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The big switch off

Change is coming to UK phone and broadband with millions of older lines planned to be switched off over the next 3 years to make way for new technology – also known as the big switch off.


As Openreach rolls out plans to switch off all old phone lines in phases mainly over the next 3 years but with a backstop of 2025 (PSTN and ISDN to those in the know), we look at the impact on alarm users, and steps they need to take.

All alarms monitored in the UK use a communication device that sends signals between your intruder alarm system and an ARC. This means that if we’re connected to the device by an old line, we’re going to need to talk to you about taking action so we don’t lose the connection.


What are PSTN and ISDN?

This definitely falls into the category of ‘things you didn’t know you needed to know’, but understanding the phone lines connecting your homes or businesses can help you understand the changes coming up and how they might affect you.

The UK’s telephone infrastructure started being built in 1876 and is known as the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). Since then, it has been developed and updated beyond recognition, but at its heart, it is a very old system that isn’t fit for the 21st century.

Numerous developments have been ‘bolted on’, including the first wave of broadband lines (ISDN, or Integrated Services Digital Networks) operating on the old infrastructure from the 1980’s onward.


The switch off

Around 20 years ago, BT announced bold plans to replace the PSTN with their ‘Network for the 21st Century’, a move calculated to save them billions over the years in the maintenance of copper lines and to provide a better performing, more reliable network.

After decades of work, the end of the PSTN is finally in view, with trials already underway in two areas and rolling out to the next batch of postcodes as early as May 2021.


How does that affect my alarm system?

You may hear about the switch off from your phone provider and your broadband provider but might not have considered that services such as fire alarms and intruder alarms may also be using the same connection.

If you are one of the 31.7 million remaining users of a fixed-line (PSTN or ISDN) you will need to move to an alternative by the time the switch off reaches your area, or risk being left with no connection.

The security risk of your alarms losing connection during the switch off is a concern for many, but it is one that can be easily avoided by taking the right steps now. A BT study showed that nearly a third of those surveyed were taking a ‘watch and wait’ approach to the switch off, but we believe that taking action now will help you avoid the worry as the switch off dates approach.

If your insurance cover or police response relies on alarm connectivity, there is even more reason to move to a more modern signalling device now.

Here at Protect CSM Ltd we are committed to working with our customers to smoothly transition their alarms to a new generation device.


The switch off timeline

The PSTN will be phased out over a period of 5 years starting in December 2020 and finishing in December 2025. The first phase will simply be a ‘stop sell’, meaning that you will no longer be able to buy or switch lines to a PSTN line. After this, providers will be striving to migrate any remaining customers to a modern connection before the December 2025 deadline. With many millions of lines for providers to migrate, it makes sense to start investigating your own situation now so that you can be in control of your own migration. Both major suppliers of signalling devices have their new generation devices on the market already.


Talk to us now so you have time to consider the options and make an informed decision.


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