The clock is continuing to tick ever closer to a new era of connectivity. 2025 will signal the switch-off of the public switched telephone service (PSTN) and integrated services digital network (ISDN), creating a shift to the all-IP world for businesses.
It is an important calendar event that businesses need to have on their radar, with recent research from BT Wholesale and Cisco showing that 92% of channel organisation’s customers are aware of the Wholesale line rental (WLR) withdrawal. However, it found that only 40% are actively preparing their strategies.
With this switch-off comes a huge opportunity for channel partners (CPs) to define and explain the switch-off to their customers and guide these businesses to an all-IP world.
What’s happening and what’s the opportunity?
PSTN has been the backbone of the UK’s phone network for decades. The dramatic changes in technology over the past few years, especially recently, are very apparent. The huge amount of copper wires (which consists of the PSTN for voice and the integrated services digital network (ISDN) for both data and voice) has been used as the basis for voice and data services, and all the while fibre networks are being installed across the country. These have worked side-by-side to provide telephone and internet services – which is why, traditionally, you always needed to install a separate phone line when selecting an internet package.
But with the installation of these fibre networks and the vast improvements in data speeds and capacity that they bring, it’s clear that the PSTN and ISDN copper networks are no longer fit for service. It’s now time to leap forward to all-IP and embrace its boundless opportunities.
The next few years will see the growing use of two different systems. But it’s important to remember that not all networks are created equal. Supporting an all-IP future is dependent on a network that provides the necessary high bandwidths and scalability, with capacity utilisation kept at a manageable level to ensure there’s always headroom for spikes in demand. This is achieved through consistent full end-to-end network investment, so CPs must provide customers with the whole picture around providers and the complete offering.
Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), which removes the copper element from the equation and provides superfast connectivity is an example of a technology that provides internet connectivity to much of the UK, and could be considered by channel partners as part of their offerings.
However, FTTP is focused for now in built-up areas and will continue to be rolled out across the country for years to come. So, as an alternative, this is where single order generic ethernet access (SoGEA) comes into play, whereby it enables customers to access broadband services through a single line.
In essence, traditional copper ISDN is very much obsolete, and with FTTP and SoGEA now available for around 95% of the country, these new technologies are poised to take up the connectivity mantle.
Providing guidance and wisdom
The switch-off is already happening and will to be carried out in stages. This is one of the strongest messages that the channel needs to carry through to its customers – they don’t have four years of no change and one day all of their PSTN-based systems will be obsolete. The role that channel partners need to play is fundamentally that of the educator and communicator, proactively explaining these messages and timeframes to businesses and making sure that they have a clear understanding of what is occurring.
The next stage is then to press home the benefits, which again may not be clear to all. Advancements in speed, more flexibility, easier installation and increased mobility are all aspects of the digital switch-over that will affect businesses of all shapes and sizes. So, the channel needs to prioritise these messages in order to educate and excite their customer base about the changes and the improvements that they will bring – for those both eager and apprehensive.
And of course, this messaging serves a dual purpose, positioning the channel as the expertise and knowledge that businesses need to take advantage of to manage their digital switch-over, installations and the best route for their underlying connectivity.
With the much referenced ‘new normal’ beginning to take shape, channel partners need to keep abreast of evolving technologies that will best support their customers and ensure they do not fall foul of potential barriers. Connectivity must be at the core, and with an all-IP future on the horizon, partners that aren’t at the forefront to support their customers will fall behind.