Discover the upcoming Big Switch Off of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and its implications for small businesses. Learn how to smoothly transition to modern communication systems like VoIP and take advantage of its benefits. Follow our expert advice and get ready for the change.
In just 18 months, the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) will cease to exist, leading to a significant disruption for businesses still reliant on it. Despite the announcement of the ‘Big Switch Off’ by BT in 2015, many companies remain unaware of the impending transition, as revealed by a recent survey. Small business owners must take proactive measures to prepare for this change and minimize any adverse effects on their operations.
The Big Switch Off Explained: Impact on Small Businesses
BT Openreach’s decision to switch off the PSTN in 2025 represents a monumental change in the telecoms industry after three decades. By January 1, 2026, all UK businesses must transition from traditional landline systems to fully digital networks like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This transition will affect devices relying on older internet connections, including card machines and CCTV systems.
The magnitude of the transition varies based on a business’s reliance on the PSTN. However, Colin Hewitt, Business Development Manager at Integrity IT, emphasizes that affected small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should prepare for a multi-phase project. Factors such as organization size and complexity influence the time required to switch from analog to IP.
According to a survey by National Business Communications, mobile phones (86.2%) and VoIP (62.5%) are the primary communication channels businesses plan to adopt post-Big Switch Off. However, migrating to these new channels can take months. Hewitt advises working closely with a reliable VoIP provider and IT professional to determine an accurate timeline based on specific circumstances.
5 Essential Tips to Prepare for the PSTN Switch Off
1. Plan Ahead and Evaluate Implications
To ensure a smooth transition, businesses should develop a detailed migration plan at the earliest opportunity. Consider factors such as budget, required features, infrastructure needs, and employee training. Begin by assessing the current phone system and gaining a clear understanding of the implications of the Big Switch Off.
2. Choose the Right VoIP Provider
Thoroughly research top VoIP providers to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Evaluate reliability, customer support, scalability, and available features of each brand. Seek recommendations and read reviews to make an informed decision that aligns with your business requirements.
3. Assess and Upgrade Network Infrastructure
Certain VoIP brands require advanced network infrastructure, including fast internet speed and bandwidth capacity. Evaluate your existing equipment and consider necessary upgrades to minimize downtime during the transition. Doubling up on software can provide backup support and ensure a seamless adoption process.
4. Train Employees for a Smooth Adoption
Introducing new technology to the workplace requires employee onboarding to minimize operational disruptions. Invest time in familiarizing employees with the new system’s features and call handling procedures. Conduct training sessions and provide instructional materials to facilitate a seamless transition.
5. Test, Monitor, and Address Issues
Thoroughly test the new system before full implementation to identify and resolve any technical issues. Test call quality, reliability, and system integrations. Monitor the system’s performance post-switch off and promptly address any emerging issues to ensure uninterrupted communication.
Why Action is Crucial for SMEs
In today’s business landscape, reliable communication is essential for smooth operations. Dependence on internet connectivity has become a crucial aspect, and SMEs must ensure high-quality internet service to avoid disruptions. The extensive work required to update the outdated PSTN network to modern IP phone systems demands proactive action.
Early preparation allows businesses to react effectively in the face of unforeseen challenges, such as the need for new equipment and infrastructure, employee training, and technical difficulties during the transition. Despite the concerns, the Big Switch Off also presents an opportunity to replace outdated systems with advanced VoIP solutions.
VoIP offers a wide range of benefits, transforming the communication landscape and enabling businesses to thrive in a fast-paced, interconnected world. Lower calling rates, advanced features like call forwarding and video conferencing, virtual landline numbers, and remote access enhance productivity and customer service. Employees can make and receive calls from anywhere using smartphones, laptops, or other internet-connected devices.
“VoIP systems offer advanced features and functionalities that will help SMEs enhance their productivity and customer service,” affirms Hewitt. “The scalability and flexibility of VoIP systems make them suitable for SMEs adapting and expanding their operations.”
By following these guidelines and embracing the opportunities presented by the Big Switch Off, small businesses can ensure a seamless transition to modern communication systems, enabling them to thrive in the digital era.