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When it comes to technology, the pace of change is quickening. Ten years ago we didn’t know what an iPhone was (at least not for another month anyway) but now it seems that every week we’re seeing an innovative new means of communication being introduced. This continuous push for newer, faster, better connectivity is inevitably leaving older technologies to shrivel in its wake and we channel participants get to witness the gradual decay. In the spotlight at the moment is ISDN, the digital lines with multiple channels that allow more than one method of communication to take place simultaneously. Born in 1989, at a time before Internet access was publically available in the UK, it used to be the pinnacle of business connectivity – akin to the leased lines of today – but is now slated for the chopping block by BT Chief, Gavin Patterson. BT intends to stop selling ISDN by 2020 and shut it down completely by 2025 – meaning that the millions of businesses in the UK running their telephony over ISDN will soon need to find an alternative means to keep talking. (If you’re interested in the stats, Ofcom’s Market Data Update says that there were a total of 33.5 million UK PSTN lines and ISDN channels at the end of 2016, representing a year-on-year decrease of 211k (0.6%) and a decline of 74k (0.2%) compared to the previous quarter.)

Where do we go from here?

Ofcom’s stats show that the move from ISDN is gradual – this isn’t a surprise given its reliability. It just works, which is exactly what a business needs. But as we get closer to 2025 BT will undoubtedly reduce its support of the network in favour of newer technologies, so if a business wants to maintain its reliable telephony service it needs to look elsewhere sooner rather than later.

The good news is that with everything moving to the Internet and ongoing investment into those networks (as mandated by Government and from voluntary carrier investment), IP voice connectivity is relatively future-proof (as much as any technology can be) and both SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and Hosted Voice are already recognised alternatives to fixed ISDN lines.

How do I make my VoIP deployments succeed for customers?

Getting the connectivity right is the essential first step to happy VoIP customers.

Where voice is key to a business (and it normally is), we’d recommend that the lowest level of Internet connectivity that should be in place is EFM. While voice calls don’t use much bandwidth, when you multiply it up by the number of concurrent calls and add the traffic for the business continuing to use their Internet connection for everything else needed to maintain operations, it’s clear to see that the DSL service they’ve got at the moment really won’t cut the mustard. The additional benefit of moving to an Ethernet service to run both voice and data connectivity over is that the business will also protect against the possibility of the connection retraining in life, or being taken down for Openreach network rearrangement. Ensuring that the connectivity provider prioritises voice packets across their network at all times will also mitigate against any potential drops in service experience.

In truth, the benefits vastly outweigh the potential downsides when it comes to VoIP. There are no physical lines to install or maintain; setup and call costs tend to be lower; users pay only for the lines needed and can share capacity across multiple sites. It’s vastly scalable and flexible, businesses can keep their existing phone number even if they relocate (the joy of virtual lines!) and upgrades in technology can be added without new hardware needing to be purchased. It’s massively useful for business continuity, disaster recovery and to support flexible working arrangements as it can be moved quickly and easily to a new location.

When it comes down to it, VoIP practically sells itself and the margins available would be a boon for any connectivity resale business.

Have your say!

Are your customers seeking help to make the move from ISDN? Are you proactively pushing VoIP services as an ISDN replacement? Do you take the opportunity to review data connectivity requirements too? Share your experience with us by leaving a comment below.

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