PSTN Switch Off Pushed to 2027


May 30, 2024

BT Group has announced a delay in the PSTN Switch Off, extending the deadline to January 2027. This 13-month extension provides businesses with additional time to transition smoothly to IP-based alternatives, ensuring a safer and more reliable shift away from copper-based systems.

What is the PSTN Switch Off?

The PSTN Switch Off refers to the planned discontinuation of all copper-based data and phone lines across the UK, as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) reaches the end of its serviceable life. For a comprehensive overview, check out our detailed blog post on the PSTN Switch Off.

What’s Changed?

The delay comes after emergency alarm outages sparked a health crisis, highlighting the vulnerabilities of telecare facilities during the transition. Michelle Donelan, the technology secretary, has demanded action from network operators following serious incidents where “telecare” devices and personal alarms designed for health emergencies failed due to the switch to digital landlines. BT has acknowledged the need to enhance the switch off program to better protect vulnerable customers, including the 1.8 million people in the UK who rely on personal alarms for urgent medical help.

What This Means for Organisations

The delay in the PSTN Switch Off presents a significant opportunity for organisations to thoroughly prepare for the transition to IP-based services. According to recent surveys, only 30% of UK businesses feel fully prepared for the switch off, while 70% still rely on outdated copper-based systems. This additional time should be used to evaluate current telephony and data infrastructure, develop comprehensive transition plans, and invest in new IP-based technologies.

The cost of replacing outdated systems can vary significantly, with small businesses potentially facing expenditures of £10,000 to £50,000, while larger enterprises might need to budget significantly more. Businesses will be transitioning to technologies such as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), which offers greater flexibility and functionality. Proper planning and investment in training staff to use these new systems will be essential to ensure a smooth and seamless transition, minimising the risk of service disruptions and operational inefficiencies.

Why Vulnerability Was a Key Driver for the Delay

The delay is largely driven by the need to protect vulnerable individuals who rely heavily on telecare facilities. Vulnerable groups include the elderly, disabled individuals, and those with chronic health conditions who use personal alarms to summon urgent medical help. These devices, typically worn around the neck or wrist, are vital lifelines that connect users to response centres in emergencies.

Recent incidents have underscored the risks posed by the transition to digital landlines, which are more susceptible to failures during power cuts or network disruptions. The inability to guarantee the reliability of these alarms over IP networks prompted the decision to delay the switch off. Protecting these vulnerable groups from potential life-threatening outages is a top priority, and the extension aims to ensure that all necessary measures are in place to safeguard their well-being.

Rob Orr, Virgin Media O2's Chief Operating Officer, has called on telecare companies and councils to “step up” to assist in the process, emphasising the need for a collective effort to ensure a safe transition. The Government is also in discussions with industry players and telecare companies to find ways to support customers through this critical change.

What to Do Next If You Haven't Taken Action

If you haven't yet begun your transition from PSTN to IP, now is the time to act.

Start by evaluating your current infrastructure and identifying the components that need upgrading or replacement to support IP-based services. Develop a comprehensive transition plan that outlines each step of the process, including timelines, budget considerations, and resource allocation. Engage with your communications provider to explore the best IP-based solutions tailored to your organisation's needs, ensuring they understand your specific challenges and requirements.

It is also crucial to invest in training for your staff, equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge to operate the new systems effectively. Conduct thorough testing of the new systems before fully transitioning to identify and resolve any issues, ensuring a smooth migration. Finally, continuously monitor the progress of the transition and be prepared to make adjustments as needed to address any unforeseen challenges.

The delay in the PSTN Switch Off to 2027 provides a critical opportunity for organisations to plan and execute a well-structured transition to IP-based services. By taking proactive steps now, businesses can ensure they are fully prepared, safeguarding their operations and protecting vulnerable users. This extended timeline is a valuable chance to address potential challenges comprehensively, ensuring a seamless transition that enhances operational efficiency and security.

How FourNet Can Help

At FourNet, we are experts at guiding organisations through the complex process of transitioning from PSTN to IP-based services. Our comprehensive approach includes evaluating your current infrastructure, developing tailored transition plans, and implementing the latest IP technologies.