Afiniti Insights

PSTN Switch Off 2027: It’s Not Just a Technology Change!  

With any highly technical asset migration, it is vital to commit effort to focus on people, and this is even truer for significant telecoms migrations like the impending PSTN Switch Off. Focusing on people ensures we understand who will be affected by the change, how it will affect them and what we should do to manage this for teams across the organisation. 

Getting people excited about change should be seen as an opportunity, not an obstacle to overcome. Delivering compelling, considered communications helps employees at all levels not only understand such a significant change but excites them to realise improved ways of working and collaboration. The key to landing and sustaining this is engaging people in a way that is visible, understandable, and impactful to their specific ways of working. 

Delivering timely, impactful communications during a migration is essential to minimise the risk to business continuity; giving colleagues the right information at the right time will support a smooth transition. 

We have been partnering with a national infrastructure client to prepare the organisation and its people for the PSTN migration process. Using a people-lens, we have helped shape the change through vision articulation and strategic planning. At the same time, we are building internal change readiness through business-wide stakeholder engagement, change roadmap development and careful communications planning. In understanding the organisation, we have tailored communications to create excitement across teams. You can see our full PSTN Switch-Off case study here.

But what does any of this have to do with you?  

What is the PSTN Switch Off? 

In January 2027, Openreach are switching off the public switched telephone network (PSTN) across the UK. This is the old ‘copper’ analogue telephone network, consisting of over 12 million broadband and phone lines and 75 million miles of copper cables. The ageing telephone network enables vital communications across the country, connecting phone services but also systems such as fax machines, EPOS machines, CCTV and door entry systems. 

The PSTN switch-off will enhance UK telecoms infrastructure in a variety of ways, modernising how we work and communicate. There are many digital alternatives offering a multitude of benefits, such as VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) and FTTP (Fibre to the Premises). 

Come the switch off date in 2027, thousands of devices across the country using this old network will stop working unless the underlying connectivity infrastructure is replaced with one of these digital alternatives. 

Why does the PSTN Switch Off matter to me? 

2027 may seem like a long way away, but with the risk to business services, revenue and safety, there is a lot to do before the deadline. 

One of the challenges faced by those upgrading is resourcing; as the deadline approaches, there is an ever-increasing demand for engineers and service providers to assess the PSTN network before beginning the migration process to new assets. To manage this challenge effectively and ensure the process is successful, consider the people across your organisation, otherwise messages may get lost and ‘the ask’ unclear. 

Considering people means thinking about who the change will affect, how they will experience the change and how to engage them to ensure alignment on what needs to be done, and when. 

A role for all leaders 

For change to be effective, it must be driven by senior leaders advocating for the change and local line managers who can act as change agents for their teams.  

Clear sponsorship and communication from senior leaders play a big part in giving colleagues confidence the change will be a success and aids in overcoming resistance. 

Local managers should be empowered as change leaders and provided with the right support and resources to enact the change around them. Without this, messaging may not be clear or consistent, and support for the change may be lacking. Change communications must feel local and relevant to the day-to-day work of people across the organisation and be adaptable to their circumstances. When colleagues across the business are busy with technical, safety-driven work, a change may be met with “what does this mean for me?” and “why should I care?”. 

Communicating at the right level 

As mentioned, change with the magnitude of the PSTN Switch Off needs to be communicated at a local level. 

Ensure all relevant colleagues receive the information they need, in the right format and at the right time, or you risk disruption to the process. For example, do particular teams primarily communicate online, receive emails, or use mobile phones in their day-to-day work? Variations like this must be considered to ensure messaging is accessible and permeates across the diverse array of job roles and ways of working.  

Putting it into practice 

As the months go on, we’ll keep working to ensure a smooth digital transition alongside our client prior to the 2027 switch off. We’ll continue championing a people-focus throughout while equipping leaders to model the way for this digital transformation.  

This change process cannot wait, and we’re excited to be working on this improvement to our national infrastructure. Similar transformations are taking place across the UK as the country converts to innovative technologies and capabilities, and we hope the same people focus will be embedded to secure success.  

Because when it comes to the PSTN Switch Off, it’s not just a “phone-line” that you need to think about, but the people on the end of it. 

Oliver Kay
Oliver Kay
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