulting in what we call: unified communications.

What do I need to do?

Come 2025, businesses will need to migrate their phone system online. Craig Jones, technical director of Welsh telecoms provider DataKom, says: “It’s actually very simple to switch. Our cloud-based platform can often be run over the existing data network or a premise may require a structured cabling installation.

“DataKom’s project management team take care of the setup while the engineering team manage the installation and provide training to ensure the most is being made from the new telephone system.”

He adds that companies need to invest in the right resources to protect their systems. “In a world of evolving technology, it is important to protect your investment with a system that can adopt future technology, ” says Jones.

“A cloud-based phone system can be self-managed through a web portal, offering the flexibility to configure features yourself – such as adding flex keys, hunt groups and new users – great for a growing business.“

“Updates and maintenance to the system are automatic so you’ll always have the latest technology available to maximise business communication needs. The phone system will continue to evolve as technology develops and your company will always be up-to-date.”

He concludes: “Some customers have concerns about an online phone system if the internet connection fails – there are many backup options which take over your voice traffic in this event.

“If your current telephone contract is up for renewal within the next few years, now is the time to start exploring the benefits of new technologies.”