Is the clock ticking for ISDN?

Posted by Karen on Nov 30, 2015 12:00:00 AM
Integrated Services of Digital Network (ISDN) was the standard way of transmitting data (including voice and video) for many years. By using this system, people could get a better quality connection via traditional copper phone lines.

But what purpose does ISDN have in a world driven by high-speed internet? Telephones used to be a standard feature in most homes in the developed world, but now industry experts are predicting the death of the landline, as mobiles have become ubiquitous and high-speed broadband has encouraged us to use VoIP services.

A changing world


ISDN has been around for decades and has strong advocates. Businesses need a reliable, stable, connection, and they need it to be secure. But the figures show that businesses started abandoning ISDN years ago (the number of UK businesses using ISDN fell from 4.7 million in 2007, to 3.3 million in 2012).

ISDN was so popular, in part because there was so little in the way of an alternative, and the working world was structured in a way that complemented the technology. People went to work, 9-5, in a fixed office location. These days we have a distributed workforce. Businesses can have employees based around the world, or who’ve negotiated the right to work from home. This change has supported the adoption of VOIP.

We’re also living in a culture where work and home life is more blended. People answer emails and calls while away from the office, at home or abroad. The workforce is mobile, and it needs a system which is not only reliable, stable and secure, but also flexible. (Figures from the U.S. show a steep decline in landline numbers, relative to the increase in mobile use.)

Technology is only as good as the use people can make of it. No one’s going to travel 20 miles into an office to make their weekly client call on the fixed line, when they make the call from their home office using VoIP or mobile.

Business ISPs are going out of their way to offer increasingly higher internet speeds to businesses, speeds that ISDN over copper lines can’t get anywhere near. Modern businesses have become reliant on high internet speeds, with many using cloud technology on a daily basis. The time it takes to upload business material, or download software fixes, costs money in time and resources. Slow responses can lead to missed opportunities that businesses cannot afford.

SIP trunking is another alternative, which will make an existing phone line suitable for the digital world we’re now in – but that’s the key point, technology has to fit our needs. ISDN can’t do this in the long-term. It’s time to start moving on. BT has stated that it will switch off its ISDN network by 2025, switching all customers over to IP. With this in mind, it’s not a question of if ISDN is in a terminal decline, but when it will finally cease to be an option.

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