Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN)

The ISDN Phase Out & Navigating the End of an Era

In early 2015, BT announced that the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) which has provided the backbone to UK communications infrastructure for the last three decades, would finally be retired. Back in 1986, the platform was a revelation, providing users with support for both analogue phone lines & video conferencing systems together for the first time. It also brought increased network reliability which had previously been a big issue, especially involving long distance connections.

In the company’s original statement entities were warned that they would be unable to purchase ISDN lines after the year 2020. This has subsequently been extended, with reports now suggesting that you will be able to purchase ISDN lines up until September 2023. However, the firm’s 5-year ISDN phase out plan (backed by the UK Government) remains, and it is still their intention to dissolve the platform completely by 2025.

For BT, it was a case of a hugely successful piece of technology ultimately coming to end of its useful life. In 2007, there was still over 4.7 million ISDN channels used in the UK. Fast forward to 2018, and that number has more than halved, with only 2 million lines reported active. As such, the operations of legacy networks like ISDN can no longer be deemed financially viable. While the platform has seen incremental upgrades since it was first introduced, the decision to finally put a halt to ISDN services won’t come as a huge surprise. With the emergence of cloud computing, superfast internet and Ethernet, ISDN lines are simply unable to keep pace with the demand of modern business communications.

For personal use, BT’s Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution ‘Digital Voice’ will be offered as a replacement for customers traditional landlines. Businesses, however, will be directed towards their ‘Cloud Phone’ product line which provides a number of tiered pricing plans based on the extent of its feature list. This transition to VoIP has been in the works at BT for some time. Along with significant R&D investment, the company recognises the inherent benefits of the VoIP solution should be enough to convince the majority of ISDN customers to transfer. In addition to being quicker, cheaper and considerably more flexible, a VoIP solution benefits from a cloud-based infrastructure which does not tie users to a single location. So long they have access to an internet connection, they will receive full functionality anywhere they choose to work.

The COVID-19 pandemic naturally accelerated the decision-making process for many businesses, with the need to facilitate hybrid/remote working becoming a high-level priority. It means that two years out from the intended switch off date, 40% of businesses in the United Kingdom have already made the switch to a cloud-based IP solution with even more likely to follow suit in 2024. Moreover, with a migration time of as little as 3 weeks, VoIP and Session Initiated Protocol (SIP) make for attractive and easily accessible alternatives to ISDN. In addition to increased performance and efficiency, IP solutions also offer future proofing for businesses. A lack of physical infrastructure also grants considerable scalability advantages, allowing growing businesses to provide staff with a reliable communication experience from anywhere in the UK.

In regard to cost, the potential savings of VoIP compared to ISDN can be significant – particularly for businesses with multiple lines and heavy usage. While ISDN requires users to pay a fixed monthly fee, it is also necessary to pay an auxiliary charge for essential features such as Voicemail and Call Forwarding. VoIP providers on the other hand, typically offer these and many more features, as standard (with no additional charge). As calls are delivered over a customer’s existing internet connection, costs over IP are generally much lower than that of traditional phone services.

Trig Point Consulting specialises in recommending bespoke IP solutions based on a company’s existing communications infrastructure and key business requirements. Collaborating to pin down key factors such as price, features, and timescale, Trig Point will begin the process of formulating a strategic proposal to help your business achieve a seamless transition. Guidance will be given to ensure the right IP provider is found for your company based on your companies’ unique parameters. The current market is saturated with many different VoIP solutions, and we aim to ensure that you receive the best and most cost-efficient option which is most conducive to your business case.

At Trig Point, we aim to always take our clients on the journey with us. Throughout the process the team will educate and prepare the people around your business for the move and raise awareness of the benefits of the change. We aid in the training process and help to make sure employees are ready to hit the ground running following the final go live. The team will work to provide your business with a comprehensive plan, which includes developing a timeline, recognizing potential challenges, and outlining a roadmap for implementation. We will stay with your company through the testing and troubleshooting stage and provide ongoing support to ensure you receive a perfectly smooth transition to IP based telecommunications.

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