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Panic Alarms After the PSTN Network Switch Off

Daniel Hill |

February 2022


With the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN switch off) fast approaching, organisations and businesses all over the UK are beginning to panic. A lot of our customers are worried that the switch-off will impact the most vulnerable in our society. Whilst many initially think that it just impacts telephone networks, it impacts much more than the ability to make phone calls.

People who depend on panic alarms and other emergency systems for their well-being might be impacted by the upcoming network transition. Retail shops, banks, restaurants, and any other organisation that depends on traditional analogue networks will also be affected. 

At Love Energy Savings, we help business owners understand all the technical jargon around the PSTN switch-off. We know how difficult it can be to get a clear answer to important questions. ‘Will my panic alarm stop working?’ is one of the most common questions that customers ask us. 

In this article, our network experts explain what the switch-off is and outline who it will impact. Keep reading to discover the best alternative to traditional analogue PSTN phone networks. 

What Is the PSTN Switch Off?

Businesses in the UK have used the Public Switched Telephone Network (commonly known as PSTN network) since the 1800s. It is an analogue, circuit-switched telephone network. This system depends on copper wires that connect homes and businesses to the nearest switching centres. Alexander Bell introduced this method of communication to the mainstream when he patented the first telephone in 1876. Despite undergoing a number of changes and adaptations, PSTN does not reflect modern communication needs. 

In 2019, Openreach announced that it is ‘modernising’ its telephone network and the way it delivers phone and broadband services across the UK. By December 2025, Openreach will stop installing PSTN networks and instead depend on newer technologies. Businesses will not be able to purchase new lines on the traditional analogue phone network from 2023 onwards.

This landmark event has been dubbed the ‘PSTN switch off’. A lot of business owners and public entity organisers are anxious about the transition away from traditional PSTN networks.

What Are ISDN Networks?

Public Switched Telephone Networks are not the only networks that will be affected by the switch-off. 

Integrated Services Digital Networks (or ISDN for short) depend on digital means to transmit data and make phone and video calls. ISDN networks are a modern alternative to PSTN networks. They first became mainstream in 1986 when BT introduced their customers to an alternative form of data transmission. 

This digital network does not eliminate physical lines completely. Instead, one copper line is split into lots of digital channels. All the digital channels coexist and transmit data on the same copper line. With this system, business owners only need one physical line for all their communication needs. 

Although Integrated Services Digital Networks might seem like a good alternative to analogue networks, they will also be switched off in 2025. ISDN networks are no competition for fully digital VoIP systems, which we will discuss later in this article. 

Who Will the PSTN Switch Off Impact?

The PSTN switch-off will impact a large number of people and organisations. Banks, clubs, bars, and retail establishments are all on the list. When analogue networks become defunct and are replaced with digital networks in 2025, you have to think about more than just phone calls. Anything that is connected to your phone line will be impacted. This includes security systems, EPOS systems, card machines, and fob door entry systems.   

Perhaps the most urgent awareness needs to be in emergency services. Hospitals, care homes and assisted living facilities will also have to plan for the upcoming switch. A lot of emergency systems operate on PSTN networks, including panic alarms. These personal alarms and other types of alarm system technology will no longer work on a traditional telephone network.

How Does the PSTN Switch Off Impact Hospitals and Medical Facilities?

As worries about the 2025 switch rise, one question keeps popping up. ‘Will my panic alarm stop working?’ is one of the most common questions that customers ask us.

Panic alarms are hand-held emergency devices that may or may not be affected by the PSTN switch-off. Lots of similar devices operate on PSTN and ISDN networks, which means that they will stop working in 2025. Care homes and assisted living facilities rely on panic button pendants to give residents a sense of security whilst they maintain their day-to-day independence. If care homes and facilities do not switch over to digital networks before 2025, the routine running of the organisation will be impacted. Even worse, residents will experience less autonomy, which could lead to mental health issues like depression. 

When it comes to essential equipment, it is important to think of every possibility. Ambulance and hospital phones may also be impacted by the switch. If government bodies do not act fast, they could experience breakdowns in communication. Ambulances and hospitals depend on communication to save lives. Even the shortest delay could spell disaster for patients all over the UK. 

What Should Hospitals and Medical Facilities Do?

The first step is to understand which system your security and personal alarm operate on. Telephone lines that have been upgraded to operate on Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are safe and will not be impacted.

However, if a hospital or medical facility depends on life-saving systems that run on PSTN and ISDN networks, it will be impacted by the PSTN switch-off. We recommend buying new equipment that operates on digital networks where possible. This option is expensive, but it also ensures that residents stay safe. 

Alternatively, you can buy Analogue Telephone Adapters (ATAs) which will connect your old equipment to digital networks. We recommend securing ATAs before 2025 because they will be in high demand when the switch takes place. 

What Will Happen if I Don’t Act Now?

BT Openreach announced the transition in 2019, which means that business owners and facility managers have six years to switch from PSTN and ISDN networks to digital networks. Switching to a new network is not without its difficulties. It can take weeks and even months to install some networks, not to mention the long wait times when demand increases around 2025. 

Here are the main disadvantages of not switching before 2025. 

  • Security systems that are connected to PSTN and ISDN networks will not work. Businesses all over the UK will be vulnerable to theft. This is especially worrying for banks, retail shops, and restaurants. 
  • Panic alarms and other life-saving devices will not work. Care homes and assisted living facilities (which are already historically understaffed) will be hit hardest by the switch. 
  • Businesses and organisations that do not act before 2025 could face long wait times. As tempting as it is to deal with the switch another time, it is a good idea to secure a digital network before PSTN and ISDN systems become defunct. 

Upgrade to VoIP Telecoms Solutions

Whether you are worried about security systems or life-saving panic alarms, it is important to do your research. At Love Energy Savings, we provide business owners with clear, concise information about upcoming network changes. 

We recommend Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems for businesses that are worried about the PSTN switch-off. This system was designed to replace old, analogue phone systems and respond to modern communication needs. VoIP uses packet-switching technology to convert analogue voice signals into digital data. It is as quick and efficient as traditional phone networks, but it comes with added features. 

  • Package prices - VoIP operates a lot like mobile phone contracts. Businesses and facilities pay a monthly fee for a set amount of minutes. The biggest benefit of this system is that it is flexible. As your business grows, you can add new lines with ease. It is easy to scale VoIP systems. 
  • Inbound calling - VoIP allows businesses to ‘twin’ user handsets for simultaneous inbound calling. Mobile handsets can also be twinned. This is a big advantage for unexpected situations. In emergencies, a member of the team will always be available. 
  • Future-proofing - Regardless of the PSTN switch-off, VoIP is a good choice for business owners who want to avoid the impact of future transitions. VoIP does not rely on outdated technology or inefficient practices. 

It is important to note that a VoIP system requires much stronger broadband telephony. This means that many medical facilities will have to review their connections and may have to upgrade their business broadband also. This may require laying fibre optic cables during the process of improving the telephone lines so it is better to act early. For larger facilities, leased lines may be more suitable.

Compare VoIP packages today to future-proof your business and unlock additional benefits.

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About the author

Daniel has been writing for over 10 years and has a passion for helping businesses and households reduce their utility bills. He has a wealth of experience in professional services, so he knows the importance of business efficiency.

In his spare time, Daniel can be found catching touchdowns playing American Football and spending his Sundays watching the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL. 

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