Plans to switch off the conventional, copper-wired PSTN phone infrastructure were first announced in 2017, with all transitions to fibre-based and digital phone lines expected to be complete by 2025 – when the network will be deactivated – but what will this mean for your security and fire systems?
While most businesses and residential users understand that their phone systems will need to be upgraded, many remain unaware of the impacts on other technology that currently relies on their phone lines. This includes security systems, fire alarms and some accessible lifts and access control solutions.
All IP, the abbreviated name for the Ultrafast Full Fibre broadband system, is set to provide much faster broadband speeds and internet reliability. However, any security assets that depend on analogue phone lines should also be upgraded well in advance of the switch-off in two years.
Why Are Phone Lines Changing to All IP?
Legacy phone lines have been in place for several decades, and the infrastructure that underpins the national phone network has become unfit for purpose. Part of the reasoning behind the PSTN switch-off is that we use communications equipment for many more reasons, with greater demand for fast broadband speeds, scalable data management capacity and instant-access calls.
As the landline network ages, it has become more difficult and expensive to maintain. It is more cost-effective over the long term to overhaul the entire system and provide the speed, call quality and digital connectivity so many organisations – and households – require.
In many cases, there will be little impact since the phone provider you use will usually transition your calls from one network to the next, routing calls through fibre broadband. Existing handsets won’t necessarily need to be replaced, although you might need a new phone if you wish to use an alternative digital service.
However, the secondary outcomes affecting alarm systems, as we’re discussing here, will require more proactive planning to ensure systems remain compatible or are updated as necessary.
It is important to clarify that while PSTN lines will be turned off for the final time in 2025, All IP is already being rolled out, with several areas either already transitioning or scheduled to be switched over within the next few months.
How Will the Transition to All IP Impact Alarm Signalling?
Most commercial-grade alarm systems incorporate alarm signalling, which notifies an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) when a motion sensor or other detection equipment is triggered. ARC responders are highly trained security professionals and can identify the cause of the alarm and take immediate action as appropriate.
The challenge is that, for alarm signalling to work, there must be a communications system in place to ensure devices can transmit the relevant signal without any potential for delay while a potential live security threat is underway.
Most accredited National Security Inspectorate (NSI) installers and alarm providers have been liaising with their clients for some time to ensure they are aware of the issue and take action in good time – although a proportion has yet to do so.
The outcome, if a business were to leave its alarm systems as-is, would mean that when the local PSTN lines are switched off, the alarms will effectively be redundant. Regardless of the severity of the incident or break-in, without the communications structure in place, the signal will not be transmitted to the ARC.
Other aspects of business security will be similarly affected, including fire alarm systems, lift call buttons, intruder alarms on doors and windows, CCTV surveillance, and emergency alarms often installed in bathrooms or facilities catering to visitors or service users in at-risk groups.
How to Ensure Alarm System Continuity
If your alarm systems run on analogue phone lines, it is essential you consult your provider as soon as possible – or contact the Clearway team to arrange a convenient time for one of our security consultants to assess your alarms and advise on the right solutions.
Some alarms will need to be upgraded to ensure they are compatible with All IP, whereas others will need to be replaced entirely – either option will ensure your system is adapted or replaced with a compliant, future-proof system that will work perfectly within the new IP network.
Companies with older alarm systems may be advised to consider a new alarm system, whether because legacy solutions do not have the functionality to link to IP signalling or because they are otherwise no longer fit for purpose.
Our advice would be to look into the improvements necessary for your alarm system well in advance of the PSTN switch-off. If, for example, you’d like to compare a few options, commission a refreshed site security risk assessment, or look at ways to enhance your security coverage while updating your alarm systems, this work may take time to complete.
It is also likely that, as we approach the switch-off date, there will be a rush to replace phone lines and other networks that are about to become redundant. This may impact availability, lead times, and how quickly engineers can visit your premises to carry out any installation work.
If your insurance coverage is dependent on the quality of your alarm systems or CCTV surveillance, it may also be essential to update your phone systems as soon as possible, avoiding any risk that you will experience an alarm signalling failure in an emergency or that your insurance cover will become invalid.
Will All UK Alarm Systems Need Replacing Before 2025?
Not necessarily, no – some more modern alarms have the functionality to integrate with an IP network and may simply need some maintenance work or integrations to ensure they can switch to All IP either now or whenever fibre becomes available in your area.
Others may use cellular communications signalling rather than wired phone lines – in which case, provided your coverage remains good, there may be no need to make any changes.
However, we would advise you to consult with Clearway or an existing alarm response provider for peace of mind and to help you make decisions now that will ensure your alarms remain operational well into the future.