IT expert’s five tips for small businesses to prepare for the PSTN Switch Off “The PSTN Switch Off is the biggest change to business communications since its implementation”, says Colin Hewitt, Business Development Manager at Integrity IT. Written by Helena Young Updated on 20 June 2023 Our experts We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. Written and reviewed by: Helena Young Lead Writer In exactly 18 months’ time, the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) will be shut down. Any business still connected to the network will be unable to make or receive calls, spelling disaster for those caught unawares.Openreach first announced news of the so-called ‘Big Switch Off’ in 2015. Nonetheless, it hasn’t done an outstanding job of publicising plans or guidance for businesses.In fact, a recent survey conducted by National Business Communications has revealed that 44.8% of businesses are still unaware of the plan to phase out landlines by December 2025.Now, a leading expert has warned small business owners to prepare for the change, and the impact it could have on operations.Speaking to Startups, Colin Hewitt, Business Development Manager at Integrity IT, said: “2025 may sound like it is far away, but starting early ensures a smoother and less disruptive transition, enabling SMEs to make well-informed decisions and implement the necessary steps effectively.”Get ready for the switch with our guide the Best UK VoIP providers for businessesWhat is the Big Switch Off and what does it mean for small businesses?In 2015, Openreach (which is owned by BT) announced it will be switching off the PSTN in 2025, marking the biggest change in the telecoms industry for over 30 years.All businesses in the UK will need to transition from traditional landline systems to fully digital networks like VoIP by January 1 2026. That means firms with devices that rely on older internet connections – including hardware like card machines and CCTV – will be impacted.The scale of the transition will depend on how much the business currently relies on the PSTN. However, Hewitt warns that for any affected SMEs it will likely be a multi-phase project.“The time it takes to switch from analogue to IP can vary depending on factors such as organisation size and complexity,” he elaborates. “Generally, the process involves planning, infrastructure preparation, implementation and configuration, testing and training, and finally, deployment and transition.”The National Business Communications survey reports that mobile phones are the main way businesses plan to go forward with calls after the Big Switch Off (86.2%). This is followed by VoIP (62.5%). According to Hewitt, migrating to these new channels could take months.“The duration can range from a few weeks to a couple of months, with each phase taking several days to weeks,” he warns. “It’s important to work closely with a VoIP provider and IT professional to determine a more accurate timeline based on your specific circumstances.” 5 top tips to prepare for the PSTN Switch Off 1. Plan ahead: companies should design a detailed migration plan as soon as possible to ensure they are considering budget, required features, infrastructure needs, and employee training.“Start preparing early by assessing your current phone system, understanding the implications of the Big Switch Off,” says Hewitt.2. Partner with the right provider: research the top VoIP providers to ensure you are fully aware of each company’s strengths and weaknesses.Hewitt recommends SME owners evaluate each brand for their reliability, customer support, scalability, and feature offerings. “Seek recommendations and read reviews to make an informed decision,” he adds.3. Assess and upgrade network infrastructure: because of how advanced the technology is, some VoIP brands require certain frameworks to host them, such as fast internet speed and bandwidth capacity.Hewitt advises that business owners “upgrade equipment if needed and consider doubling up software to minimise downtime during the transition.”4. Train employees: introducing any new technology to the workplace will inevitably slow down operations while the company adapts to the change. How disruptive that shift is will depend on how well your employees can get to grips with the new software or devices.Hewitt says bosses must invest time to onboard staff members. “Familiarise employees with features, and call handling procedures,” he counsels. “Conduct training sessions or provide instructional materials to facilitate a seamless adoption.”5. Test and monitor: it might be tempting for managers to put their feet up once the last new VoIP handset has been unboxed. Hewitt cautions this could let immediate teething problems or software faults go unnoticed.“Before full implementation, conduct thorough testing to identify and resolve technical issues,” says Hewitt. “Test call quality, reliability, and system integrations. Monitor the new system’s performance post-switch off and address emerging issues promptly.” Why should SMEs take action?In today’s modern working environment, the thought of being unable to place calls will fill business owners with terror enough (that’s ignoring the other tasks that the PSTN can be used for, like taking card payments or running CCTV).“Dependence on internet connectivity has become crucial, and SMEs must ensure reliable and high-quality internet service to avoid disruptions,” Hewitt acknowledges.The amount of work required to update the outdated PSTN network to a modern IP phone system means the process should be viewed as a marathon, not a sprint. But that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t move quickly.In fact, the earlier that entrepreneurs can start readying themselves for the 2025 New IP Year countdown, the better. As Hewitt tells it, this will leave time to react in case of any last-minute disasters.Among the potential challenges, he lists “the need for new equipment and infrastructure, employee training, and technical difficulties experienced during the transition”.That said, the Big Switch Off is cause for excitement, as well as concern. As BT says bye-bye to PSTN, its termination provides an incentive for companies to replace outdated systems with the modern VoIP method.VoIP's wide range of benefits have transformed the communication landscape, making it a game-changer for businesses navigating a fast-paced, interconnected world.These benefits include lower calling rates for businesses and customers (particularly for international calling); advanced features like call forwarding, voicemail-to-email, virtual landline numbers, and video conferencing; and remote access to empower flexible work arrangements.Employees can make or receive calls on smartphones, laptops, or any internet-connected device, enabling productivity from anywhere.“VoIP systems offer advanced features and functionalities that will help SMEs enhance their productivity and customer service,” Hewitt stresses. “The scalability and flexibility of VoIP systems also make them suitable for SMEs which are adapting and expanding.”Read our guide to installing a VoIP telephone system to prepare for the Big Switch Off. Share this post facebook twitter linkedin Tags News and Features Written by: Helena Young Lead Writer Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.