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“Your communications provider needs to be your first port of call for any questions or concerns you have about switching from the PSTN to All IP “.

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Welcome to the PSTN switch off podcast.

I’m Dale Padgett. I’m the telecoms manager down at university hospitals, Dorset, and I have with me Sarah and Steve.

Hi. It’s great to be here talking about, PSTN switch off. I, work for Tech UK. I, I kind of work on behalf of communication providers and and and reach, looking at where in the switch over to digital phones industry working together, and that’s telecoms industry working together can come some of the challenges of the migration process because there are challenges there, and where speaking with one voice adds a bit of value, so a consistency of communications, and bringing, interested parties together via tech UK members or or other industries affected by the, by the closure the network.

And I’m Steve Mills. I work for Gamma. Head of customer advocates in enterprise, which is account management. So looking after existing customers also worked in the public sector before as well as the SME in mid market area. So I’ll be think trying to put a lens on does it actually look like for people in the real world rather than from the communications providers world, which I think we’ve heard a lot of as the underlying providers.

That’ll be certainly my view and what I’ll be looking to get out of it.


Alright. On the, the previous podcast we’ve already covered quite a lot of ground and looked at all sorts of different aspects of what’s what’s going on.

So I think we still got a few little few little areas to cover just to fill in some gaps. So we’re trying to cover those in this this final one. So my first first question to you is, is there help available for all of this. And if there is help available, why can it be found?

Is that one for me? By help, do you mean financial?

I was thinking more in terms of advice for the PSTN switch off off at the moment.

Advise. Yeah. I mean, the best the best place to get advice on the switch over is actually to communicate to providers themselves, they understand, their own, methodology and and the communications that they that they have for their customers. Whilst this is, something that the telecoms industry is going through together, on on similar time scales, the way that they do it may be slightly different, they language they use, the way they communicate, the migration, where it’s managed migration, that’s kind of like choosing when a customer’s gonna be migrating, those will differ according to each communication provider.

So they should always be the first port of call.

I guess you’re gonna look at me as the communications provider. I think I think there’s a number sources. Right? I think, yes, speak to your provider initially.

There there’s websites available. There’s the off comm website. There’s the Openreach website. Let’s take UK. There was a good starting point.

But absolutely I think we will certainly be looking to engage with our customers over the next twenty four months, starting with the big ones with lots of sites and and working their way down. But, yeah, speak to them and and understand the challenges and and try to get your head around it. They’re they’re the best starting points. I think financial support’s an interesting one, who’s gonna pay the cost to change what does it look like is their one, and that’s definitely one that they’ll be leaning on companies like mine to say, okay, what is the cost of changing this technology, what does it look like?

But I think that sort of it predict what needs to happen before then is you need to be having a look at budgets. You need to be able to look at project resource. You need to be having a look at engineering resource availability of kids. And all that stuff, you need to be, you need to be looking at it now.

So yeah, I think there’s plenty of help out there, but you parties need to be engaged at the right time and and now is the right time.

So we touched we touched a bit on on the finance there. Obviously, for, particularly for larger organizations, there could be quite a quite a bit of cost involved.

Are the companies having to fund all this themselves, or is there some kind of help available.

I mean, there’s no financial help available from the government or from off com or from Openreach or to Virgin that they won’t they’re not interested in that model. I think, and I think cost we need to focus on cost because cost is not just money. Yeah. There may be a financial incentive that there may not be. It may be cost neutral there may be some capital costs to do the project work and change. I think the biggest cost most businesses are gonna have to put aside as resource.

Because resource to manage a change, if you’ve got a thousand sites, you know, and you’re trying to cut over a thousand sites, they’re not all gonna go smoothly. You’re gonna have to plan for business outages, disruption, you’re gonna potentially have to have your staff attending site with a comms provider staff to make sure that cut over happens. You may have a different service provider for your line and for anything that goes on in a branch. That then ends and it becomes the you know, the the network problem, they’re gonna have to look at their router.

Is that gonna have to change? It may not, but in some cases it will. And and that’s gonna, I think, gonna be the biggest one. We’re certainly telling customers now, you need to be planning for this either in your next financial year, so twenty twenty three, definitely twenty twenty four, leaving it to twenty twenty five to start the project means there’s gonna be a rush on Openreach engineers to deploy the changes.

And, you know, you don’t want to be getting there in the date being pushed back and pushed back and pushed back. So I think be wary of all costs of the change, not just the financial element, the the time and resources is also really important.

And and and the cost of the change. It may be I suppose for a very simple like for like transition, there shouldn’t be a cost involved in that for businesses. Of course, there may be more. There’s also the opportunity for savings.

I mean, you, my friend, as a business, you’re actually looking at the you’re paying for, what they’re being used for, and there’s your opportunity to streamline that. You know, they’re they’re you might be paying for a line. You don’t even use. You don’t need to pay for that line.

