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September is approaching fast for ISDN shutdown

As previously indicated, from 30 September 2019, telecommunications providers will commence removing the ISDN that has been part the backbone of Australia’s traditional voice services network.

Despite this being a major event – as major as the introduction of ISDN over 30 years ago – not may people are taking about it and the potential impact it will have on many businesses.

The ISDN, or Integrated Services Digital Network, runs over the copper infrastructure that supports our traditional phone lines. It’s the digital service that has powered Australian businesses for decades, but as the NBN rollout continues and the existing technology is replaced and upgraded, it’s ready for retirement. When it was introduced it provided a much faster data connection than analogue modems could and even today there are still some point to point connections nailed up across cities.

The shutdown began almost 12 months ago, when Telstra stopped selling ISDN2, ISDN10/20/30, DDS Fastway, and Frame Relay products. (ISDN revenue, which peaked in 2008 at $978 million, halved to $467 million last year.) The next phase starts at the end of September, when they will start progressively shutting down and disconnecting ISDN products in use until, by 2022, the entire network has been decommissioned.

The simple message for users of ISDN is to be aware of the shutdown timetable, what you may have to do and how much to budget for it. If you’re caught unawares and unprepared you may be left scrambling to get your phones connected again. Already it is taking much longer to Port numbers to other carriers and these delays are likely to increase. Like all quick fixes it may also be costly.

It is always a good idea to keep researching your options. As an example, a customer who organised a fibre connection and multiple ISDN2’s for their new premise, then engaged us to relocate and expand their phone system will be moving across to a new fibre connection and 15 SIP channels. The fixed cost will reduce by about $200 a month but the Internet speed will increase from 40Mbps to 1000Mbps and all calls will be included. As a construction company they make a lot of calls to mobiles.

The two biggest benefits of moving to the VoIP world are flexibility and redundancy.

With the ISDN, calls are carried on a physical line or lines tied to your site. If that line goes down – from, say, someone digging up the pavement and accidentally cutting into it – calls won’t be possible until it’s reinstated, or your provider can redirect them.

One of our customers in Geelong could have been down for 3 weeks due to equipment failure in the exchange but it was s simple matter to apply trial licenses to the phone system, arrange a new line and a 4G connection so the site was back up in 2 days showing their original caller ID and having inbound calls to the ISDN redirected. The only thing they missed out on was direct calling to extensions but they did not use that anyway.

Because your VoIP service isn’t tethered to your site via a physical connection, calls can be redirected very easily – which is handy in a disaster situation. Where your business premises is unreachable an automatic failover can occur between multiple offices, so other sites can answer inbound calls if all the lines at one location are down.

More channels can also be added quickly and easily, allowing you to ramp up your call capability within minutes and scale it down after demand has peaked.

This is a great opportunity for businesses to evaluate what they are using their phone services for, to make sure their phones are doing what they need them to do, and to ensure they are getting the best deal for them. A lot of people are paying a lot more for their phone services than they need to.

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