The questions most small business owners are asking at the moment is, what is VoIP? And, what can I do to get ready for the PSTN Switch Off?

The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) Switch Off means cloud-based telephony is about to become a necessity for all small businesses. When December 2025 comes rolling around, the UK’s national PSTN will stop working. That means, anything in your business that relies on analogue communications technology is about to go under.

Hopefully you’re already aware of that deadline and you’ve started to make plans. If not, then you need to act fast. That last train is about to leave the station. And if you’re not on it, things are going to get pretty dark and lonely for your business.

But don’t worry, here’s your first-class ticket to understanding digital phone systems for small businesses. We’ll look at what will replace landline phones, taking you through Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), exploring what it does and how it works. We’ll compare some of your options, and we’ll give you a rundown of the features that you can unlock with digital telephony.

Let’s make a start and get your business on the right track with the right platform.

Digital switchover and the VoIP phone future

Every phone line in the UK is going digital. That means your calls will be routed over Internet Protocol (IP) instead of using the traditional PSTN.

The PSTN Switch Off was announced way back in 2017, but it didn’t get much publicity. Then, in September 2023, a national stop sell on PSTN-reliant products and services was orchestrated by Openreach, which prevented anyone buying new PSTN-based products or modifying existing services.

There’s no going back. You need to find a route to VoIP. And you need to do it quickly.

The good news is, there are plenty of options available to you. The bad news is, they won’t all be suitable for your business. But the great news is, we’re here to help you sift through the detail and discover what’s right for your business.

What is VoIP?

VoIP is just the technical term for using a broadband connection to make and receive calls, instead of using a traditional analogue phone system. Whether people talk about VoIP, online phone systems, digital telephony, IP telephony or cloud-based phone systems, it’s likely they’ll be talking about the same thing.

In its simplest form, VoIP takes audio and converts it into packets of digital data. These packets are then sent over the internet to their destination, put back together in the right order and played back as audio. VoIP is an efficient, near-instantaneous process, which delivers high-quality voice.

To make and receive calls, you can use a VoIP-compatible desk phone, or you can call directly from your laptop, tablet or mobile phone. With VoIP, your phone number isn’t tied to a single static location, either. With the right solution, you and your employees can take it with you everywhere.

What are my VoIP options?

There are a few different ways that you can migrate to VoIP. You may be able to use an analogue telephone adaptor (ATA). Perhaps you’d like to consider desktop or cordless VoIP phones, or even softphones.

Analogue telephone adaptors: An ATA allows you to use analogue phones with a VoIP system. It acts as a bridge between the IP telephony network and your analogue phone system, converting your analogue signals to digital data and back again.

The problem with ATAs is a lot more potential points of system failure, and no advanced calling features. For most business situations, ATAs are a stopgap solution not long-term.

Desktop VoIP phones: If you’re heading down the hardware route, you may want to consider desktop VoIP phones. These solutions use an Ethernet cable to connect to your VoIP system and operate similarly to analogue phones, but with some additional functionalities, such as deep integration with customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
Cordless VoIP phones: Cordless VoIP phones combine the functionalities of desktop VoIP phones with the convenience of mobility. However, they don’t have fully mobile capabilities and need to stay within range of the base station. That’s why softphones may be a better idea.

Softphones: Softphones is a catch-all term for VoIP software applications. These apps can be installed on desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones, transforming connected devices into telephones. Wherever your employees choose to work, their phone line is with them. No need to buy any additional telephony hardware, other than USB or Bluetooth headsets to connect with your device(s).

By taking the softphone route, you’ll also gain access to a wide range of additional functionality, some of which we’ll cover later.

How many users and how many lines?

VoIP allows your business to make and receive multiple calls at the same time. However, you don’t get an unlimited number of concurrent calls. It all depends on the bandwidth that you have available and the contract that you’ve entered into with your service provider.

Make sure you choose the package that’s right for your business and take into consideration any potential for your requirements to change in the future.

What are some of the VoIP features that my business could enjoy?

When compared with those old analogue phones, VoIP has a lot more to offer. Here are just a few of the ways that VoIP can improve your business communications.

Call routing: Call routing allows you to implement a call management strategy that reduces waiting times and connects your incoming calls to the right people faster.
Auto diallers: Auto diallers are great for speeding up outbound sales calls, eliminating the need for your employees to type in phone numbers. Instead, the system automatically dials from a pre-determined list, and dials again once the current call is over.
Call recording: You can either set calls to be recorded by default or on an on-demand basis. This allows for training and evaluation, and the calls can even be transcribed and stored as searchable documents.
Call forwarding: If a number is busy or there’s no answer, or if you have forwarded you calls due to leave, the system will automatically send the incoming call to another number.
Call analytics: Call analytics allow you to collect, analyse and report on your company’s incoming and outgoing call data. As a result, you’ll be able to measure performance and customer experiences against key performance indicators (KPIs), enabling you to improve your future service levels.
Conference bridge: A conference bridge allows additional people to be added to a call. It‘s a useful feature for quick team updates, voice meetings or bringing additional experts into a call for problem-solving purposes.
Spam call rejection: Spam call rejection allows you to block all incoming calls that hide behind anonymous caller ID information, as well as numbers detected as spam.

How do I handle installation and training requirements?

Installation varies dramatically based on your individual business situation and the solution that you choose to implement. VoIP provides plenty of opportunities, but make sure you shop around and get what’s right for you and your business.

It’s also important that you train your employees to handle the shift from traditional phone lines to VoIP. Perhaps begin by explaining to them what is VoIP, how does it work, and why your business is making the switch.

Next Steps

To save time and reduce stress, talk to the supplier who currently provides your telephony; or seek out a UK VoIP provider that can deliver the technology and training to suit your needs.

1–10 employees?

XLN is standing by

If you run a small business, XLN can offer expert advice and bespoke support.

11–250 employees?

Daisy has got you covered

If you’re part of a business with over ten employees, Daisy Communications have experts waiting to help.