Australia’s ISDN is coming to an end. Starting September 30 this year, Telstra will begin the compulsory disconnection of ISDN lines across the country. For businesses still using the technology, this makes finding a new business phone system a priority.

Most businesses are turning to internet protocol (IP) telephony for their new systems. If you’ve been exploring your options, though, you’ve probably come across a wide range of alternatives, which can take time to sort through.

To help you make a smooth transition from ISDN to an IP phone system, here’s all you need to know about the ISDN switch-off and choosing an alternative to replace it.

The ISDN switch-off timeline

Integrated services digital network (ISDN) technology provided people their first means of running voice calls and internet connections simultaneously on the same lines. At the time, this represent breakthrough technology that was faster and more cost-efficient than the alternatives.

Recent innovations in telecommunications, however, have surpassed ISDN in both performance and cost. In line with this, Telstra announced that all of Australia’s ISDN would be shut down by 2022. Here’s a brief timeline of developments in the switch-off:

  • 31 January 2018: cut-off for sales of new ISDN services
  • 30 June 2018: cut-off for sales of additional ISDN services to customers with existing ones
  • 30 September 2019: start of disconnection of existing ISDN services
  • 2022: completion of ISDN disconnections, full decommissioning of ISDN nationwide

ISDN alternatives for business phone systems

This leaves anyone on ISDN with a few months left to switch to new phone systems. These alternatives will have to be able to provide the same functions as ISDN: the ability to make calls and connect to the internet at the same time.

Most businesses are turning to IP telephony, which works by using the internet to facilitate calls. IP telephony provides advantages in mobility, versatility and cost. Furthermore, since broadband connections are faster than ISDN, it also means that users enjoy better connection speeds in general.

That said, there are different types of IP-based phone systems to choose from. Each system has different strengths and limitations. What follows is an overview of the most common options, as well as which cases they work best with.

SIP trunking

A SIP trunk is the digital version of a conventional phone system. Instead of using the public phone network, it connects your PBX to the internet through consolidated lines called trunks—hence the name.

This means that SIP trunk services can handle all the functions of your old phone system while offering the advantages of IP telephony. Your business only pays for the number of lines you need to use simultaneously, and those lines are shared between all extensions. This means your costs are lower and it’s easier to add (or remove) lines when you need to.

SIP trunking works best for businesses that are already used to running a phone system, especially if their PBX is IP-compatible.

Hosted PBX

A hosted PBX service uses cloud technology to carry out phone system functions remotely. The system hardware is located in your service provider’s premises and you can access the system through the cloud—the only hardware you need are devices to use for making calls.

As a virtual phone system, a hosted PBX service offers more mobility and flexibility than other options. You can use it with a range of devices and even from different locations. Advanced call handling features can be added to the service as you need them.

Hosted PBX works best for businesses whose employees work across different locations or frequently need to use the business phone system while out of the office.

Unified comms

Business communications have been trending toward the use of multiple channels, such as voice, video and instant messaging. Unified communications systems integrate these channels into a single platform.

A unified comms (UC) system provides a lot of versatility in how employees can communicate. Conversations can be transferred from one channel to another—or even one device to another—so smoothly that the people on the other end of the line don’t notice.

On top of this, UC systems often integrate other useful features, such as presence indicators, call monitoring tools and integrations with other widely-used office software.

UC is a good choice for businesses that use a variety of channels for both external and internal communications.

Make the switch soon

Whatever your business’s specific needs, it’s better to act sooner rather than later. The earlier you begin your enquiries, the less likely you are to suffer any disruptions to operations. And as ISDN’s deadline approaches, there will be more businesses competing for service providers’ attention—as always, you’ll want to beat the crowds.