Over the last decade, the technology revolution has gained momentum throughout the UK. While many households and businesses have moved away from relying solely on landline phones, essential services still rely on the century-old copper wires and the Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN) internet that this ageing infrastructure provides. 

In August 2021, BT Openreach announced the final date for its copper switch-off – December 2025, and that the move from copper to fibre networks will happen in stages. As part of the UK government’s goal of providing gigabit connectivity across the UK, the Public Switched Telephone Network (PTSN) and its copper system will be switched off by the end of 2025. 

What does this mean for businesses and channel service providers? We spoke with the industry-leading enterprise-level IT and technology experts at IntraLAN to understand what these changes mean for businesses and discussed what IT leaders should do to prepare.

Why is the government switching off the copper system? 

First implemented in 1877, the copper telephone system is well over a century old. Its age makes it increasingly more expensive to maintain, and as more devices switch to the digital network, it makes less sense for its operator to run both networks simultaneously.

There are additional facets to this nationwide project. For instance, the ageing copper system consumes 0.6% of the country’s energy. With the UK government’s Net Zero Strategy to be net zero in all sectors by 2050, this project contributes to an overall decrease in the communication’s industry carbon footprint.

The lines aren’t all going to ‘go dead’ at once. Openreach has explained that it will switch off the old copper system in phases, and once the majority of UK properties (75%) have been switched to the digital system, they will introduce a ‘stop sell’ on copper services.

What is a ‘stop sell’?

In April 2022, BT announced the first of its ‘stop sells’ for 118 exchanges in the UK. Generally speaking, a stop sell is when a business or manufacturer no longer sells or offers a product or service – essentially discontinuation. When the Exchange in your area is under “Stop Sell” it applies at a premises level only and will only affect you if you plan to make changes, basically modifying your existing services.

Beware of scare tactics being employed on the basis that you must upgrade services now.

Whilst the copper system is well past its use-by date, it can’t all be shut down at once. Millions of homes and businesses throughout the country still rely on these services, especially since the surge in home and remote working since the pandemic. As the communication system is upgraded, additional regions will be added to the stop sell list, and properties will be able to connect to the digital fibre network.

How will the copper switch-off affect my business?

Depending on the size of your businesses and what technology you currently use, it’s worth planning for the future of broadband and telephony. With the copper switch off, your business is bound to need to make changes although you have time to implement them.

Copper phone lines impact more than simply telephone systems, and there may be parts of your business that need evaluating before a planned shut-off, including:

  • Alarm systems 
  • Payment terminals 
  • Broadband and DSL

If these systems already have the technology to handle moving to fibre, there may be little to no disruption. Ensuring you have the required technology to switch to digital services is the key to preparing for the copper switch-off.

One key difference between the copper and digital systems, is that analogue phone service continues to operate if there is a power outage. That’s not true of digital services. For many, a lack of a landline won’t be too much of a concern; 98% of British adults have a mobile phone. Those who do not have access to a mobile phone must not be left without a way to seek help in an emergency. Landline/broadband providers are responsible for additional protections to ensure customers can reach emergency services.

Do I have to make changes now? 

We’ve heard from IT leaders we work with that service providers are already contacting them about switching from their current provider. 

Before you decide to switch providers, it’s important to remember that it’s quite likely that you’re in a contract with your current provider, and that the official switch-off is December 2025, when officials will have completed the upgrade to the UK’s digital infrastructure. Most major providers will be in contact with you about the switch before your region has reached its time in the schedule. So, you have plenty of time to decide your business’s next steps. 

Where can I find more information about Openreach’s switch-off? 

Openreach wants to ensure that everyone still using the copper system for telephony or to access the internet is aware of the coming changes. They’ve implemented a dedicated webpage that is kept up to date about all the changes that the analogue phone system will be going through as well as homeowner, industry and communication provider-specific information.

Additionally, it’s important to keep an open line of communication with your current telephony and internet provider. As a business owner, it’s up to you to make sure you’re aware of coming changes and that your business is ready when the switch to digital-only services commences.

How can IntraLAN help?

IntraLAN is dedicated to ensuring your business is kept up and running throughout the coming changes as a trusted provider of unified communications to businesses. We provide fast, reliable connectivity and reduce connectivity issues related to having a distributed workforce. Our network management and unified communications services leverage the very best in fibre infrastructure to bring seamless, dependable connectivity to your business. Contact our team today for more information.