Beating 2025 inertia

The PSTN shut down in 2025 is a critical watershed moment for the industry but right off the bat we have a delay to the pilot switch offs in Salisbury and Mildenhall due to inertia among some CPs and end users. Here, Zen Head of Trading & Partner Experience Mark Howarth urges uncompromised action to ensure all Openreach targets are met.

Overcoming the inaction that prevents PSTN shut down targets being met requires a change of mindset from stuck-in-the-mud CPs and end users too slow to catalyse change, according to Howarth. “The responsibility lies completely at the door of the communications provider,” he stated. “They must do everything they can to engage customers in the migration process.”

Openreach’s plan to push through the significant shift to all-IP requires the same degree of commitment from all CPs, believes Howarth, also noting that the delayed Salisbury and Mildenhall trials, from April to October, ring an alarm bell. “The channel should see this as a warning that as an industry we are not moving fast enough,” he added. “Despite talking about these pilots for a long time some providers have failed to engage with their customers.

“That is why Openreach has taken the decision to degrade services as opposed to turning them off in their entirety. While this may seem harsh, the alternative of turning them off would have been an even worse experience for the end user. The message is simple: As an industry we must do more to engage with customers and get the required services migrated.”

The message is simple: As an industry we must do more to engage with customers and get the required services migrated

According to Howarth, Openreach’s special measures introduced to speed up the migration process are anything but controversial. “We have been given plenty of notice about this change yet some providers have failed to act,” he commented. “There will be examples where providers have attempted to contact their customers and simply not had a response, but in those situations this degradation and interruption should force the end user to engage with their provider which will help achieve the end goal. While the PSTN closure may be seen as a massive inconvenience to some in the industry, as a fibre-first organisation Zen is supportive of the withdrawal and the steps Openreach is taking to make the migration happen.”

The need for positive action on PSTN shutdown priorities comes through strongly in Howarth’s narrative, and he urges communications providers to be transparent with customers when communicating the impacts of stop-sell, especially those not receptive to change. “Considering that the alternative option was for Openreach to turn their services off, which would have resulted in more damage than any degradation, this seems like a sensible middle ground,” added Howarth.

“There is no denying the massive task we have ahead of us as an industry to ensure the smooth transition of all our customers to alternative products. However, with the right plan in place the timelines can still be met. All providers should understand this and start working towards meeting these targets.”

Change is happening, and Howarth noted that it would be ‘irresponsible’ for industry players to support the idea that 2025 is a pipe dream. “Openreach has been fully committed to this date for some time and reiterated that this is not going to change,” he added. “Those that are not actively supporting their customers to migrate to alternative products run the risk of causing their own customers an unnecessary amount of disruption down the line. If this happens, customers will be quick to look around for a provider who can better support them through future change.”

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