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PSTN Switch-Off Podcast Episode 6 – Lessons learned from the German PSTN Switch Off

The UK is going through a very interesting period right now – as regards the PSTN switch-off – but we’re not the first! Our friends in Germany have already gone through this journey. So, we thought it would be a good idea to get some tips from them on what went well and what lessons were learnt in the process. The switch-off happened in Germany back in 2018, and in this podcast, Gamma’s Solutions Director Richard McPhee speaks to Thomas Schroeder, Commercial Director with our German team. This is the sixth episode of our PSTN Switch-Off podcast series.

Watch here.

One of the key questions is: was their experience similar to what’s happening in the UK at the moment?

Well, the short answer is yes: in general, the PSTN network in Germany was primarily used for phone lines, like in the UK. Similarly the switch-off was communicated to users when it was three or four years down the line to make sure they had plenty of time to prepare.

But – what went well and what didn’t? What lessons can we take from Germany to improve our experience and outcomes in the UK? Here’s some key points from the discussion:

Don’t leave it to the last minute

Yes, it’s stressful to have a whole new infrastructure project to add to your daily routine, particularly in the midst of economic uncertainty – but the PSTN switch-off cannot be ignored. The potential negatives of acting too late can be potentially business critical. As a business that relies on communication to operate, you must ensure your transition is smooth – and that the solution suits your business.

Make sure you know what will be affected

Your service providers will be communicating with you to ensure you’re aware of how the changes will affect you. It’s important to pay close attention to these communications and plan accordingly in good time to ensure minimal disruption to your operations.

It’s not all about phones

Specialised emergency equipment such as fire alarms need to be connected to the network – and always on. Be thinking about these pieces of equipment (as well as general alarm systems) because if you focus solely on phones, you’ll be missing a lot of infrastructure that could be affected by the switch-off.

Times have changed

Even since the switch-off in Germany in 2018, the world has become far more connected. Be aware that as critical as the changes were in previous switch-offs, our more connected world in 2023 means that any procrastination will have a bigger impact now than it would have had just five years ago.

Communicate clearly

This goes for both service providers and customers: ensure that you are communicating effectively and clearly, both about customer needs and advice / warnings to customers. Make sure everyone is 100% aware of what needs to be done, what the requirements are and what makes your business / offering unique.

Look for the quick wins

Many, many businesses already use collaborative software that unifies their workflows – with the exception of voice. Integrating voice to these already existing systems is not difficult to achieve. So your business may be better placed to make the change than you think!

And just in case you’re sitting there confused wondering what all this PSTN switch off chat is about? The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is the traditional phone system that has been in use for many, many years in the United Kingdom. The PSTN network will be switched off by 2025. This means that all telephone services in the UK will have to migrate to digital networks.

What are the benefits of this?

  • The freeing up of valuable resources that are currently being used to maintain the old system, which will allow telecoms providers to invest in more modern and efficient digital infrastructure.
  • Digital networks offer more modern features that are not available on the outdated PSTN network. VoIP services, for instance, allow users to make calls over the internet at a much lower cost and mobile networks also offer a range of features, such as text messaging and video calls, that are not available on the PSTN network.
  • The switch-off acts as a catalyst to a wider shift towards a more connected and digital society. By moving to digital networks, the UK will be in a better position to utilise emerging technologies, like the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G networks.

The PSTN switch off is a huge – perhaps daunting change. However, it is absolutely necessary if the UK is to remain competitive and connected in an increasingly digital world.