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What is PSTN? And why is it being switched off?

PSTN is the Public Switched Telephone Network. It’s the traditional telephone system, built on copper cable networks. They’re not fit for purpose anymore, because only fibre-optic and wireless connections can keep up with the data volumes today’s internet users need. It’s been around since 1875, which in itself explains why it’s being switched off.

The delay follows pressure from campaign groups, who expressed concern that telecare devices, used by 1.8 million elderly and vulnerable people, will not work if the internet goes down.

Compounding the issue is the fact that, as of December 2023, nearly half of businesses were unaware that it was even happening, and almost three quarters were yet to complete essential migration tasks.

So. The delay might come as something of a relief. But the ‘Big Switch Off’ is going to happen eventually. And before that, every phone line and broadband connection in the UK will need to rely on internet protocol (IP) across technologies other than copper, this includes ISDN, ADSL and even FTTC.

So whether you were in the midst of preparing for the transition, or this is brand new information, here are some steps to take to make sure your business is ready for January 2027.

Stay informed

Stay up to date with news and announcements regarding the new timeline for the PSTN switch-off. Reliable sources include Ofcom’s website, your service provider, or this blog, where we’ll post about new information as it arises.

Review your setup

Assess your current infrastructure to understand which services and devices rely on PSTN. This will include things like landlines, fax machines, alarm systems, and any other devices connected to traditional phone lines.

Plan for migration

Research providers, evaluate your existing connection and make sure it can handle VoIP services - there’ll be a whole lot more data running through it so you may need to upgrade your bandwidth. Consider your hardware too, you’ll need to replace an incompatible equipment with VoIP-compatible devices.

Test and prep

If possible, start testing VoIP solutions now. Set up a test line to start to familiarise yourself with the technology, align processes and troubleshoot any issues before the full migration. Also make sure your team is familiar with and ready to use the new systems. 

Look further forward

Don’t panic buy for January 2027, take the long view. Look for scalable solutions that can grow with your business. As your data use grows, you’ll want to ensure that your connectivity can handle the increased traffic. While transitioning over to accommodate the switch off, it’s a good time to consider your internet service more holistically, it might be that you’re ready to take on a Leased Line, or that your security could benefit from an upgrade too.

To find out more about how the PSTN switch off will affect your business, and create a plan for January 2027 and beyond, get in touch.

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