Ever since it was initially introduced in 1986, ISDN (Integrated Service Digital Network) has provided enhanced telecommunications to millions of businesses across the UK.
Considered a technical marvel at the time of its release, ISDN allowed for both voice and data services to be delivered over digital lines simultaneously. This not only paved the way for the high-speed internet era of the ’90s but also made it possible to incorporate early video-conferencing with traditional analogue phone systems.
With the recent advances in broadband connectivity, however, ISDN is now considered an outdated legacy system. And back in 2015, BT released a statement that it would phase out ISDN, with a view to switching off and permanently deactivating the network in 2025.
If this is the first time you’re hearing about the matter, then you’re not alone. As of right now, just over 2 million UK businesses are using an ISDN connection, with roughly a quarter unaware that the switch-off is even happening (source. TalkTalk).
But don’t worry, here’s everything you need to know.
What is ISDN and why is it being switched off?
In very simple terms, ISDN is a digital line that runs through copper wiring. Unfortunately, the main issue with ISDN is that it relies on physical infrastructure, the copper lines, which are costly to maintain and limited in their capabilities.
Newer connection-types, such as FTTP and FTTC, use fibre technology, which is easier to maintain and provides better and quicker connectivity.
As a result, copper lines will no longer be used for voice. However, the copper will remain in some circumstances, such as in FTTC — which is fibre to the cabinet and copper to the premises — but just for data purposes.
In either case, fibre technology looks to be the way for the future.
Businesses already using fibre typically benefit 1,000 times more bandwidth, greater reliability, and up to 10 times faster internet speeds than using traditional lines.
Having that faster, more reliable connectivity you get with fibre makes daily operations management a lot more efficient (think accessing your main server, uploading and sharing files and collaborating on the same work document etc.).
However, the most important change from the ISDN switch-off will be the effect it has on your existing telephone system.
Fibre and hosted telephone systems
As we mentioned earlier, copper lines will no longer be used for voice. This means anybody with an ISDN connection may need to update it to enable SIP functionality before the switch-off takes place. This will give businesses the option to move across to a hosted telephone system.
Hosted telephone systems operate via a data network hosted in the cloud instead of a circuit-switched network dedicated purely to telephony (e.g. ISDN) and are used to make calls (amongst other things) over the internet.
Typically referred to as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), making calls over the internet is generally cheaper and offers greater flexibility than traditional phone systems. That’s not to say on-premises systems aren’t flexible, as they certainly provide a solid foundation for any comprehensive comms strategy, especially when integrated with the right hardware. It ultimately comes down to what system best meets your requirements going forward.
We covered many key benefits of hosted telephony in one of our previous blogs, as well as the differences between fully hosted solutions, hybrid solutions and on-premises solutions. For anybody unsure what those benefits and differences are, you can take a closer look here.
What should I do next?
Despite 2025 seeming a long way off, it’s always better to get a head start on preparations to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. Here at Fidelity Group, we can facilitate that transition for you — ensuring you have the right infrastructure in place to accommodate your communication requirements going forward in the digital age. We deliver unique, tailored solutions that are designed to nature your communications, improve operations and strengthen your business. We then bolster this with 24/7/365 dedicated technical support and customer service.
We can also look at your current setup, operations and activities to equip your business with the best combination of software and hardware, including mobile, to keep teams better connected and customers satisfied.
To discuss how the impending ISDN switch-off may affect your business and how you can take full advantage of hosted telephony, contact our experienced team today.