Impact of PSTN Switch-Off Delay: Expert Opinions and Strategic Guidance

Switching it up 

The PSTN switch-off has been delayed by more than a year, but while it buys time for businesses that were not ready for this, it doesn’t mean they should delay plans to switch to digital technologies and resellers will have a vital role to play in this transition.

When BT recently announced that the switch-off of Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) will now be delayed from the original deadline of December 2025 to January 31, 2027, it came as little surprise to many – and a relief for some.

Various surveys had indicated that a significant minority of businesses – mostly very small ones – were not ready for it. In addition, some vulnerable people, especially those using telecare services, were still using analogue systems that wouldn’t be updated before the time of the original deadline, which could pose serious dangers to their health and safety.

The revised approach will result in a single switch for most customers (businesses and consumers) – from copper to fibre – with all customers now expected to have moved off the old analogue PSTN by the end of January 2027, BT Group said.

“The urgency for switching customers onto digital services grows by the day because the 40-year-old analogue landline technology is increasingly fragile,” says Howard Watson, chief security and networks officer, BT Group. “Managing customer migrations from analogue to digital as quickly and smoothly as possible, while making the necessary provisions for those customers with additional needs, including telecare users, is critically important.”

Over the following pages, various leaders and analysts in the sector give their reaction to the delay, but also offer advice on what resellers should be aware of when talking to businesses – especially smaller ones – about upgrading their technology in the coming months.

Steven Try, channel manager UK&I, Snom 

“The switchover will impact individual consumers and businesses alike, and a large reason for the delay is to ensure a smoother transition for vulnerable customers. This follows a series of incidents last year that saw telecare devices that rely on landlines – including personal alarms – stop working.

“Ensuring that end users aren’t compromised is essential and there is clearly some work to be done in identifying vulnerable customers and making sure that they are equipped with a working device. 

“For organisations yet to complete the transition, it’s crucial that this latest announcement isn’t viewed as a signal to take their foot off the gas. As a Berlin-based business, we experienced the transition back in 2016 and know that this really is a case of the sooner, the better. When deadlines are extended, there is always a risk that the sense of urgency will diminish, yet the reality is that this only buys an additional 13 months.  

“For those yet to make the transition, there are plenty of IP-based options to explore including VoIP. This enables seamless audio calls over the internet and is therefore considered ‘plug and play’ compared to ISDN lines. IP phones have several advantages over traditional phones that can help businesses remain agile and flexible. For example, because IP phones are highly mobile and don’t require physical installation of a new line, they can be relocated anywhere on an IP network and will automatically reconnect. This makes them an ideal solution for hybrid and remote workers.

“Organisations should still aim for the initial deadline and use the additional time to carry out further testing and address any potential challenges. In doing so, organisations can confidently minimise any disruptions further down the line.”

Jamie Snaddon, EMEA MD, 8×8

“A lot of organisations will be delighted at the news of the PSTN delay. So many organisations, from local authorities, housing associations and health trusts to micro-businesses, told us that they weren’t ready to switch over.

“Now, you would think that 18 months or so would be plenty of time for most organisations to make a switch, but the reality is that time wasn’t the main factor here: it was cost. A lot of businesses are struggling in the current economic climate and having to find funding for a major digital transformation project like this was an issue that many didn’t have the capacity to deal with.

“Economic forecasts suggest that the UK will be in a slightly better place by 2026, which is when the revised switch-off date will need to be budgeted for – of course, if BT stick to the 2027 deadline – so that may give companies a chance to budget appropriately instead of rushing into a solution.

“This obviously only applies to the organisations that knew the switch-off was coming. Study after study, as well as from what I hear on the ground, show that about 30% of businesses were completely unaware of the December 2025 cut-off date. With this new deadline, the industry, Ofcom and the Government, whomever that is post-election, need to work together to make this seamless and easy. The comms industry was trying hard and many of them came together for the Fit to Switch campaign. It’s not enough though: we will need Ofcom and the Government to be more involved.

“There’s a question from the announcement of the switch-off delay though: who is going to foot the bill for the running costs of this legacy technology? The delay may not be the blessing that it seems because there is going to be a cost here.

“For companies that can switch over earlier than 2027, it may make sense to do so as legacy technology only gets more expensive as time goes on. We’ve seen businesses save up to £500,000 over three-year periods when moving from legacy to cloud communications. Sometimes it is more expensive to do nothing and wait.”

Dominic Norton, director, Spitfire

“Our message to customers is unchanged. Although this revised date buys more time and indeed may now seem some way off, the huge task to move to an all-IP future-proofed service remains. 

Customers should still aim to take action now, as the announcement only provides a one-year extension, and we are still likely to experience resource bottlenecks as the months go by. 

“Prices are also likely to continue to increase on the old network services for analogue, ISDN and broadband, with decent cost savings already available on their all-IP voice and fibre broadband alternatives, not to mention the other additional benefits including more flexible working.”

Louise Elliott, chief customer and operations officer, BeFibre

“It’s unfortunate that BT has delayed this initiative for another two years because it hasn’t been properly prepared. This was originally announced in October 2016 – eight years in the making.

“Moving to digital technologies like VoIP and ultrafast broadband offers significant benefits and opportunities compared to BT’s older analogue and copper connections. So, they’re only harming themselves and their customers by delaying this transition further.

