For those who aren’t aware of the Big Switch Off yet, what exactly is it and what point have we reached so far?

The Big Switch Off signals the end of all ISDN networks and traditional phone lines. All the outdated copper-based infrastructure is being replaced by its modern fibre equivalent, culminating in it being switched off in December 2025. Before that time, all organisations will need to transfer to updated services such as fibre broadband, and Cloud-based solutions or mobile phones for voice calls. However, this isn’t just a binary process. At this point, a growing number of exchanges have already become stop sell.

Could you explain a little bit more about what stop sell actually is?

Stop sell is the status given to an exchange meaning no additional services will be supplied other than fibre. This is part of the transitional process BT Openreach has put in place as we move closer to the December 2025 deadline.

Pre-existing legacy services can still be used until switched off, but you won’t be able to purchase any new services. More importantly, stop sell also prevents the modification of those existing services, such as switching service providers.

So how does an exchange become stop sell?

There are actually two ways. The first is through the FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) Priority Exchange programme. As an exchange reaches a high level of fibre coverage, agreed with Ofcom as 75%, it becomes an FTTP Priority Exchange and stop sell kicks in.

The second method is WLR (Wholesale Line Rental) withdrawal; basically a blanket stop sell being applied to the whole country. This will occur in September 2023 and is definitely something every company should be aware of, as it obviously precedes the 2025 Switch Off date.

It’s also worth noting that there are potentially other events which could trigger stop sell. For example, in the event of a major equipment failure, it wouldn’t be unheard of for an exchange to convert to stop sell as replacement parts may only support all IP technology.

What are my options once an exchange is in stop sell?

The problem with stop sell is that once an exchange has entered that state, your options are already dramatically reduced. You can absolutely continue to use traditional phone lines, ISDN, and broadband until December 2025, but you won’t be able to make any changes to those services. This includes such things as a like-for-like switch to another service provider.

You really only have two options at this point. The first is to continue with your current provider until you are ready to migrate to all IP technology. If you choose to stay with them, you also have to hope that they have a plan in place for this that suits your timescale and technology requirements. The second is to migrate now, immediately freeing you up to choose another supplier. If you’re thinking that neither option is particularly great, especially since most companies aren’t in a position to migrate immediately, you’d be right.

Why should I act now?

To get in before stop sell. The longer you leave it, the more it’s going to cost you, and the more it’s going to impact your business. That’s the message we’re really trying to get out there: act now and Be More in Control of your future.

Technically, the Big Switch Off doesn’t start in December 2025; that’s really the finishing line. Even the UK-wide stop sell in September 2023 isn’t a safe cut-off point. Make no mistake, this is a gradual roll-out creeping across the country to move everyone away from outdated technology. There are already 652 exchanges on stop sell, with thousands more expected over the next 12 months. It will just accelerate until the national stop sell.

Imagine it as cliff edge you’re slowly being herded towards. One way or another, you’re going to have to jump. Acting now means that you can prepare for migration in the best way possible, rather than being pushed off the edge unprepared and into the unknown.

As I mentioned before, once in stop sell, you’re locked into your current service provider for ISDN and traditional phone lines. That’s already starting to impact our customers, even those who tried to plan ahead.

One customer had a mixture of historic and modern buildings, and required rewiring work planned in over the next few years prior to transferring to a Cloud solution. In the meantime, they asked us to take over their existing lines, since this enables us to minimise disruption with migration to the Cloud. As we went to take over the lines, we discovered some of them were in a stop sell exchange. Our customer had no choice but to sign a contract with their current supplier to continue the service with them, whereas we would have managed their lines for less.

So there are cost implications for the price of legacy services?

Absolutely. You see it all the time in every industry that the cost of maintaining legacy systems increases, with those costs often being passed on to the consumer. And even aside of that, there’s an element of a captive market here with stop sell tying you to your current provider. Companies that aren’t prepared won’t be able to just click their fingers and start using Cloud solutions, and suppliers will know this.

Are there any specific implications of the Big Switch Off for construction?

One of the main impacts for construction will be based around infrastructure services such as lift lines, building management systems and power alarms. Any kind of remote monitoring service which currently uses traditional phone lines will need to move across to IP.

I’d emphasise again that organisations need to put a plan in place now for how to deal with this. There are obviously severe health and safety implications should these services be disrupted, and the sooner you act on this, the more efficient your migration will be. It’s also worth remembering that there are benefits of switching these services over to IP too, such as increased reliability and additional features.

How can Southern Communications Group help companies with this?

I imagine there are more than a few companies out there at the moment thinking that the Big Switch Off is yet another hurdle to overcome, on top of all the other challenges over the last few years. Another problem to solve.

Coming back to the previous cliff analogy, jumping off into the unknown at some point will be necessary. We are your parachute enabling a smooth, safe transition into the Cloud. And we know what’s down there; we know the terrain, all the potential bumpy landings and how to avoid them. That’s what over 50 years in the Telecoms industry and migrating hundreds of customers to the Cloud gets you. Tell us where you are now, where you want to be, and we’ll create the best journey to reach that destination as quickly, easily and cost-effectively as possible.

We can also show you the positives of the Big Switch Off, of that migration to new technology. If a move to the Cloud is inevitable, being Cloud experts ourselves, we can make sure you get the very best from that solution. We can show you all the opportunities it creates across all areas of your business.

However you do it though, and I cannot emphasis this enough, start planning your journey to the Cloud now. This is the only way to be more in control of your company’s future, and ultimately, your success.

Key Takeaways:

  • ISDN and traditional phone networks will no longer function after December 2025
  • 652 exchanges have either entered or been nominated for stop sell already, this will increase until a national stop sell in September 2023
  • Stop sell means legacy services cannot be purchased, modified or switched to another service provider
  • Businesses need to act now to avoid the additional costs and disruption caused by stop sell
  • Southern Communications Group is perfectly placed to provide you with a solution, as Cloud experts with over 50 years’ experience in the Telecoms industry

Contact us now and we’ll guide you through the Big Switch Off and into the future-proof Cloud.