The PSTN ‘Big Switch off’

The Scoop | 30/08/2023

ptsn switch off

The PSTN ‘Big Switch off’ is fast approaching so it’s important to know how this will affect your home or business.

So, in simple terms, what does this all mean?

The Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) and Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is the existing infrastructure that traditionally supported our public telecommunications, CCTV and door entry systems, alarms and EPOS machines. This network of copper wires has been in use since 1876.

The 1980s saw the start of a digital overhaul, with the introduction of ISDN paving the way for the transmission of much more than voice, including chunky data, video and images.

Remarkably, all of the data produced in the early days of the internet right up to 2003 is the equivalent of what we send in just 10 minutes today, and it’s only increasing. Existing analogue lines just can’t keep up with demand and not only is it too slow; it’s not the most sustainable choice, hence the need for change.

Copper versus fibre

On average, fibre is 75% more reliable than copper, 50% more energy efficient, requires 50% less maintenance and has double the levels of customer satisfaction. In addition to its voice services, it is up to 18 times faster than broadband delivered via copper.

From September 2023, no new customers will be added to analogue services or changes made to existing services. The copper switch off is taking a phased approach and will be completely switched-off in December 2025, when all existing phone systems and internet connections will be hosted over Internet Protocol (IP). This includes hardware such as card machines, alarm systems or CCTV, affecting both homes and businesses.

Benefits include much faster broadband, being able to make calls from your desktop, laptop, mobile or tablet and lines being less prone to damage, meaning fewer outages.

Landline, no more

It’s worth noting that unlike traditional corded analogue phones, a digital phone will only work in a power cut if there is a battery back-up. For those still dependent on a landline phone – this will apply to those without a mobile phone or good mobile signal – your existing provider must offer you a solution, such as a mobile phone if you have good enough signal or a battery back-up unit for your landline. This will ensure you can contact the emergency services in the event of a power cut and should be provided free of charge for landline users.

You should make your provider aware of your individual needs when it comes to remaining connected post switch off or if you use equipment connected to your landline, such as a telecare or burglar alarm. If you have equipment like this, it may need replaced or reconfigured so that it can continue to work with a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. Alternatively, if you’re looking to buy new equipment for use with VoIP, it is important to ensure it is compatible.

Just like residential customers, small businesses wishing to continue using their landlines will eventually have to move to VoIP services. So, whether you have card payment machines, alarms or monitoring equipment connected to your landline, they may not work once you have migrated to a VoIP service. Just ensure you speak to your landline provider regarding any equipment and seek advice on replacing or reconfiguring it.

The decision to close the PSTN has been made by industry and we’d like to help navigate our customers through this change so they don’t experience undue disruption.

Many are unaware of the deadlines and the actions required; however, the switch off is a great opportunity to embrace the opportunities and benefits associated with the best connectivity available – full fibre, with no copper in sight!

Key dates to remember

  • September 2023 – any broadband or phone services using the old copper network will no longer be sold
  • December 2025 – the PSTN will be switched off and all UK landlines will cease to operate
  • From 1 January 2026 – all home or phone calls will be hosted over the internet.