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The PSTN/ISDN switch off – deadline is looming

Jonathan Sharp

The PSTN/ISDN switch off race is here right now! From September this year BT will cease to sell and support PSTN based network connections and wholesale line rentals. From 2025 they will switch these networks off and everyone will operate on fibre IP and SIP network, which is easier to manage, more cost-effective and more flexible. So now is the time to start planning your communications network and solutions particularly if you need to add new offices and/or increase capacity.

It’s important to remember not to rush full speed ahead on changing your business communications and approach it with a steady pace to ensure you win the race and reap the benefits of a well planned and executed digital transformation strategy.

The Numbers say it all
A recent survey by National Business Communications revealed that a staggering 59.7% of UK businesses do not know what the ‘Big Switch Off’ is and almost 70% of its survey respondents stated that they are still using legacy networks. This is particularly surprising after the increase in use of the likes of Microsoft Teams and Zoom over the last few years during the pandemic. Zoom being one of the fastest growing apps of the pandemic, and meeting participants increased by 2900%. And Microsoft Teams reached 270 million users in 2022, up from 145 million it reported in 2021 with an 894% growth from March to June 2020, more than Zoom (Aternity).

It’s all in the plan
It is critical not to rush and go out and instantly replace your communications network, this is your opportunity to design and deploy a digital transformation strategy that will not only modernise your workplace but also improve internal and external communications and potentially improve your customer experience, and business processes. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? well it’s not but the caveat is that you need to work with an experienced and trusted solutions provider to consult and guide you in the right direction.

Your new communications solution is an investment that should be protected and a platform for all your future’s communications needs and requirements, so you need to get it right. A solutions provider will work closely with you to ascertain what technology you have already and so you can seamlessly migrate to the IP and SIP network infrastructure when you are ready to do so while minimising disruption to your business.

Next, they should work with you to understand what your objectives are and how your existing and new technology can help you achieve them. Putting a digital transformation strategy in place at the start of this journey will ensure that you are putting the right foundations in place to add on the technology you require to meet your business goals.

It is vital to find a solution’s provider that is more of a consultant and strategic partner to you rather than simply a provider of technology. They will review your current environment and help you build out your longer-term plans. Then and only then are you ready for them to build and support your new communications solution to meet your end users’ needs and commercial requirements.

Connecting your remote workforce
Over the last few years, the world of work has changed due to the pandemic and the millions of people working at home. The world of work has changed forever and with the PSTN switch off businesses need to accommodate the request from their employees to work from home. In 2020 the Office for National Statistics reported that an estimated 4.7 million people in the UK were working from home in 2020 and this expected to increase to 5.2 million people in 2023. It is estimated that there will be 24.7 million home broadband lines in the UK in 2022, of which 21.7 million will have a landline so it is paramount that businesses need to take in consideration the huge number of people working from home and view this as an extension of their organisation and network. When planning a business communications solution, they need to be mindful that the network connections go beyond the connection points in the physical buildings of work and into remote locations and peoples’ homes. Employees that are based at home or hybrid working must be able to securely access the network and all resources required as they would from an office.

Modernise how you communicate
Now is the time to modernise your communications by implementing the latest conferencing and collaboration solutions that your colleagues and customers will expect. Platforms like 8×8 connect people together with video conferencing, shared documents, and messaging. And if your organisation is using Microsoft Teams or Zoom then direct routing may well be the way forward to connect your organisation to the outside world as well as internally. Empower your people with modern tools to improve team working and collaboration, delight your customers and deliver the competitive edge.

Colleagues and customer are kings
Customers no longer dominate the position of King; colleagues are also demanding the crown so ensuring that you know how they communicate and what they use to communicate in terms of devices and the processes they use is paramount. A solutions provider will work with you to see what processes you have in place for your communications, customer and employee engagement. You can evaluate what works and what doesn’t, ask your colleagues, your agents, and your customers how they would like to communicate and what their feedback is, and what they suggest for improvements.

Automate processes with AI solutions providing the self-serve option to enhance and simplify the customer’s journey and free up agents to focus on other areas. IP and SIP enable you to improve your customer experience and stay ahead, not get left behind. A total of 67% of global consumers had an interaction with a chatbot over the last 12 months (invesp) and Servion forecast that 95% of interactions will be powered by AI and will be indistinguishable from humans in 2025!

Safe in the Cloud
By hosting your telephony in the cloud with either IP or SIP telephony, you can achieve up to 70% cost-savings in calls plus save by not having any hardware on site. It is also easier to manage and flex your communications platform, your way and add on applications and new technology when required.

Cloud also augments your business continuity and increasing security and if a line fails then it can automatically switch over to another in the cloud. If faced with a natural disaster or another pandemic then you can easily set up staff to work from home where they can access the same features and functionalities that they can in the office. Capabilities like dynamic call routing put you in driving seat with routing plans or let you change things on the fly as circumstances dictate.

Another major advantage is that it will give you full visibility over your inbound and outbound voice communications, along with powerful analytics tools, customisable dashboards and widgets, reports scheduling, call flows and business continuity planning.

What are you waiting for?
The deadline is looming and now is it the time to re-design your communications network and your needs. This is your opportunity to have the digital transformation strategy that you desire and the perfect time to get it signed off!

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