PSTN switch off and alarm systems – is your business prepared?
Over the last 18 months or so businesses have had to focus on many previously unexplored challenges associated with the pandemic and remote working. However, there are still many known and foreseeable risks that have the potential to cause significant business disruption – and businesses need to keep these in mind.
A key example of such a risk is the planned switch off of the Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN). The existing UK analogue PSTN is no longer capable of supporting the telecoms infrastructure that is required for the growing connectivity needs of businesses and consumers. PSTN services are therefore scheduled to be replaced with a fully digital IP (Internet Protocol) network.
Subsequently, no PSTN services will be sold nationally after September 2023 and all PSTN lines will be closed in 2025.
Migration to the new IP network has already begun and in some areas of the UK there will be no new connections to the PSTN phone network from this month (June 2021). This is expected to have a knock-on effect on the approximately 800,000 systems in the UK that rely on a digital communicator to transfer calls and data via PSTN to an alarm receiving centre. This includes fire and security systems, building management systems, lift alarms and nurse call systems.
Speaking to Insurance Business recently, NMU risk control manager Ian Allman said of the PSTN switch off:
“This is something that’s been spoken about for quite a while within the telecoms industry but is not necessarily being pushed out to the public. When people talk about telecoms, the natural assumption is that it’s your BT homeline, but they don’t necessarily think about alarm systems and the multitude of other business systems that also use that method of communicating back to an alarm centre or within a facility itself.
“It’s all the same technology and now it’s going to change. There’s been some news in the security press, but we at NMU are trying to be on the front foot with regards to getting this news out to the brokers and then ultimately through to the policyholder so this doesn’t come as a great shock to them. We felt it was important to push this information out there, advising on what’s happening to make sure they get in touch with alarm providers and security systems providers to make sure their systems will be compatible with the new technology coming down the line.”
As a lot of current systems across the UK are not yet compatible with the new IP network, businesses are urged to take action now to avoid the increasing demand to update systems ahead of the deadline.
Brian Brookes, BHIB Risk Manager, said: “Don’t forget this isn’t just telephone lines that could potentially be affected but also alarm systems, card payment systems and CCTVs.
“The worst-case scenario here is that an alarm doesn’t operate because the line hasn’t been upgraded and insurers refuse to pay out on a claim”.