There’s a big shake up on the horizon when it comes to the telephone lines that so many businesses rely on. BT has announced that in 2025 it will be switching off the UK’s ISDN telephone network. For those who might not be familiar, these are the traditional phone lines that have been supplying telephone connectivity for decades.
To really understand the impact of the ISDN switch off, we recently surveyed a number of small British businesses and found that, while awareness of the 2025 ISDN switch-off is relatively high, 38 per cent of smaller organisations are not yet aware of a big shift in the way that business telephony will run in the future.
In many ways, the end of ISDN is like the digital TV switch-over, when traditional analogue TV signals were finally switched off and all TV services shifted over to digital. Telephony faces a similar switch, and businesses will need to plan ahead of time to ensure they are prepared for this transition.
Our research found that this is particularly an issue for small businesses, where 42 per cent still use ISDN phone lines, compared to 33 per cent amongst all UK businesses. This could be due to small businesses not having dedicated IT departments, which can proactively keep them abreast of the top technology developments and priorities.
However, knowing that the change is taking place is only half the battle. Knowing what to replace ISDN with is the other half. This begs the question – if ISDN lines will soon be no more, what will replace them? Broadly speaking, businesses will need to migrate across to telephony that runs over an internet connection, otherwise known as IP Voice. You might have already heard of some IP Voice solutions, including SIP and Hosted Voice. These are all slightly different and depend on what your business needs, but they all broadly work in the same way.
You might be thinking at this point that there’s no rush. 2025 sure seems like a long way in the future, and there might be issues that you feel are more pressing for your business. However, it’s never too early to start preparing for the upcoming switch-off.
Crucially, IP Voice can mean big savings for businesses, which mean that the move to the new technology should be considered sooner rather than later. Our research found that of those small businesses that had adopted IP Voice, the average saving was 31 per cent of total telephony costs when compared to ISDN lines each year. Not only are line costs lower, IP Voice also eliminates the need to have (and pay for) spare business lines that your business doesn’t need.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, IP Voice as a technology can also scale up or down with your business. Unlike ISDN phone lines which can take weeks to install, IP Voice telephone lines can be switched on in a matter of minutes. Businesses with high growth expectations can quickly add new lines for their employees at a low cost and minimal disruption.
Finally, if you are a thriving SME, you may well be looking at how you can do more business abroad. However, you already know that the initial outlay of establishing offices overseas can be expensive and time consuming. For organisations that are still testing the water in other markets, IP Voice allows them to create numbers with international dialling codes that redirect to their home offices.
With the deadline for the ISDN switch-over looming on the horizon, small and growing businesses should be putting together their plans now. IP Voice not only helps keep SMEs connected now and in the future, but it also brings a great opportunity for businesses looking to increase their scalability while decreasing their telephony costs. As pressure to cut costs looks set to continue in the coming years, switching to new telephone technology could be an easy win, keeping you in control of what really matters – your business.
Guy Miller is the director of trading, pricing and commissions at TalkTalk Business.