What is the PSTN and why is it important?

The PSTN system has been used since the 1800s. In recent years however the use of PSTN technology has been on the decline and is being gradually phased out. In 2017 Openreach announced it will be shutting down the PSTN system for good in December 2025.

In 2022 many businesses are still unaware of this. We regularly come across business owners who are surprised to hear about it. You can read more about the Openreach PSTN Withdrawal in one of our previous articles.

The withdrawal will affect both business and residential users. Most people are not aware to what extent. In this post we will cover what the PSTN system is and why it is important to understand it, and steps you can take to prepare your organisation.

What is the PSTN?

PSTN stands for Public Switched Telephone Network. It consists of many interconnected switched telephone networks run by local, national or international carriers worldwide. These provide the necessary infrastructure enabling businesses and homes to communicate via telephones.

To be more specific, the PSTN is a combination of various underground and above ground or undersea wires, fibre optic cables, satellites, switching centres, cellular networks and other cable systems.

Phones that use this system are often referred to as Landlines, Fixed-Line telephones or Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS).

Why is the PSTN Important?

The PSTN is important because it has provided the world for more than a century with the ability to communicate with anyone around the world in seconds. However there is more to it. 

Your phones are not the only devices that use this service to operate. Currently the most used and widely available broadband service, FTTC (Fibre-to-the-Cabinet) requires a phone line to work. 

But this isn’t all. Many devices rely on the PSTN infrastructure, these can include Alarms, Payment Terminals, Lifts, CCTV cameras and many more.  This is why understanding what the PSTN is, is important.

You may have been unaware how much of your technology actually relies on the PSTN service and therefore may not be prepared for the switch off. Below we will list some actionable steps you can take to prepare for it.

How to Prepare for the PSTN Switch Off


  1. Connectivity

    Possibly the most important thing to get right from the get go, is to sort out your connectivity. Everything relies heavily on the internet these days, even landlines are being replaced by VoIP solutions which run using your network.

    If you are still using broadband that requires a phone line, this is a good place to start. Look for options like SoGEA or FTTP (Fibre-to-the-Premises).

  2. Communication

    Once you have your internet sorted, now is the time to switch to VoIP if you have not already. Ditch those outdated phone systems. IP phones give you the flexibility of taking calls on almost any device that connects to the internet. You also get to keep your number if you wish to.

    We’ve just released a new VoIP Licence which is cheaper than our Unlimited Calls Licence, making it great for smaller businesses. You can learn more about it here.

  3. Review remaining systems

    Now that you have your connection and communication sorted. Time to check what other vital systems are relying on the PSTN line. These can be your Door Systems, Alarms, Cameras, Payment Terminals, Emergency Lines and whatever else you may have

  4. Hardware Review

    Inevitably, some of your hardware might need replacing to newer more compatible versions. Likewise, some hardware might become completely unnecessary. For example most of your employees work remotely, you might not need to provide them with a deskphone. Instead a softphone client could be a better option.

  5. Educate Employees

    Naturally, some things can change considerably. This might require organising some training for your employees. An example of this might be a new VoIP system. You might want your employees to start using a new softphone client with new features which can be a learning curve.

You will need to upgrade to a VoIP service before the deadline in 2025. The later you leave it, the more difficult it could be to migrate to a VoIP service.
There is going to be a huge demand as the switch-off date approaches which could mean you experience delays which could affect your service. In addition, you could save money while also improving your business’s phone system.

Use the steps in this post to guide you in your decision making process. Remember you can always reach out to one of our specialists if you need further advice or help.

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