During 2015, BT announced it will cease taking ISDN orders in 2020 and switch off the ISDN network in 2025. All businesses will be forced to find IP based options by upgrading or replacing their telephone systems if they’ve not taken advantage of Voice over IP technology at this time. From 1st September BT Wholesale price changes are liable to cause an industry-wide price increase of around 0.25 pence to every call made on ISDN.

Why is BT doing this?

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) was introduced in the UK in the 1980’s. Whilst still using the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) ISDN provided new features, such as Direct Dialling Inwards, Calling Line Identification and the digital transmission of voice and video, not supported by analogue telephone lines which it effectively replaced in the business communications sector.

ISDN is now a legacy system; cumbersome, inflexible, short on features, high on maintenance and running costs and inferior both commercially and operationally compared to current IP based solutions.

As of early 2017, there were over 2 million businesses still with an ISDN connection in the UK [Ofcom], all of which will be affected by the planned switch-off in the coming years. A 2017 survey has also shown that a quarter of the UK’s businesses were still unaware that the switch-off is even taking place. These businesses need to become aware of the upcoming changes so they can begin the necessary switch to IP-based services to take advantage of the business benefits today, and avoid finding themselves without a phone system in the fullness of time.

A ploy to make ISDN unattractive?

Is this recent price change the start of a proactive BT campaign to impel businesses to move away from ISDN, by increasing price in a market where IP technologies are doing the opposite?

Very possibly. When, in 2015, BT announced it planned to cease taking ISDN orders in 2020 and switch off the ISDN network in 2025 the industry reaction was bordering on flippant. How could that be possible when almost every business in the UK uses the technology? Developments since 2015 have been dramatic. As of mid-2018, 50% of ISDN capacity had been ceased and replaced with IP solutions [Gamma Telecom]. BT have not re-used ceased capacity and will not provide additional capacity at exchanges where capacity fails to meet that required to satisfy a new ISDN order. It is in the interest of not only business, but also BT, to cease the ISDN network as soon as possible and so it would be reasonable to anticipate an increasingly proactive approach.