The Great Switch Off - What Businesses Need to Know

29 June 2021

For many businesses, the internet is a key part of what they do.  Whether you are a digital business entirely, use your website to gain customers or simply offer online options for customer service, a lack of internet connection would be a big deal.  And that’s why businesses need to know about what’s being called the Great Switch Off.

But what does that mean and what exactly is being switched off?

Upgrading the UK

Currently, Openreach is modernising phone and broadband services across the UK.  Formerly part of BT, it is now a separate company that is in charge of the nation’s internet infrastructure.  One of their main current priorities is to move the UK from its existing analogue and copper technologies to modern and more reliable fibre broadband.

The current plan is that by December 2025, the traditional analogue phone network or PSTN will be switched off and the new fibre option will take over.  Hence, The Great Switch Off - the point at which the PSTN will no longer function.

But it is a big job!  There are some 16 million lines and channels that will need to be upgraded to fibre to make the change and there are only four years to complete it.  Openreach has already run trials in an area of Suffolk to test how the switch off will work and what needs to be done to help make it a smooth transition.

What kind of things will change?

At first glance, it might not seem like a big deal although it will definitely be beneficial in the long run for the quality of internet connection that businesses get.  But there are some issues to be aware of, most particularly around things that will change and cease to work.

At the moment, the PSTN supports the underlying broadband network as well as the Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) including things like alarm systems, payment networks and even health services.  These use a combination of ADSL and FTTC products.

When the Great Switch Off occurs, anything running on the PSTN will stop working.  This also means that anything on the WLR will cease to function, including:

  • Single analogue lines
  • Multi-lines
  • ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)

This type of equipment will no longer be sold in the lead up to 2025 but when the Great Switch Off occurs, these older styles of equipment will stop working entirely.  That means businesses need to make the change ahead of time or ultimately risk losing functionality.  Things such as alarms, PDQ machines, CCTV and even CNI functions will be most likely to stop working.

Short term upheaval

There’s no doubt that the change will be a short-term upheaval for long-term gains.  But currently, few small and medium businesses have any idea the change is coming meaning that they aren’t preparing for it.

A recent survey found that 62% of small businesses in the UK are still using traditional telephony systems for their main customer communications.  Another 61% said they will use this kind of system as the main way to communicate with colleagues.  And over half said they used it for partner and supplier communication.

One-third of businesses had no idea that the change was coming which highlights another major problem, businesses are continuing to invest money in equipment that will be obsolete in just a few years.  With some companies spending from £5,000 to £40,000 a year on traditional telephony systems, this could lead to a lot of wasted funds.

Moving into preparation mode

Around 60% of larger companies have already integrated their systems with newer equipment to prepare for the change, yet only 40% of smaller companies are making similar progress.

Much of the reluctance comes from a lack of clear understanding about what will change and what is needed.  That’s why we have put together a free webinar for businesses to help them understand the Great Switch Off and how it will affect their business. We want to help you understand the impact that the change will have on your business and ensure you have the right equipment in place to avoid loss of functionality. 

Our webinar at 10am on Tuesday the 3rd of August is co-hosted with Kick and Gamma, bringing you a group of experts in one place to make sure that the Great Switch Off doesn’t harm your business. Be one of the companies at the forefront of these changes and get into preparation mode for the Great Switch Off.

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