September deadline looms for ISDN phone disconnections
Friday, April 5, 2019/
From 30 September 2019, telecommunications providers will start ripping out the backbone of Australia’s traditional voice services network.
That might sound a bit dramatic, but the retirement of the ISDN is a big deal – and frankly, with its potential impact on commercial connectivity, it’s weird that more people aren’t talking about it.
Wait, what’s happening?
The ISDN, or Integrated Services Digital Network, runs over the copper infrastructure that supports our traditional phone lines. It’s what has powered Australian businesses for decades, but as we continue to rollover to the NBN and the existing technology is replaced and upgraded, it’s ready for retirement.
The shutdown process began in 2018, when Telstra stopped selling ISDN2, ISDN2 Enhanced, ISDN10/20/30, DDS Fastway, and Frame Relay products. (ISDN revenue, which peaked in 2008 at $978 million, halved to $467 million last year.) The next phase starts at the end of September, when they will start progressively shutting down and disconnecting ISDN products in use until, by 2022, the entire network has been decommissioned.
This is big news for small businesses because it means your existing voice service’s days are numbered – and if you’re caught unawares and unprepared you may be left scrambling to get your phones connected again.
Now is a good time to research how modern voice technology could offer innovative opportunities for your business and to establish a transition plan.
Doing business in the post-ISDN world
With its call centre generating most of its revenue – and ISDN supporting that call centre – Chrisco Hampers was initially risk averse to the idea of switching to voice over IP (VoIP).
That is, says CIO Peter Hall, “until we realised the extreme difference in terms of overall pricing, support and maintenance” of the chief VoIP alternative, Session Initiated Protocol (SIP).
“Obviously we initially had a lot of concern over whether our customers would notice a change,” Hall says. “But there was proof in the pudding really – transition was straightforward, quality was never an issue, and the result was better than expected.”
In fact, the transition to next-generation IP-based services is a watershed moment in Australia’s technological evolution – and a game-changer for business, with significant benefits such as:
- A physical redundancy through a secondary connection;
- Potential new functionality and versatile features;
- Greater flexibility in terms of scalability and portability; and
- Cost savings.
“It certainly opens up your thinking from a business point of view, for cost reasons, but also flexibility around leases and buildings, and being able to deploy easily anywhere,” Hall says.
Why is redundancy such a big deal?
With the ISDN, inbound calls are coming in on a physical line tied to your site. If that line goes down – from, say, someone digging up the pavement and accidentally cutting into it – inbound numbers won’t be able to get through until it’s back up and running, or your provider can redirect them.
“The ability to have a backup is something that businesses just don’t have with ISDN,” says Chris Jacko, general manager at business telecommunications expert, Over the Wire. “But in a VoIP model where you’re leveraging an internet or private data network connection to carry calls, it means you can have automatic back-up connections ready to go.”
While VoIP services can be connected over the internet, Over the Wire’s preferred deployment leverages their capabilities across telephony and private data networks, with calls connecting directly into their core network with utmost priority, avoid the public internet and assuring the best call quality.
More flexibility at a lower cost
Because your VoIP service isn’t tethered to your site via a physical connection, calls can be redirected extraordinarily easily – which is handy in a disaster situation, for example, where your business premises is unreachable, and as an automatic failover between multiple offices, so other sites can answer inbound calls if all the phones at one location are busy.
More IP voice channels can also be added quickly and easily, allowing you to ramp up your call capability within minutes and scale it down after demand has peaked.
On top of that, there’s cost savings on both infrastructure and call rates, which could cut down your business communication expenses by 30-50 per cent.
“The shutdown of the ISDN is a great opportunity for businesses to evaluate what they are using their phone services for, to make sure their phones are doing what they need them to do, and to ensure they are getting the best deal for them,” Jacko says. “A lot of people are paying a lot more for their phone services than they need to.”