Channel companies need to start now to help PSTN customers switch to VoIP early to win – and keep – business.

March 17, 2023

4 Min Read
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By Steve Blackshaw

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Steve Blackshaw

The public switched telephone network (PSTN) switch-off is less than three years away. 2023 will be a pivotal year in ensuring the channel meets the December 2025 deadline, with copper networks in Salisbury and Mildenhall due to be switched off later this year.

[Editor’s Note: The public switched telephone network (PSTN) in the UK is being phased out by Dec. 31, 2025, when it will be replaced by Internet Protocol or voice over internet protocol (VoIP) digital service phone systems. The change affects landlines as well as non-voice services connected to PSTN or ISDN lines such as alarms, CCTV, door-entry systems and faxes.]

Many channel partners are embracing the shift to all-Internet Protocol (IP) and preparing their customers for a digital future. Indeed, it’s encouraging that there was a decline of 6.9% in fixed-voice revenue in Q2 2022. But there are still many providers that have yet to begin helping their customers prepare for the opportunities that lie ahead.

While early adopters of all-IP are already embracing the benefits of transforming their business, there’s a concerning lack of awareness among some end users, and partners aren’t doing enough to convince them of the importance of switching to IP technology. In fact, a recent BT survey found that navigating the shift to all-IP isn’t a high priority for business leaders in the channel, with only 18% citing it among their top two choices.

With the deadline fast approaching, it’s vital that the channel makes all-IP a priority, and works harder to educate customers, and highlight the benefits that can be claimed. After all, if partners don’t step up now, when they’re most needed, a competitor will instead.

Encouraging Change

There are several reasons a business might consider making the shift to all-IP sooner rather than later. By allowing organisations to move their legacy technology more easily to hybrid cloud, for example, all-IP enables greater flexibility in IT architecture and network routing, making working simpler — particularly in today’s more remote environments — and boosting a company’s margins through expanded portfolios.

For these reasons, among others, many IT directors today insist on using IP technology as a protocol; for them, the switching off of legacy protocols can’t happen soon enough.

But there are many organizations that have yet to make the switch. It’s here, then, that channel leaders have a crucial part to play, raising awareness of the need to migrate and the business benefits that doing so can represent. They must take a leading role in educating their customers about the shift to all-IP, and encourage a culture of change.

Trusted Advisers

Any organisation that currently relies on PSTN will need a suitably responsive channel partner to prepare it for the 2025 deadline. It’s essential that partners are considered trusted, consultative advisers, and remain in contact with their customers to ensure they’re aware of what’s required for the journey ahead, and how they can make the most of any investment they’ve already made.

As part of this educational process, partners must emphasise that all-IP is about more than just the products they sell. They should highlight, for instance, the range of benefits such as the ability to manage simplified networks; the enablement of SD-WAN and hyperscaler optimization; and the simplification of operations environments and the associated cost savings.

Importantly, this should be seen as an opportunity for them to become ongoing drivers of positive transformation for their customers, rather than just providing an occasional service.

Like their customers, partners that act early are the ones that stand to benefit the most. The fact is, with the deadline in sight, the early adopter phase has passed. Those channel partners that adopted an all-IP portfolio in the past couple of years are already reaping the rewards. But, as we approach 2025, and the market accelerates to all-IP across every exchange, any providers still focused on legacy technology will find themselves left behind.

Testing Times

This fall on Oct. 9 will be critical for determining how feasible the 2025 deadline for switch-off really is. What happens in Salisbury and Mildenhall will inform what happens when PSTN and ISDN are ceased. It will demonstrate the market’s reaction, the media’s perception, and the extent to which channel partners have prepared their customers in those two exchanges for migrating — or not. Whatever the outcome, this pilot should inform industry approaches, allowing it to define clear policies and service outcomes in advance of the switch-off itself.

Time is of the essence, though. With less than three years to go, partners who have yet to outline their 2025 switch-off strategy need to start now and prepare to help their customers migrate ahead of the deadline. This is a huge opportunity for the channel, but partners must take the opportunity seriously to reap the benefits and grow their customer base. Those who leave it too late, could lose out.

Steve Blackshaw is IP migration director at BT Wholesale. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @bt_uk on Twitter.

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