The old technology that is used to make traditional landline phone calls is set to be retired, with businesses being encouraged to prepare for what has been dubbed the Great British Switch Off.
Both households and businesses have until December 2025 when BT will switch off the old analogue phone system, to be replaced with a completely digital network.
Landline phone calls have long been delivered over the old telephone network, known as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). This technology was introduced back in the 1800s and transmits information through a network of copper wires.
But this old system increasingly can’t keep up with the demands of modern day communications, and is becoming less reliable and prone to outages.
So instead every phone line in the UK will be moved to a fully digital network that uses Internet Protocol (IP) across a fibre-based service. This shift has already started and will be complete by December 2025, while by 2023 it will no longer be possible to buy traditional phone lines.
Crucially for businesses, the switchover isn’t just about phones. A surprising array of services and equipment rely on the PSTN and so will be impacted. These include emergency phones in lifts, burglar alarms, traffic lights, fax machines, cash machines, door entry systems and more.
And the UK isn’t alone in making the switch to digital. Estonia and The Netherlands have already done it and Germany, Japan and Sweden are ahead of us in making the change.
A large proportion of businesses still rely on old-fashioned phone services: 42% of UK SMEs, equivalent to around 2.4 million businesses, still use analogue lines. The number is slightly lower for larger firms, at 33%.
So that’s a lot of businesses that need to start making changes ahead of 2025. But worryingly a 2021 survey of 400 UK-based SMEs by ISP Spitfire found that nearly half (46%) were unaware that their analogue phone services would be switched-off completely.
Preparing for the switchover
Many businesses have embraced the new digital world, moving their communications to the cloud and using video conferencing.
But for others that haven’t, now is the time to start planning, especially if you have multiple sites or require multiple lines. In the first instance, businesses need to upgrade their broadband and phone services – if they haven’t already – and work out which of their systems run off PSTN and ISDN lines.
Remember, it’s not just about calls but also includes systems like door entry systems, alarms, lift emergency lines, payment terminals and cash machines.
You’ll need to contact the provider of those devices to check that they’ll be compatible with the digital network – or you’ll need to upgrade them.
Check your insurance
The switchover could also have implications for your business insurance.
For example, the small print of your policy might stipulate that fire alarms are linked to a central station, or security alarms to the police, and these systems could currently be dependent on the PSTN network. If this is the case, then you’ll need to ensure these systems are upgraded to comply with the insurance warranties after the switchover. Otherwise, your policy could be voided, with costly results if you were to need to make a claim.
This is just one consideration ahead of 2025, but it’s certainly smart to start planning now and ensure your business doesn’t get caught out.
For more information and to speak to an insurance expert, please get in touch with your nearest A-Plan Business branch.
You can also watch a webinar hosted by Make UK about how to prepare for the switchover, featuring A-Plan’s Lisa Birch.