Seen the worrying headlines about BT switching off their ISDN network?
Here’s the reality of the situation and what businesses need to do about it.
What exactly is happening?
BT have announced that they are moving to turn off their ISDN network for voice calling in 2025. They will stop taking new orders from businesses in 2020.
OK, what is ISDN? And what does this all actually mean?!
ISDN essentially describes the network that is in place to carry your telephone conversations when you talk on the phone and your data when you use the internet. Don’t worry! The fact that BT are turning off their ISDN network is something that has been expected for some time and, of course, there is an alternative in place. We’ll come on to that shortly. The change does mean a few things for businesses, but none of them are any reason to panic. We’ll come on to those shortly too.
Why are BT turning off ISDN?
The infrastructure behind ISDN is essentially the same infrastructure that underpinned the first telephony networks in the 1800s! It has, of course, been significantly overhauled and upgraded since then, but the core logic underneath the network is the same. The costs of maintaining such an old infrastructure are rising and with alternatives available, it doesn’t make sense to keep it up and running in a way that works for BT’s clients.
This makes sense. What will be in place instead?
BT is moving their network to be based on IP. You may have heard the more common acronyms involving IP; VoIP and SIP. In essence, instead of having an old connection that carries both voice and data, you’ll have one, fast data connection, which also carries your voice calling. Bear with us, we know this creates more questions…
So, what difference will this change actually make?
The change will provide businesses with plenty of additional options when it comes to voice calling but, in essence, you don’t need to do anything drastic if you don’t want to. You will still be able to buy a normal-looking desktop handset, pick up the receiver and dial a number. However, in this scenario, you may need to upgrade your current desktop phones, particularly if they are already quite old.
What if I don’t want to do that? What else can I now do?
The change from ISDN will make it easier for businesses who want to take advantage of some of the advance features that using VoIP and SIP creates. For example, pairing a SIP line with a cloud-based telephone system can give you the ability to easily transfer calls between offices and locations, to use your work line whilst anywhere in the country and to see which members of your team are available to take calls.
Sounds great, but we’re a bit busy right now; what do I absolutely have to do at the moment?
Nothing! There seem to be plenty of articles around at the moment which almost qualify as scare-mongering (dangerous place, that internet!). The truth is that if you are one of the 2 million BT ISDN clients then you have the best part of 7 years to review your options and, once you’ve settled on a way forward, changing is relatively easy (this is another advantage of moving away from an ISDN network!).
OK and what about when we’re ready to start making a change?
Do some research on what’s available, what you need and what you might like to have. That will start getting you to a point where you have some set up options to consider and prices to compare. Don’t forget: because calling can essentially be free on VoIP set ups, and line rental can often be much less than ISDN lines, this doesn’t necessarily need to be an expensive project.
Great! Where can I get started on my research?
We’ve got a few more resources like this blog to help you to go a bit further:
- You can review some SIP-friendly bits of telephony hardware here.
- Here are some options for cloud-based telephony software.
And if I need a bit more help?
We’ll happily have a conversation with you to help a bit more with the questions above. Feel free to send us a question in the live chat box at the bottom of this page. Or call us (using your mobile, ISDN or VoIP phone – we don’t discriminate!) on 0161 355 1717 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see these options and more, visit our contact page.