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Preparing for the ISDN switch-off

Adam Wilson, strategic partner director for EMEA and ANZ at Vonage, explains why channel partners are the key to end-user satisfaction.

With BT’s ISDN switch-off in 2025 rapidly approaching, many businesses will be grappling with the impending switchover and worrying about future-proofing their communications infrastructure. As of 2023 BT will no longer accept any new orders or amendments to services applicable to any existing ISDN products, and although 2025 can still seem a long time away, the looming freeze on amendments to existing circuits next year certainly isn’t.

In potentially very little time, businesses could be left urgently needing to make changes that they haven’t necessarily foreseen, or budgeted for. It’s clear they’ll need help to tackle the labyrinthine world of unified communications as it’s evolved over the last 35 years – but the channel has also evolved correspondingly over the same period, and could be the answer to their prayers.

Evolving away from ISDN

Technology has evolved significantly since the birth of ISDN in the ‘80s, and with the growth of cloud and hosted phone systems the ISDN network is increasingly unsuited for today’s communications requirements. Launched by BT in 1986, ISDN allowed both data and calls unlike traditional landline infrastructure at the time, so businesses were certainly keen to move across. Incorporating analogue and digital voice telephone services and any service that uses these lines including dial-up devices, fax machines and modems, in addition to broadband services that run over an analogue telephone line like ADSL and FTTC fibre broadband.

With BT now looking towards the future of telecoms infrastructure, more than 40 per cent of businesses have already moved over to VoIP systems to date but Openreach has recently announced that they will stop selling g PSTN and ISDN products in a further 117 exchanges from June 2021, affecting over 1.2 million customer premises. For many businesses, incorporating the expertise of the channel in combining an IP telephony channel program with unified communications as a service (UCaaS), contact centre as a service (CCaaS) and communications API elements, could be the answer.

Trusting your channel advisor

The key consideration for an effective transition beyond the ISDN switch-off should always be a seamless, unified customer experience, and incorporating all needs under one platform enables a single, consistent experience between employee, agents and customers. Channel partners can help raise awareness of the value of a dedicated IP telephony offering in conjunction with UCaaS, CCaaS and communications APIs to help businesses transition effectively beyond the ISDN switch-off.

So how can such an approach help? Well, the consultative services that channel partners offer should be an important part of the draw. For businesses looking to pair VOIP with UCaaS elements, for example, there is a bewildering number of UCaaS providers in the market, which can make it difficult for customers to figure out the right option for them when choosing a cloud-based IP telephony solution. Resellers as well as MSPs are well placed to support customers with guidance on the most appropriate solutions if they have the right technology partnerships in place with vendors, such as Vonage, that can help partners behind the scenes to provide the best possible customer experience.

Channel partners can also help businesses extend or fix solutions implemented during the pandemic, which is increasingly becoming a pressing concern for IT decision makers. Many businesses have thrown together all manner of communications solutions over the past year to solve short-term needs that can raise the dreaded specter of shadow IT concerns. Businesses now need to look ahead to the future and ask themselves whether their current communications stack – which now could include everything from Zoom to Skype, VPN, VDI and more – is fit for purpose when it comes to enabling both effective and secure collaboration.

Additional services for the transition

Many end-users will also have additional service requirements as part of their IP telephony needs. From first line support and project management to customer success and adoption offerings, a good IP telephony channel programme will offer these additional managed services and help end-users understand exactly how to make the most of them.

Raising awareness of new API-driven enablement services can also be a key part of channel partner support for would be VOIP transitioners. Whilst a relatively recent innovation in the communications space, communications APIs can allow partners to tailor products to customers’ needs with services like managing company and on-demand call recordings and custom integrations for managing data and features on accounts. Indeed, communication APIs will increasingly become vital to stay ahead of communications trends such as the rise of conversational commerce and the need for remote delivery of services as workforces continue to embrace a distributed, but highly connected, work environment.

To future-proof communications requirements effectively beyond the ISDN, switch-off will require businesses to extend IP telephony to UCaaS and CCaaS as one platform to enable a single, unified customer experience. In essence, the role of resellers and MSPs is to act as a trusted advisor to end users, providing advice and guidance on the options available to them to meet their needs. Effective channel partners can help end-users directly tie business outcomes to the benefits of such communications solutions, and understand the value of pivoting now ahead of the ISDN switch-off.

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