BT announced earlier this year that they plan to migrate all their voice customers away from traditional telecoms, essentially switching off the PSTN and ISDN networks. BT Group CEO, Gavin Patterson, stated in a webcast that by 2025 all their voice customers will be using IP Voice.

This is not unexpected; ISDN is old, whilst cutting edge in the 1980’s the old circuit switched technology cannot keep up with the modern world.

BT have had this change on their roadmap for some time, transforming their network into an IP voice and data network by implementing their 21st Century Network (at some considerable cost no doubt) the next logical step for them to take is to retire the old one. In fairness, it has been on the cards for some time, we knew it was inevitable, but up until now there was no time frame.

Ten years is a long time, 2025 seems long way off, and there are no guarantees that this date will be kept to – however we will see the effects of this announcement much sooner than that.

There are though over 3 million ISDN channels in the UK, a number that is down from its peak, but still counts for a large section of the UK market. All of which we know will need to migrate to IP communications by 2025, however the migration should happen much sooner, users need to migrate before the network starts to suffer the effects of being retired.

ISDN is now considered legacy and as with anything that’s been superseded you stop spending time and money on it. No doubt investment into the network and levels of support will begin to wane.
We will see that less engineers will be coming though ISDN training programs, manufactures will stop making devices, interface cards or parts for ISDN, and I would guess the BT equipment in local exchanges are unlikely to be renewed or upgraded unless absolutely necessary.

BT are expecting no doubt to migrate these clients to their own IP Voice network, but this is obviously a great opportunity for VoIP providers and their reseller networks.

Those in a position to offer VoIP to the existing ISDN users have a clearly defined opportunity, and have been handed a sales pitch on a platter.

The decision is no longer “should I replace ISDN with VoIP?”, but rather how long do I wait before I so. The main dilemma has switched now to whose VoIP to go with, and that’s a different question entirely.

The market is awash with businesses selling VoIP solutions and this can be confusing. VoIP does represent significant savings when compare with ISDN, but there are other considerations that should not be overlooked by security minded or compliance driven organisations. Toll fraud is nothing new in the world of Telecoms, and phone systems connected to the Internet are particularly vulnerable to this kind of attack. When selecting a provider, it is important to question them on their toll fraud prevention procedures. Something that even companies with a strict information security policy are often unaware of is the fact that a VoIP system carries the same security concerns as any device connected to the Internet. In short, Internet hackers who understand this can use cheap software to carry out malicious denial of service attacks, compromise voicemail messages for toll fraud or to eavesdrop and record conversations to obtain a host of information ranging from customer data to financial status. If protecting confidential information is paramount then a good place to start is to choose a provider that has their own network and can prove that this network is protected.