Yours may be one of the millions of businesses in the UK today that use ISDN. The system was first introduced in the 1980s as a way to transmit both voice and data over wired phone lines, and became popular as businesses discovered its usefulness for video and conference calls.

In 2015, BT announced that they would stop supplying new ISDN and PSTN lines by 2020. By 2025, the entire system will be phased out in favour of cloud-based and virtual VoIP and SIP systems. Existing ISDN users will need to make the switch to one of the new systems.

Why switch?

The technology that drives ISDN has become outdated – the system uses the same type of copper wires that linked telephones in the 1800s! Alternatives like VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) don’t use wires at all. These alternatives are already quickly overtaking landlines in popularity because they can have big advantages for business users in terms of cost, reliability and flexibility. If you’ve ever used a service like Skype, you’ve already seen how cost-effective VoIP can be.

Where to start

You have a choice of providers, so shop around. Switching to VoIP should save you money – watch out for unclear pricing or hidden extras. A good provider will offer round-the-clock support, as well as placing a strong emphasis on system security and data protection.

Bear in mind that the new systems are now available in most areas, but you will need a high quality internet connection to take advantage. You will also need a phone system that supports VoIP – if you have a fairly modern system, it probably already does. You may hear the term ‘softphones’, this just refers to devices like computers that you can use to make and receive calls through use of an app. SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) is a way of using VoIP that tends to benefit large businesses with very high call volumes.

Will it work for you?

Some rural areas still don’t have the fast internet needed to support the new systems. While things are improving, it’s possible that not everyone will be ready to make the switch by 2025. BT has promised that they will not withdraw ISDN from users who don’t have a suitable alternative in place.

The switch is coming, so check your options – your company might benefit from switching now to get ahead of the deadline.