Understanding the ISDN switch off

Understanding the ISDN switch off

The Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) has been instrumental in helping the world to transition to a digital infrastructure. Launched in the UK during 1986, it was the first network that supported analogue and digital signals and supplied the fastest possible internet access for the time; a now tortoise-like 128 kbps or a ten-thousandth of the fastest, modern business connections.

Now that BT have announced they will start switching off the network in 2025, businesses are starting to wonder what has prompted this change in technology, as well as what technology will be replacing that of ISDN.

Why are BT switching off ISDN connections?

BT’s ISDN network currently services over 2 million customers across the UK, with 33.1 lines nationwide and over 6 million of those belonging to businesses. Whilst this network was a vital part of the transition from analogue to the digital transportation of data, the maintenance costs are increasing as the ageing infrastructure starts to degrade.

As Cloud services like Office365 have gained popularity, many businesses have started to move their data storage and other services to Cloud-based providers. These connections require high-bandwidth infrastructure to ensure Quality of Service and adoption rates show no signs of slowing, with the majority of respondents (58%) in a recent You-Gov poll describing their organisation as having a hybrid approach to IT.

54 percent expect to eventually move their entire IT estate to remotely hosted cloud services as well, therefore the benefits of investing resources in new infrastructure is much more tangible than propping-up an ageing network; with a modern Fibre connection able to carry the equivalent of 200 ISDN lines in a single cable.

What is the alternative to ISDN?

The good news is that our existing internet connections can transmit voice data in the exact same way cat videos and emails are sent, as ones and zeros. By routing calls through the internet, also known as VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol, businesses can reduce costs and integrate collaboration services like Office365 into their phone systems for added flexibility.

The ability to integrate collaboration services will help staff work more effectively with better team conferencing, delegation and project management all increasing the business’ productivity and efficiency.

Migration to cloud is going to happen, whether you like it or not, so make the preparations now and avoid the rush because, by the end of 2020, three-quarters of UK businesses are expected to have adopted cloud-based video-conferencing systems.

Next Steps

BT has announced that as of 2020, no new ISDN orders will be taken so, find out if your business currently uses ISDN by speaking to provider and if so, ask how long is left on your contract. Whenever it is up for renewal, that’s when you should be looking for an alternative.

If businesses are more than a year in to an existing contract and want to take advantage of the benefits that a new Fibre or Ethernet connection affords, ACS  (an Authorised Partner of BT) have the ability to cover early termination costs, so that businesses don’t have to run out contracts for ageing technology, before updating their connectivity.

When considering the implementation timescale, on average the transition took 15 months to migrate respondents’ applications to the cloud, with 90% experiencing some form of difficulty during the process. The complexity of migration (43%) was the most commonly cited issue, followed by lack of skills (32%) and a constant reliance on Internet access (31 per cent).

The good news is that Cloud migration can be done piece by piece, otherwise known as a ‘hybrid network’ implementation. Businesses that require a constant connection, could replace telephony services first, and then stagger the internet rollout for a quiet period, over a Bank Holiday, for example, to mitigate the effects of downtime.

With 6.4 million ISDN bases landlines, according to Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) 2019, belonging to businesses and the total employment of UK SMEs standing at 16.3 million*, there is a significant amount of work required to migrate so many workers to a new infrastructure, over the next 5 years.

Therefore, getting a solution implemented sooner rather than later will help businesses avoid hitting a bottleneck, as the 2025 deadline draws nearer, and businesses all try to get their systems transitioned at the last minute.