“The best way for customers to get the speed and service they need, while avoiding future disruptions when BT reaches their 75% threshold, is to take control and switch to a fully digital provider.”

Finbarr Begley, senior analyst, Cavell 

“The news that the PSTN switch-off has been delayed doesn’t come as a surprise to many in the industry. The reality is that the telecoms channel has known for some time that many companies, especially SMBs, have either been unaware of the switch-off or not prepared for it.  

“From Cavell’s own survey of Business Telecom’s decision-makers in the UK in 2023, 80% of businesses overall were aware of the planned switch-off, with 42% saying it would impact their business. However, when smaller companies were asked, 58% of sole traders and 36% of businesses with one to nine employees were not aware. 

“What does this lack of preparedness look like? It is a mess of desk phones, wired alarms, building equipment, and everything from a smart sensor in a barn in York, down to an alarm in an elderly person’s retirement home in Cornwall. These are services that small businesses rely on and haven’t yet been able to upgrade. Price is a factor as well: older buildings wired with copper phone lines cannot just be upgraded to a new service for free. 

“Also, there is the factor that in the UK many of the PTSN lines have a power component. This is a large difference from other countries that have successfully switched off their PSTN network. In those countries, a power outage would cause a PSTN failure, or a failure of the new system, whereas in the UK if the power goes down in the building but not on a broader scale, the PSTN systems will stay online. 

“This is vital for the maintenance of multiple emergency services that rely on this power as the ultimate backup. The fact that we have built reliance on that power into our systems means that the change will take longer than it has in other markets.

“However, the trend is firmly against PSTN. Already calling is moving away, not just from PSTN but away from fixed telephony altogether. Reports from BT indicate that fixed calling continues to fall, first overtaken by mobile calling and now also being supplanted by in-app calling and OTT. But as much as fixed calling continues to fall there is a resolute percentage at the lower end of the scale that has not and does not want to change. 

“But PTSN is obsolete, and much like radio-based television, it will eventually be supplanted because the newer systems genuinely are more capable and feature-rich. So expect more and more PTSN to disappear, but the idea that we can turn it all off is a bit more of a stretch.”

Patrick Fenner, co-founder and head of engineering, DefProc Engineering

“It will come as a relief to many people as it provides more time for people to react and implement the necessary changes. I think people underestimated or weren’t aware of the shift in technology and the delay means more time can be spent spreading awareness of how and why people need to change technology. 

“However, the delay does mean that people may be staying with copper longer than necessary and won’t feel the benefits of a fibre optic connection until as late as 2027. Ultimately, the PSTN switch-off needs to happen; we can’t keep the copper network – it just doesn’t have the bandwidth capabilities required for most people and businesses.”

Stephanie Seekings, unified communications client manager, Getronics 

“The delayed PSTN switch off is good news for businesses. From my conversations with end users, many of them aren’t even aware that it’s happening. The extension gives suppliers more time to let customers know about the changes. This in turn will allow businesses to properly review what they want to do, obtain budgets, future-proof any new systems and plan the deployment. 

“However, I’d still recommend that businesses look to move onto a SIP trunk as quickly as possible, because there is quite a cost saving in doing so. The longer it takes you to move from PSTN to SIP, the more money you’re spending in the short-term. 

“It’s far better to plan your strategy now than wait until the last minute when your decisions might be rushed. But if a full switch isn’t viable right now, it could be beneficial in the interim to install a gateway within an existing infrastructure to enable SIP trunks. The cost of putting in this hardware will soon be outweighed by the cost savings from it.”

Kristian Torode, director and co-founder, Crystaline 

“On May 17, BT Group confirmed that the PSTN switch off would be pushed back. However, the new deadline doesn’t mean that businesses should deprioritise their digital switchover, as leaving it too long means a company risks being left without a functioning phone system. 

“Openreach has now stopped sales of copper-based telephony and broadband products such as ADSL connectivity to more than 880,000 UK premises. Further stop sells will be triggered in exchanges where over three quarters of premises can access full fibre, with more than 700 exchanges expected to be affected by summer 2024. The rapid full fibre rollout means even if PSTN products are still available in an area, businesses should upgrade their business comms setup in advance of potential changes. 

“The production of replacement parts for many PSTN-based services has ceased, making it difficult to carry out essential repairs on broken equipment. Consequently, analogue phonelines are becoming less reliable, with Ofcom data showing a 60% increase in lost service hours in 2023. Therefore, delaying the switch means your company will likely face difficulties communicating internally, with clients and with new business prospects. 

“Digital phonelines such as VoIP help businesses to be more flexible by supporting call forwarding to mobiles, facilitating seamless remote working. VoIP only requires businesses to pay for the number of users they need, making it affordable and easily scalable during peak times or quieter periods. Switching now also gives a business sufficient time to adapt to the new communications set up. Being an early adopter ensures there is enough time to train staff on the new system, increasing their call handling ability. 

“Moreover, making the switch now gives businesses a competitive advantage. Thousands are yet to adopt digital PSTN alternatives, with Which? research showing three quarters of UK landline users still have a copper-based connection. Switching now leaves businesses with more time to find the right connectivity option for they budget
and needs. 

“Despite the PSTN switch-off being delayed until 2027, its important businesses doesn’t delay switching to digital. Choosing a futureproofed PSTN alternative now not only helps avoid a last-minute rush, but also allows them to start reaping the benefits of digital connectivity immediately.”