Landlines are being switched off permanently: What's next?


Date: 21 September 2023

A man makes a VOIP call on his mobile phone

A huge shift in telecoms technology is coming. But despite it being one of the biggest technological shake-ups in years, far too many small and micro business owners still haven't heard of it: the Big Landline Switch Off.

By December 2025, landlines across the UK will no longer work, affecting households and businesses alike. The old, rather obsolete Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) will be upgraded to a faster, more secure, full-fibre digital network. This also forms part of the government's drive to roll out full fibre across the UK.

Referred to as "The Big Switch Off", it's something that's been underway since 2015 and essentially means all UK phone lines must be hosted over Internet Protocol (IP) in two years' time. Small businesses especially need to be clued up on it, because many other business systems will be affected in additional to phone calls. Everything needs to be shifted over to IP, including card machines, safety systems and CCTV.

Yes, it's tempting to simply put it off, especially when there never seems to be enough hours in the day, but leaving it to the last minute wouldn't be sensible. There's likely to be a last minute scramble, and prices could go up too. Not only that, but every VoIP digital phone provider offers different features and different prices, so it's important to start your research now.

Who will be affected by the landline switch off?

Everyone in the UK who uses a landline - so businesses of all sizes as well as residential households. In fact, since 5th September 2023, it's no longer possible to buy a traditional landline at all (known as the 'Stop sell'). The switch off is gaining momentum, so now is the time to act.

Why is IP an improvement on traditional landlines?

Digital or "IP" telephone systems offer a much higher quality of sound over a traditional landline. It works by transmitting data across your fibre internet connection in 'packets', rather than via copper wires. In practice, this means less faults and interference and you don't need to worry about a loss of signal like you do with a mobile phone. Not only that, but fibre broadband speeds are much more stable, and faster, than standard broadband.

I run a small business. What does the landline switch off mean for me?

As mentioned, the landline switch off will not only affect your phone system if you make and receive calls on a landline. It will also affect other business systems like:

  • Dial-up POS (card machines)
  • ATM machines
  • Printers
  • CCTV
  • File downloading
  • Alarm systems
  • Video conferencing
  • Live streaming
  • Franking machines
  • Fax machines

This is why it's important to act now before landlines are switched off, because switching to digital could be a more long-winded process than it first appears.

The simple fact is that the decommissioning of landlines will affect every corner of the economy. From healthcare to hospitality, construction to retail, businesses are already working hard to future-proof themselves.

What should I do to prepare for the landline switch off?

Top of the 'to-do list' for businesses is to switch to VoIP. Not only does VoIP protect your business from the landline switch off, but it can save you a lot of money. It's come a long way in recent years too.

VoIP is short for Voice over Internet Protocol and allows you to make and receive calls from any device (smartphone, tablet, PC etc) that's connected to the internet. This offers maximum flexibility as you're not tied to one location as you are with a landline, and as it's cloud-based it's ideal for working remotely.

So the number one thing to do is ensure your business has a strong, fast (preferably fibre) internet connection.

Once you've got that, you'll need to shop around for a VoIP provider that offers all the features your business needs at the right price. Again, this is where you will need to do your research. Don't forget that if your business uses other hardware (card machines for example) that are connected to a physical phone line, you may need to upgrade these systems too. In other words, it might not simply be a case of signing up for a VoIP phone system and job done.

"VoIP digital telephony is far more reliable, affordable and versatile than 100-year-old copper lines.

"The good news is that there are some providers like bOnline that have spent several years preparing for the landline switch off. bOnline's VoIP product is made specifically for small business owners rather than for IT gurus. It's easy, reliable and set up in minutes with a personal onboarding session to ensure every business is fully set up and able to manage on their own via a simple dashboard." Anthony Karibian, Founder and CEO of digital phone provider bOnline

What other advantages come with a VoIP digital phone system?

Getting signed up with a VoIP digital phone system will not only help your business to mitigate the effects of the landline switch off. These systems also come with a broad array of business-friendly money and time-saving features, including access to call analytics data, hold music, call divert, call waiting and much more. So not only can you better manage your incoming calls, you don't need to worry about missing any really important ones. It gives your business a more professional appeal, plus you can either keep your existing number or choose a whole new virtual number if you want to.

In addition, if you need to make international calls as part of running your business, a VoIP phone package may well work out significantly cheaper. For instance, calls made between the UK and the USA currently cost up to £1.55 a minute with BT, whilst many VoIP providers will provide unlimited international calls for as little as £6 a month. These types of savings are hard to ignore.

Can I get an 020 number for my business?

Yes, you can. In fact this is something that many small businesses are interested in.

Essentially, when you get a virtual number with a VoIP digital phone provider, you can choose pretty much any one you want (as long as it's not currently in use of course). This includes choosing an area code that works for your business too - even if you're not geographically located there.

So, perhaps you want your business to have an 0207 or 0208 number to attract customers in London. Your business may not be actually located in London, but it's still perfectly possible (and legal!) to get a London number as if it was. Again, it can give an air of professionalism and being 'local' as well as helping to target your marketing efforts.

How do I find the right VoIP digital phone system for my business?

There are quite a few things to bear in mind when deciding which VoIP provider, and payment package, would suit your business best. You will need to consider things like how many employees need to use it, what features will be most beneficial and where your client base is mainly located.

As a guide, ask yourself some key questions like:

  • Does the VoIP provider I'm considering offer a free trial?
  • How much am I looking to spend each month on my new VoIP system?
  • Will I see an increase in productivity and efficiency?
  • What hardware will I need, if any?
  • Do I need to upgrade my internet connection?
  • How long am I comfortable to be tied into a contract for?
  • Will it be easier to communicate and collaborate with my employees?
  • Which VoIP providers specialise in small businesses/freelancers in particular?

All businesses are different so there's no one-size-fits-all solution. It's well worth prioritising VoIP providers that offer a free trial so you can test out all the features on offer without the commitment. Shorter contracts of, say, 12 months rather than 18 or 24 months may also be more appealing.

The important thing is to do your homework and get signed up long before 2025 to avoid being caught out.

Copyright 2023.Article was made possible by site supporter Emma Lewis of bOnline.

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