And as you’re migrating towards this digital technology, the opportunity to to change the the digital kit that you’re using into really future proof what you’re able to deliver. I think it is a great saving.

I think it’s I think that that’s a really valid point rationalization.

Looking at that, but also think about the benefits. If you’re a small business and you want to move to something like like soft teams, you then increase the area you can recruit the quality of candidates you’re getting, but then look at the bigger picture if you’re a bigger organization.

If this information is being transmitted by an analog method. You can’t do anything with it. Once it starts being digital, the amount of tools to do data analytics to pick things up to look at trends to pick up concerns and cares. And all of that AI information that can be mined when you get to that environment, that’s going to be a real big benefit moving forward for bigger companies that they may be not understanding yet But look at telecare, if you can take all of that data that’s analog and transmit it to IP and store it, start looking for trends, you might be able to improve the service you offer vulnerable people, and there’s gonna be big benefits that nobody’s aware of yet that’ll come from this change.

So we can look at it as investing for, a future rather than an unnecessary expenditure.


But if you take, you know, take a contact then. Yeah. Traditionally would always phone one up, phone one up. Now you can do web chat, you can do social interactions, you can do all of that, and that’s all led from from IP technology.


So what what sort of concerns or limitations may, may companies expect I mean, I can jump in on that one, I guess, again.

I mean, there’s a couple of things to be aware. Yeah. The timelines for networking equipment and any sort of IP equipment can be really, really long. I think you’re looking at, you know, Cisco Meraki, you’re probably looking at six to nine monthly times to get devices. Add on top of that, the shortage of engineering staff to make all these network changes. I think they’re gonna be the two the two biggies that you need to be careful of Certainly from a resource and from a technology point of view.

And I suppose the mitigation to that is is acting now, and not waiting till twenty twenty five because that is going to become a problem. I think they’re for business continuity.


Alright. And So plan plans of action. That’s what we’re encouraging people to do now. So how how would you encourage somebody to develop their plan of action?

The first thing to do for me would be do doing asset register, get a view of everything you’re being and and the easier way to start from that is look at your bills. Get your bills, get all of your bills in one place, yeah, then understand everything that’s on that bill. What is it? Speak to your provider.

What is it and what does it do? And then work it back from there and then start to rationalize the lines out, which you should cost down, and then have a think about Okay. How do I want to communicate as a business moving forward? How do I want people to phone and contact me?

Do I want that to be on mobiles? Do I want that to be on landlines?

What does that need to look like? And then look at the technologies in that area and move to those.

And then, you know, pick a partner work with a partner that you’re comfortable with that can add value and support you in those really difficult areas. There’s a lot of partners specialize in health care in you know, medical devices in security in CCTV.

So make sure you work with somebody that knows what they’re doing in that area. Yeah.

I suppose, think about whether or not you need a project manager to really kind of centralize where all this is going through. I think early engagement with your communication providers once an idea of what it is you’re trying to, what lines is you’re trying to migrate. Communication providers, they will all take their own approach, but you, before they often, they’ll have an account manager and it’s to you that can walk you through it. And I think that again, that kind of like speaking to them now because if if you’re ready to migrate and they’re ready to take you through that, you’re getting a bit ahead of the game and getting in there early.

Okay. So, why why do you think some companies are not getting involved at this stage and avoiding it.

I think there’s a couple of couple of things to look at.

I think in the private sector, I think there’s probably in the smaller business area where you’ve got legacy phone systems at a low cost on ISDN. Just leave it and it all was worth. There’s a degree of the bearing the head and the sand. Problem’s not gonna impact me.

Twenty twenty fives a long time off. I don’t need to do anything. My phone’s always worked. I think there’s an absolute degree of that in the SME in microbase, then within the public sector, I think you’ve probably got the the opposite problem, which is you’ve got legacy equipment that’s in big varied states with no one person looking after it, lots of different trusts, lots of different academies in public sector, looked after by different people that might not be in a common background that might be facilities manager or caretaker or receptionist.

And they’re just they just don’t know.

You know, and and I think that’s the only reason I can give because the technology out there is better than the PSTN equivalent.

ISDN and phone systems have have moved dramatically and most of those will be unsupportable and may break.

You know, I don’t think there’s any reason why they shouldn’t other than those two reasons.

I think I think it’s a lack of knowledge. They don’t know and and we don’t know what they don’t know. So there is kind of like trying to increase that awareness of it. And it may not be the right time for for some people to be moving.

And there may be people that that want to move that are like, okay, I want this technology, you know, and then again speaking to communication providers is the best course of action on that.

There is, I suppose, there’s some some fear and misapprehension, I suppose about what this might mean. There is whilst it may be a like for like phone, can switch over. There are differences with digital phone lines. If there’s a power outage, not gonna work in the same way as the PSTN line, which was a powered line.

And that that offers a lot of reassurance, you know, that ability to to make a phone call in a power outage. We find most of the time that people use their mobile phones and that those will keep running. There are resilient solutions available. I mean, even, you know, today, people are buying their own generators, you know, to keep stuff going.

