The Big ISDN Switch-Off

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Thursday, 3 March 2016

For those of you who can remember that far back, 1986 saw the introduction of ISDN, BT’s digital telephony network. I was 2 years old so wasn’t incredibly excited by it all, but back then it was seen as the ‘next big thing’ enabling businesses to have multiple lines and numbers all handled by their shiny new digital phone system. ISDN was also the delivery method for BT’s ‘Home Highway’ service launched back in 1997 which doubled standard dial-up to a whopping 128Kb speeds. Things have moved on somewhat since then and with Ethernet and 80Mb Superfast services now readily available – at 600 times faster than ‘Home Highway’ - BT have announced plans to turn off their ISDN network in 2025, meaning any business with ISDN lines will now need to consider the alternatives and prepare their business for the turn-off.

So what’s the urgency?

Although the switch off isn’t imminent and the announcement has not been made with the aim of panicking people into losing their lines, but more to encourage the exploration of the alternatives.

The switch-off has been enabled by massive investment in the rollout of improved connectivity right across the country and with the ability to move their Fixedline services to IP-based solutions, ISDN is now old-hat. Its worth noting that Openreach haven't installed a single ISDN line in central London since 2014. The rollout of Superfast fibre, the development of new Ethernet products and the recent £3,000 Broadband Voucher scheme has meant Superfast Ethernet services are now financially accessible to SME businesses which in turn has opened up the opportunity for them to consider the ISDN alternatives. With over 3m active ISDN lines, Openreach are also looking to avoid a ‘last minute rush’ to move across to other the solutions which is why they have made this latest announcement.

What are the alternatives, and what’s so good about them?

In much the same way the television Digital Switchover from 2007-2012 upgraded us from the 5 channels of analogue TV to the better picture and hundreds of channels available on digital TV, the switch from ISDN to IP-based telephony brings huge benefits.

The direct replacement for ISDN is a service called SIP – session initiation protocol. Although the full name of SIP gives no real clues as to what it is or what it does, SIP essentially gives you a phone line carried into your premises over your internet connection, removing the need for a physical ISDN line.

The biggest barrier to SIP adoption in the past has been the unreliability of broadband. With the introduction of guaranteed Service Level Agreement products modern connectivity solutions are now more reliable and robust than the existing ISDN services and with SIP costing up to 78% less than ISDN exploring the alternatives to SIP has never made as much sense as it does today.

The second alternative to ISDN is cloud-based VoIP solutions which essentially move your entire telephony solution into the cloud benefitting from a huge range of services such as call recording, remote access voicemail, call queuing, and unification of multiple sites onto a simple platform at a fraction of the cost of an on-site system.

The key benefits of SIP and VoIP solutions are:

  1. Fast implementation – no more waiting weeks or months for Openreach to install physical lines as calls are carried over a broadband connection
  2. Geographical freedom – move site quickly and easily without losing your number, wherever you decide to move
  3. Higher resiliency – as calls are carried over the internet and not tied to the physical line multiple broadband lines can be installed to provide automatic failover and redundancy into your premises
  4. Disaster recovery – numbers can be set to divert automatically to another office or mobile in seconds should your existing office experience fire, flood, theft or power outages
  5. Cost saving – up to 78% reduction on the cost of ISDN

To hear how SIP and VoIP can benefit your business please get in touch with the team here at 9dots and we can pop out and run through the new technologies and what it means for your business.

Written by Martin Kershaw 22/01/2016

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