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Is your business ready for the Great British Switch Off?

11 May 2021

A third of small firms are unaware of forthcoming changes to the UK telecoms network, according to Zen Internet.

The Great British Switch Off, also known as the copper stop-sell, is set to affect UK businesses in the next few years. As of 2025, the country's traditional telephone network - the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) - will be fully switched off and withdrawn from service. Prior to that, in 2023, products which use the PSTN network, such as Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), will stop being sold and will no longer be used for line installations.

New research by Zen Internet has found that many of the UK's small businesses are still reliant on traditional telephony systems and are ill-prepared for the change. Its poll of 500 UK small firms has found that traditional telephony systems are the backbone of communications for many, with 62% using them for customer communications. More than half use them for engaging with partners and 61% for communicating with colleagues.

Yet one in three small firms are not aware of the copper stop-sell. What's more, many businesses are tied to communications agreements that are set to become obsolete - 13% of businesses say that the next possible point of termination with their traditional telephone third-party supplier is more than three years away. It means that some businesses could be spending money on legacy communications systems that are no longer functional. A quarter (26%) of SMEs say they spend between £5,000 and £40,000 a year on traditional telephony systems.

While the copper stop-sell will result in a short-term upheaval for small business owners, it will allow them to transition from traditional telephone networks to cloud-based technology. SMEs are currently lagging behind larger businesses when it comes to moving to a cloud-based model of communication - 60% of large firms use a cloud-based solution for integrating their communications channels, compared to 40% of SMEs. However, over half of small businesses who don't currently use a cloud-based system say they are actively considering it.

Jon Perkins, director of strategy at Zen Internet, said: "It's clear that the forthcoming changes to the UK's telephony network are set to impact businesses large and small - however what has become clear from the research is that smaller businesses could be at risk of being left behind in the switch-over if they don't start to act and plan now.

"Ultimately the planned changes open up the opportunity to migrate to cloud-based alternatives, making communication channels more reliable and suited to modern ways of working. This means businesses no longer need to be tied down to a fixed line at a fixed location."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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