CSPs have just three years to tap into ISDN switch-off opportunities
Communications service providers (CSPs) are at risk of missing a golden opportunity from the switching-off of ISDN and PSTN lines in 2025, warns Paul Clarke, the UK manager of 3CX. According to Ofcom’s The Communications Market 2016 report, the number of ISDN lines in the UK stood at three million in 2015 but, when British Telecom stops selling new lines in 2020, a large proportion of the businesses using those lines will have no option but to explore IP-based communication. This in turn gives service providers the opportunity to open new revenue streams by offering businesses of every size, in every industry, the tools, services and support they need to modernise their communications. Time is running out for them to adapt and begin educating its customers.
With three million ISDN lines still in play, service providers with no plan in place to convert these customers to IP telephony are potentially walking away from tens of millions of pounds of potential income. The simple fact is that communication has moved on in leaps and bounds since the first VoIP calls in the 1990s, and vendors must be ready to allay any concerns that their potential customers may have. For instance, as the UK struggles to guarantee high-speed broadband across the whole nation, businesses in more remote areas may be unwilling to swap their well-understood, if slow, ISDN connection for a less-trusted IP connection. Similarly, a number of businesses may not see the benefit of additional services beyond voice, all of which could provide valuable revenue streams for service providers. Addressing these will be critical.
British Telecom is not the only company to switch off ISDN and PSTN connections. SwissCom is also phasing out ISDN lines by the end of 2017 in favour of IP based services. These organisations have been quick to make clear the benefits of IP lines; such as greater flexibility, higher bandwidth, and lower costs. They have also shown the potential to upsell a whole range of services alongside these new IP lines: from instant messaging, to video, to the management and support needed to keep services operational.
Success will depend on being able to both demonstrate the benefits of an IP connection, and allay customer concerns around subjects such as connection speeds. For instance, even an area with a limited broadband connection is likely to see better speeds than the 128kbps ISDN provides; in turn opening up more opportunities for services. If businesses don’t see the benefit of further communications channels, CSPs must be able to show how much additional methods of communication can help their business.
Communication is the heart of the modern business: the ISDN switch might be the last chance for service providers to realise and benefit from this, by leading customers through potential challenges and helping them make the most out of IP. The simple fact is that the way in which we work is changing; the workforce expects to be increasingly flexible, while the modern workplace itself could be almost anywhere. Communicating over IP, instead of fixed lines, is one of the great transformations that will help businesses adapt to this change, as well as making it simpler and lower-cost to communicate with potential customers and partners anywhere, at any time, over any channel. CSPs that can help businesses adapt to this transformation, for instance by offering new forms of communication, will have the greatest chance of success.