It’s not just the phone line. It’s gonna go down, and there’s probably gonna be the least of your concerns in America.

But it is I think there is kind of the the negative, aspects of this may have been perhaps highlights press a little bit. And I think it is looking actually at the fact this is an opportunity. This has got the potential to really transform, you know, your business in the UK PLC. We are moving towards full fiber gigabit capable. We’re enabling, you know, this whole, working remotely being able to kind of like even an event that was held this morning, you know, like, with with train strikes and things like that, the fact that people could join it remotely is just and, you know, to be able to do that, that kind of thing.

And that is gonna become more and more frequent. And I think you’re gonna find, you know, like, even cost cutting is to be able to do what you were saying earlier to have people working from home to organize events that are on a line and really reach areas of the UK that you couldn’t reach before because what he was in person, as perhaps a learning of COVID, but it’s highlighted that actually this is a great thing for businesses to to continue.

I mean, I have seen a couple of interesting scenarios where So one one company we dealt with, they did. So they provide the phone lines in, you know, when you go to Morrison’s and the elderly want to get a taxi home, the the challenge with that is the the supermarkets.

It’s on the supermarkets, not that provider. So they can’t the PSTN line works because it’s power. It’s on its own and it’s a phone line and it just rings a taxi company. Yeah.

But there’s no IP networking. There’s no PoE. There’s no power in those devices. In those areas that those phones are plugged into because supermarkets don’t really care, and they’re just going to those providers, you provide that service.

So that’s one gap. And the other challenge we’ve seen is commercially sometimes you’ll have a business and the business might be. It’s a small business. It’s got an ISDN two with maybe four channels.

The cost’s like thirty or forty quid a month. Maybe it’s got thirty or forty people.

And and and they don’t wanna move to a hosted provider because the phone system’s been in a cupboard since nineteen ninety five doesn’t cost them a couple of grand a year to look after. And all of a sudden, you go from that to the modern way of going into it and the see costs are everywhere. So I think that’s coming down to make sure you’ve budgeted, make sure you’ve planned, make sure you’re aware, and that your finance director and team are aware that this cost has to happen.

And I suppose there’s not mentality that that people if they are aware of of this migration is thinking like, well, if it ain’t broke, you know, why would I fix it? And it’s like we’re actually the moment the PSTN isn’t broken, but it will be. And that’s that’s simply why it’s being retired. It’s being retired so that we can maintain a service your phone line that will maintain service for for end users.

They’ll accept their cars going from diesel to a petrol to electric more than will accept the phone line being turned off, right? Because or if we weren’t petrol’s gonna turn off, but it’s all electric. Then they’d be a bit more prepared for it.

Alright. So, so you’ve already been working with, with customers on on getting getting them migrated, could you perhaps give us, just give us a summary of some of the real benefits that that the customers are starting to see Yeah.

I mean, if somebody’s been through it, you’ll you’ll be aware, but but for the audience. So when a number’s not fixed to a telephone line, it does magical things. You’re not fixed as having the fixed numbers that you’ve always had from an area code. You can have a Manchester number, a lead number, a London number, all on one system and all acting like their local numbers.

And if you move, you don’t have to wait eight weeks try and get connected to the same exchange risk losing the number been in the telephone book for twenty five years that everybody rings. You can keep them all. Yeah. And you can add them from wherever you want and get not quite as many as you want, but large quantities of them if you need them.

And that’s actually really really helpful if you’re managing lots of change, lots of site closures, lots of things like that. The other real benefit is you you can build a resilient service without costing the earth. So if you put in, you know, two resilient network connections, a resilient, SIP trunk, like what what you guys did. You can improve the resilience of your trust, and then you can strip out a number of vendors and therefore cost.

So you can actually deliver a huge cost savings, especially in the public sector where you’ve had multiple providers, providing services into phone systems, and you’ve got lots and lots of vendors to manage. If you can simplify your vendor management down, we can deliver more resilience and deliver cost savings on day one. I mean, that’s a win for everybody concerned, especially looking at the state of public sector finances, the savings people have to make. You know, if you can take two hundred k off your annual telecoms cost by improving all the areas, you can’t tell me that to change every public sector organization shouldn’t be looking to make.

Okay. Well, thank thank you for the, for your your input.

What what would you summarize then as the key points that we want people to take away?

Start now.

Keep it simple. Start now the technology’s available to switch from PSTN, and you can probably deliver business benefits and not ask for loads of money.

That’s a great takeaway. I think, I think focusing actually on some of positive solve this. There’s a lot of talk of some of these negatives that actually might not be a negative for you as a business or for you as an end customer. But there are a lot of opportunities out and I think, you know, really embracing that this is the way that we have to go because the PSTN is no longer gonna work.

It is a good start. And as ever, you know, start now and speak to your communications provider and see if it’s your time to move.

Okay. Well, thank you very much for for taking part. No problem. Thank you.