The transition away from the PSTN offers great opportunities for the Channel. Dr Lucy Green, founder and managing director, Larato, explains what support is needed.

The PSTN is an ageing network that needs to be replaced, and Dr Lucy Green, founder and managing director at Larato, is aware of that reality. But Green explained that the transition to all-IP alternatives will introduce risk into businesses unless the migration is handled carefully.

Green pointed to some recent research by the OECD which showed that businesses in Britain are ahead of their peers in different aspects of digitalisation, but their low access to high-speed broadband could hamper future results.

The move away from the PSTN and WLR, Green explained, will move the needle on this and help businesses to remain globally competitive.

But the transition must be managed carefully, and that will involve businesses engaging with what is happening and completing a risk assessment to ensure all aspects of their operations are considered.

Check your risks

Larato has examined Openreach’s risk assessment materials and begun adapting them for small businesses. Green explained, “We are in the process of updating those documents to make it even easier for a business to use. And because we don’t sell telephony – we’re interested only in improving business performance – our message to businesses is to just check there isn’t a risk and to embrace the opportunity.

“Those risk assessment materials can help small businesses understand what their position might be, and also what new technologies they might be able to benefit from.”

Green reflected on a panel session she took part in at Channel Live where other industry stakeholders discussed how the Channel can prepare for the switchover and how it can support businesses in moving across to alternatives.

She said, “Everybody agreed that there isn’t yet a consistent story that a business can embrace. Businesses also think that their provider is trying to sell them something and it’s going to cost them more money, when actually it will probably cost them less – as well as helping them become more competitive. But that message just isn’t landing.

“That was the concern of the panel. And if you look at the timeline, just from a pragmatic perspective, if you look at how many premises have been switched, and how many there are to go, the pace of change has got to increase significantly.”

Making people understand

Getting people onboard will be essential in picking up the pace, and Green explained how support from the government could help.

She said, “I do think that the government should try to help with a consistent message. I know it’s complicated. It’s much more complicated than the digital TV switchover because there’s so many more moving parts. But the bottom line is: the infrastructure that we have been working on is coming to the end of its life.

“It has to change. It has to be refreshed. And even if the message was just at that level: this is why it’s happening, and it’s happening because we’ve been using this network since the early 1980s. I think people would understand that.

“They would know their phone company isn’t just trying to sell them something else that they don’t need. They would know it is an understandable changeover that that needs to happen. So far, I don’t think that’s clear to people.”

Larato is a supporter of the Comms Business Fit To Switch campaign, which is raising awareness and educating businesses in different sectors about potential risks to their business when the PSTN is withdrawn.

Green explained, “It’s absolutely wonderful that we’ve got people, who are competing with one another, coming together to try and help do the right thing. That’s brilliant.

“We at Larato wanted to get involved because we’re passionate about business success in the UK. And that is so fundamentally dependent on technology, whether that’s knowing how to buy the right technology, or using the technology you’ve got in the right way. We wanted to get involved and oil the wheels to help businesses understand where they are, and what they can do.”

Helping businesses fly

Moving to all-IP alternatives will be transformative for many businesses, with newer connectivity networks unlocking improved speeds and resiliency. The Channel can play a vital role in ensuring businesses have the right technologies for their requirements and Green explained this is a “one time opportunity” to demonstrate the expertise and guidance channel companies can provide local or smaller businesses.

Green concluded, “Businesses have got all of this power at their fingertips but they’re not sure what they can get out of it. With a channel partner as a local advisor, they can really help people make the most of it. The great news for the channel is that businesses have got the money, but they’re not confident about how to buy.

“The channel is perfectly placed to give buyers confidence about how they can get good value for money and make their businesses fly.”

This article appeared in our May 2024 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.