Telephony in the UK will change forever when BT switch off their traditional phone lines in 2025. Here’s what it means for your business

Time is running out on Britain’s old-school telephone infrastructure. In 2025, BT will switch off the old analogue PSTN in favour of a fully digital network. By then, every single phone line in the UK will be routing services over Internet Protocol rather than the old copper wiring systems – some of which have been around since the 19th century!

If that sounds like a drastic change, well it is. And for the better. Even at the most basic level, switching to a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication system means you will be able to make calls on any device, from anywhere, and from the same number. 

The key date here is 2025, which is not that far away. If you haven’t put plans in place yet, you need to be cracking on with it.

Here’s everything you need to know about the BT switch off and what you can do to get ready.

What is PSTN and ISDN?

The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is the landline telephone system – the system you call your phone line. It was set up for making voice calls using copper wires to transmit analogue voice data. A PSTN telephone number is equivalent to one phone line, meaning you can have one conversation at a time. 

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) is a later addition. It allows for the simultaneous transmission of voice, video and other services digitally, using the traditional PSTN network. A few years ago ISDN was the go-to solution for internet connectivity. Now its popularity is waning due to the introduction of cloud communications.

Why is the BT switch off happening?

Basically these legacy systems are out of date, can’t keep up with demand, and cost a heck of a lot of money to repair. In the meantime, technology is advancing at warp speed: smartphones, the cloud, Internet of Things, and so on. From a cost and performance perspective, it just makes sense to retire PSTN and embrace the boundless possibilities of digital.

When is the BT switch off happening? 

It’s already happening. BT started phasing out the older systems in 2020, and the full migration will occur sometime in 2025. 

In the meantime, BT has announced a ‘stop sell’ date of September 2023. On this date, it will close its order book for installing new ISDN lines for good. So if you are in the market for new phone lines for your business, or your current contract is up for renewal, be aware that very soon you will not be able to order a conventional PSTN or ISDN system. 

And it’s not just your phone services that will be affected. By 2025, everything that uses the old phone network  — voice, data, video, alarms, CCTV, POS solutions — will be phased out and businesses will be forced to find other IP-based solutions for these systems. 

Who will be affected?

The switch off will affect all businesses currently operating on PSTN or ISDN, which is an estimated 2 million SMEs in the UK. The biggest impact will be felt by those who make heavy use of landline telephones. 

What do I need to do?

Basically, you need to consider Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for your communications. VoIP systems allow for voice messages and images to be sent over the internet using your current hardware, so you won’t need a landline. 

However, this is not just about calls. Your business may have a number of services connected to phone lines, like alarms, door entry systems and payment terminals. There are plenty of digital solutions for these services, but you’ll need to start planning ahead to ensure business continuity, and avoid getting caught in the last-minute rush in a few years’ time.

Is a VoIP phone system better?

We think so. The big advantage of VoIP phone systems is location independence. You’ll be able to make calls and access systems from anywhere, working from wherever you want. Like many cloud-based services, VoIP allows you to use your personal devices to make business calls through a single business number, and you can add and remove users at the press of a button. 

This type of flexibility is important to ensure you maintain high levels of productivity in the new world of hybrid work. 

How much will this cost me?

It will be cheaper than you think! Using cloud telephony should significantly reduce business phone line and contract bills, since there are no line rentals or contract commitments. Everything is managed through desktop or mobile software apps. There are hardware purchase or installation costs, even if you add new lines or move to new offices. 

What’s more, the latest VoIP phone systems are available ‘as a service.’ This means you get a completely scalable solution which you can adjust as your needs evolve.

What’s the takeaway?

For businesses that are still using landlines, the big takeaway is that you need to be switching to cloud telephony services as soon as your current contracts end. With the 2025 switch-off date looming, it is better to set these systems up now rather than waste money on phone lines that are about to become obsolete.

Not sure of the best way forward? Click HERE to talk to the experts at TFM. We can help guide you step-by-step through the options that make sense for your business.