Since being launched in 1986, ISDN (Integrated Service Digital Network) has been providing enhanced telecommunications capabilities to millions of businesses across the UK.
At the time of its release, ISDN was considered a technical innovation — allowing for both voice and data services to be delivered over digital lines simultaneously. This not only sparked the high-speed Internet era of the 1990s (128 kbps was the pinnacle of the day!) but also made it entirely possible for businesses to incorporate early video-conferencing in conjunction with traditional analogue phone systems.
But with the introduction of new broadband internet access connections like DSL, FTTC and Leased Lines, ISDN itself is now an outdated legacy system. And in 2015, BT released a statement that it would be gradually phasing out its ISDN network over the next five years, with a view to switching-off and altogether deactivating the network in ten years.
For those who haven’t quite yet done the maths, this means we’re already approaching the stages where BT will no longer be taking new ISDN orders. Not that it really matters, because you won’t have any use for it come 2025!
If this is the first you’re hearing about the matter, then you’re not alone. As of 2017, there are just over 2 million businesses in the UK with an ISDN connection; a quarter of whom are still unaware that the switch-off is even happening (source. TalkTalk Business).
So with all that being said, where do we go from here?
Say hello to the future!
In order to avoid finding yourself without a phone system, businesses currently with an ISDN connection will need to make the switch to an IP-based service.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is probably the one you’re already most familiar with, as it’s something BT has been slowly pushing for quite some time. VoIP systems run via a data network as opposed to a circuit-switched network dedicated purely to telephony (such as ISDN) and are used to send voice messages over the Internet — with Skype being one of the most well-known and popular platforms.
All businesses should now, with the recent developments, have a very stable and fast performing network infrastructure to allow for optimum efficiency in this area and should be considered when selecting a new phone system.
If you’re among the 2 million businesses that still have an ISDN connection, now is the time to review your telephony requirements so you can prepare to make the switch.
What should I do next?
Despite 2025 seeming a long way off, it’s always better to get a head start on preparations to ensure as smooth a transition as possible. This means making sure you have the infrastructure and resources in place to support the switch.
Firstly, you’ll need to get a clear idea of how many concurrent calls your business makes. As we’ve already mentioned, IP-based services depend on a reliable Internet connection and if the number of calls you’re making is too much for your current bandwidth to handle, then it can result in poor audio quality and video lag. With that in mind, you’ll also need to make sure you have sufficient bandwidth to accommodate your communication requirements moving forward.
Secondly, you’ll need to keep in mind the performance of your network as a whole. Between the file sharing and running of certain applications, chances are you have a lot of traffic on your network. Implementing a service like VoIP on top of that without making the necessary overhauls can lead to network performance issues and potential system crashes. To avoid this, it’s always best to get in touch with a proven IT service provider.
RDS Global can conduct a free internal review of your network setup and provide an advisable course of action to meet your communication requirements. Our consultative approach, built on 20 years’ experience of telecoms solutions across many sectors, ensures a fully tailored service right for your business.
To discuss how the impending ISDN switch-off may affect your business, and to discuss how you can take full advantage of VoIP contact the experienced team at RDS Global today for a free consultation.