Switching off the PSTN network is old news for the Channel, but getting business and consumer customers to take the switch-off seriously has been another matter. Yet the impending PSTN network retirement is the biggest thing to happen to UK telecoms since the first fibre core network was lit.
Unlike all those other great nation-shaking utility upgrades, though (town gas to North Sea gas; analogue TV to Freeview; 3G to 4G) the copper network switch-off has attracted no public funding for TV campaigns, no leaflets through the doors, no supplier-driven upgrade messages. Not so much as a bit of ballsy messaging from Ofcom on the 10 o’clock news.
It’s been left to the Channel to alert customers, help them upgrade their existing telecoms estates and attempt to future-proof existing hard-wired assets from lift intercom services to card payment devices.
Three years of inspiring entries to the Comms Business Awards have given ample proof of the Channel’s passion and ingenuity for incorporating messages about the PSTN retirement into sales pitches, upgrades and renewals. It has also revealed there is no common language and no consistent messaging around the relative threats and opportunities.
At the same time, all the research into the business community generally shows most business people (and especially the small and medium-sized companies who make up 95 per cent of British businesses) are blissfully unaware of what the change-over might mean to them.
This is why Comms Business has launched the Fit To Switch campaign. Fit To Switch is an all-industry awareness campaign, aimed at complementing and amplifying the Channel’s efforts by raising the issues around PSTN directly with business owners.
Launched initially across the Mark Allen Group’s business publishing portfolio, the publisher of Comms Business, Fit To Switch editorial and self-assessment questionnaires will be appearing in magazines and websites serving industries as diverse as farming, dental nursing, aviation and engineering. Once established, the campaign will spread out to include trade and industry associations and consumer media.
We know how hard it can be for telecoms specialists to have the kind of conversations they need with business owners. Fit To Switch aims to make life easier for Channel players to move switch-off-readiness up their customers’ to-do list.
Business customers may need a lot of hand-holding. Not just in terms of the big-ticket visible issues like switching their front-end from tin to fibre. But in terms of the myriad fire-alarms, burglar-alarms, software back-ups and fail-overs, lift emergency phones and host of other hard-wired services brought from third-party suppliers. Many of them still run over dedicated copper lines which are impossible for anyone but the individual number-holders to identify.
Moving from an always-on 48Volt copper line to a passive fibre that needs to be lit from the customer’s end comes with all kinds of implications that can easily feel ‘too much’ from the business user’s point of view.
By creating a national, recognised, memorable and all-industry campaign, and talking to business people in their own language, through their own respected trade media, Fit To Switch gives us all the best chance of turning confusion into workable, mutually satisfactory solutions.
As far back as anyone in the Channel can remember, BT has been squeezing as much value as possible out of the copper network. Now they’re retiring it, it’s our turn.
The Fit To Switch campaign made its industry debut at Channel Live last month. The major wholesale platforms are being invited to become Fit To Switch National Champions and use the campaign to amplify and complement the switch-over materials they have already developed for their own customers.
Channel players who wish to get involved in their own right can obtain Fit To Switch marketing materials and sales leads by signing up as Authorised Providers.
For further details, contact Mat Swift (email@example.com) or Chris Pateman (firstname.lastname@example.org).