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It’s the beginning of the end when it comes to ISDN, which for decades has delivered steady business voice solutions for many Australian businesses. Businesses may be wondering what their options are when it comes to phone systems for the future and why it’s smart to start planning now.

What Is Happening with ISDN?

ISDN has been a mainstay for business telephony solutions for years. However, Telstra announced in 2016 it was discontinuing the sale and support of various ISDN products. The main reason given by the telecom giant was that the underlying technologies and platforms are being discontinued and are not being supported by relevant vendors. As such, Telstra will no longer be able to provision or maintain the ISDN products at a satisfactory level.

The affected services include ISDN2, ISDN2 Enhanced, ISDN10/20/30, DDS Fastway, Megalink and Frame Relay. The discontinuation schedule is:

  • 31st January 2018 — New ISDN products became unavailable except to those with an existing ISDNproduct.
  • 30th June 2018 — Sales stopped on all new or additional ISDN services for all customers.
  • June 2019 — Existing ISDN connections will begin to be disconnected.
  • 2022 — All ISDN connections are scheduled to be disconnected and the full network will be decommissioned.

The continued rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) has also played a role in the discontinuation. As the NBN reaches more of the country, Telstra is required to discontinue use of the copper network that has been used to deliver the ISDN products. NBN’s fibre-optic network delivers high-bandwidth and low-latency connections that provide for faster and more reliable connectivity to businesses and residences alike.

Later in 2019, the lines that connect ISDN will begin to be disconnected. That means businesses need to plan accordingly to avoid being caught ill-prepared for ISDN migrations.

How Can Businesses Prepare for ISDN Migrations?

Now is the time for companies to plan for another business phone solution. Here are a few key steps to take before choosing a new solution:

  • Assess Your Infrastructure. Audit how your employees access data and handle the phones. How are incoming phone calls managed? Are there defined and documented processes in place? How does messaging and voice mail work? What could be improved about your phone system and processes? Does your staff use advanced features or not use them because they are too difficult or impractical?
  • Evaluate Your Options. There are several options available for your business telephony solution. Be sure to understand the features and benefits of each option before making your choice.
  • Consider a Technology Partner. Making a migration to a new business phone system is a complex project. You want an IT partner that has experience with phone system installations and know how your phones can best be integrated with other technologies. These projects are time-intensive and can eat up your internal IT staff’s time quickly, especially if they do not have the right experience or training.
  • Identify Technical Synergies. Your phone system should be integrated with other technical solutions. For instance, many newer cloud-based phone systems integrate with Microsoft Outlook to transcribe and deliver messages to a user’s inbox. Other features allow users to forward calls automatically to smartphones and home phones.
  • Create a Migration Plan. Whether you’ve been notified of your ISDN cessation date or not, it’s important to have a plan in place well in advance. Work with a trusted IT partner to make sure your ISDN migrationsare well planned and thorough.

What Options Are Available for Business ISDN Migrations?

Most businesses that need to switch from ISDN choose a PBX (private branch exchange) phone system hosted in the cloud. These systems connect via a high-speed internet connection as opposed to the copper ISDN lines.

A cloud-hosted PBX offers many features previously unavailable to many Australian businesses using ISDN. Cloud-based phone systems give your business more flexibility, reduced operational costs, and security for your data and information transmitted in calls.

With a cloud phone system, your business will enjoy:

  • Predictable monthly charges
  • Audio conference calls
  • Instant messaging
  • Quick setup
  • A low initial investment
  • Eliminated line rental costs
  • No hardware purchases, management or maintenance
  • Less need for onsite support
  • Free interoffice calling
  • Lower call costs
  • Rapid scalability to up to 200 users
  • Mobile functionality on both iOS and Android operating systems for laptops, smartphones and tablets
  • Synchronization with Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange
  • Find me/follow me and call forwarding features
  • A desktop app for managing incoming calls
  • Self-serve adding and moving of extensions
  • Configurable auto attendant
  • Call hunt groups and queues
  • For staff managing inbound calls, a desktop app to show which extensions are available in real time

What Are the Main Advantages of ISDN Migrations to Internet Voice?

Cloud-based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) uses the SIP (session initiation protocol) as opposed to the older ISDN protocol for connecting calls. In short, SIP lets you use your internet connection for both your phone needs and your local network. With SIP, you don’t have to pay for two different connections.

Here are six major advantages of choosing a SIP-based, cloud-hosted solution over an ISDN phone system:

1. Quality

High-speed fibre-optic networks deliver more bandwidth and low latency. If you do experience latency issues, you can prioritise voice traffic. While some believe that VoIP systems are unreliable and deliver poor quality, today’s connectivity and cloud platforms mean voice quality for both incoming and outgoing calls is excellent.

2. Redundancy

With voice and data running through the same connection, you gain built-in redundancy. The two streams can use the same connection but on different paths connected to different hardware. If one path goes down, the other is still available.

3. Flexibility

With cloud-based VoIP, you’re not charged a rental fee for each phone number … and those numbers are not tied to a physical location. You gain great flexibility to assign numbers to different users or locations as needed. Incoming calls can also be routed quickly to other locations automatically.

4. Scalability

Many businesses have cyclical or seasonal variance in their call volume. Additional channels can be removed or added easily.

5. Price

Your company will immediately see cost savings via reduced access charges when you move from two internet connections to one. In some cases, businesses use some of that cost-savings to purchase a backup connection … and still save money. Your per-call costs will drop, too.

6. Compatibility

Most existing PBX solutions are SIP-compatible. If your PBX is not, and you do not want to migrate to the cloud, you can use a voice gateway to convert your ISDN handoffs to SIP.

At Steadfast Solutions, we help businesses migrate to cloud-based business phone systems with minimal disruption and well ahead of the ISDN sunsetting. Based in Melbourne and Brisbane, Steadfast Solutions is Australia’s choice for business technology solutions. To learn more about how to migrate from ISDN, start the conversation with Steadfast Solutions today.

Published on 30th January 2019 by Ian Brady.

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