Sweeping changes are on the horizon for telecommunications in the UK, as the Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) is set to become obsolete.
Many security connections between Alarm Receive Centres (ARCs) and other premises rely on these analogue, copper cables. However, by December 2025, Openreach will no longer support PSTN due to the country’s ever-increasing data consumption. The network can no longer meet demand, so it’s time for a large-scale upgrade.
With many legacy alarm systems relying on PSTN, what’s going to happen next? In this two-part series, we’ll explore the upcoming changes and how to prepare.
What Will Replace PSTN?
With PSTN no longer available, every connection will come in one of the following forms:
- Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP): Also known as fibre to the home, users will benefit from speed, reliability, and a future-proof solution – one that performs well over long distances.
- Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA): SOGEA decouples broadband service from phone lines, providing a streamlined connection.
- Voice over IP (VoIP): All analogue voice services will be delivered through this digital medium.
What Does This Mean for Alarm Monitoring?
Many alarm monitoring systems that use PSTN will no longer function, and the same goes for CCTV monitoring systems that rely on ISDN services.
According to Dave Wilkinson, BSIA Director of Technical Services, the testing of legacy alarm signalling equipment on all-IP networks has revealed incompatibilities, and this can prevent signals from reaching the control centre, or they can be corrupted, preventing a response from being initiated.
As such, old equipment that is not IP-compatible will need replacing – it’s not worth the risk of even one missed alert and the loss of life that could result.
PSTN services are already being phased out. Back in December 2020, businesses and consumers in Salisbury, Wiltshire, were no longer able to purchase new PSTN-reliant services; by October 2021, a further 167 telephone exchange areas had followed suit.
Generally, these services can no longer be purchased in exchange areas that have at least 75% fibre coverage. So, while there is time to prepare, the pace of change is unpredictable.
To sum up, a big overhaul is needed in order for the security industry to continue providing its vital services – whether that’s for lone worker safety, monitored premises, telecare, access control monitoring, or anything else.
Advantages of IP Signalling
While the change may involve a degree of hassle, PSTN can be inefficient, so we can all look forward to enhanced service and faster response times. Below are some more benefits security industry stakeholders can expect.
Speed in Alarm Monitoring
IP signalling provides faster data transmission rates because, compared to PSTN, there is no need to establish a call before sending signals. This saves crucial seconds in emergency situations.
IP networks typically offer greater bandwidth than PSTN lines, allowing for the transmission of more data simultaneously. Of course, this is crucial for any CCTV system transmitting high-quality video, as well as security systems transmitting audio or other large sets of data.
Flexibility and Scalability
IP networks can be easily scaled and adjusted to accommodate more devices or broader coverage areas without significant infrastructure changes.
Integration with Other Technologies
IP systems can be integrated with other platforms that offer more advanced features, such as smart sensors or building automation platforms.
Fibre networks have better redundancy due to their superior capacity. They can easily reroute data if one path fails, ensuring continuous communication. (With that said, the redundancy may still need improving in these networks due to the changing climate.)
There will be better remote access options for servicing and diagnostics, reducing transportation requirements. Newer hardware is also designed to be more energy efficient.
Fewer Limitations Overall
Unlike PSTN, which can be affected by distance and line degradation, IP signalling remains consistent over vast distances, given a stable internet connection. This may be beneficial for some situations involving a lone worker solution.
How to Prepare for the PSTN Switch Off
Stakeholders in the security industry will need to transition to updated technologies. Outdated hardware comes with a range of security risks anyway, so perhaps this upheaval is a blessing in disguise.
To minimise disruptions, organisations should start preparing as early as possible. This involves liaising with service providers about any works that need to be done, watching out for important cut-off dates, and going through your inventory of legacy hardware, planning to replace any equipment that will not be able to function reliably going forwards. Essentially, that means any equipment that plugs into the analogue phone network.
Thankfully, we provide cloud based IP-signalling solutions so you can be ready for the UK’s new infrastructure.
GS-Net IP Alarm Signalling
Our GS-Net module provides a streamlined signalling mechanism, eliminating the inherent delays in PSTN. Additionally, high-frequency testing signals can be sent at no extra cost. Devices can also be accessed remotely with ease.
The transformation towards intelligent infrastructure, encompassing smart cities and buildings, is gaining momentum across Europe, providing new opportunities to enhance public safety and the efficiency of urban environments.
Our NB-IoT solution offers control centres the capability to receive alerts from any device equipped with a sensor. Whether it’s tracking vital signs through bedside medical equipment or monitoring local council waste bins, NB-IoT ensures comprehensive oversight.
In closing, the UK’s telecoms landscape is on the cusp of a monumental shift, as the age-old PSTN system gives way to IP. While the transition may be painstaking, it’s also a golden opportunity for the security industry to harness the robust capabilities of IP-based systems, ensuring faster, more reliable, and efficient services – and ultimately, faster responses in critical situations.
GeminiSense keeps your monitoring operations future-proof thanks to its GS-Net and NB-IoT modules, among other features. We also ensure the implementation process is as smooth as possible – after all, you have enough to do already to prepare for the upcoming changes.
Police forces and firefighting teams in the Nordics, FTSE 100 companies, and ARCs across the world trust our solutions to perform in the most demanding scenarios. To book a demo and see it in action, contact us today.