The BT switch off: Switch on so you don’t get switched off

If you haven’t already heard, BT is phasing out traditional analogue copper phone lines. You’ve probably seen Openreach vans everywhere recently. The company is working on behalf of BT to build the UK’s new digital network. The plan is to have it ready—and the old analogue one switched off—for the whole country by December 31st 2025.

All types of alarm systems, including intruder and fire alarms, will be affected. The consequences of not acting could be severe, but luckily taking action is easy—you can leave the whole job up to your alarm services provider. And when you do make the change, there are some serious benefits of entering the digital world.

Four big benefits of going digital

1. Increased stability

Today, we have some advanced tech that makes phone systems, and alarm systems by proxy, far more stable and reliable. Remember those old analogue televisions that used aerials to pick up a signal? They were often grainy and poor quality, but think how much better our digital televisions are.

They are better quality because the signal is far more stable as digital signals can avoid electronic noise and distortion. The analogue system infrastructure is also old and rapidly deteriorating, so digital upgrades will ensure a long-term, faster quality service for customers.

2. Connect your alarm to a smartphone app

We can also install digital control panels integrated into your new alarm systems, which can be managed by smartphones. Controlling your alarm system will work in the same way as controlling your television though your smartphone. And this can provide an extra level of security to both business and homeowners. 

A homeowner could use the app to let a cleaner, for example, into their house while they are away on holiday. They could then use the app to check the alarm was set correctly. 

A business owner could deactivate their alarm in the morning when employees arrive at the office and secure it again at night—without having to be anywhere near the building. All that’s needed is a WIFI connection.

If your alarm is activated, you will receive an immediate notification on the app. And this extra level of security always makes us all feel more confident in the safety of our building. 

It’s important to note that the advantage of using an app is available to everyone, but it does require one of the newer control panels. Unfortunately, it's not possible to put the module on an old control panel. But if you have an old one and don’t yet want to change, it doesn’t matter—you can continue to use your alarm as normal, and can always upgrade in the future.

3. Mobile networks are more secure 

After the BT switch off, instead of your alarm systems being connected to a fixed PSTN line, it will be connected to a mobile network. And the advantage of this is that you won’t be connected to just one network, like you are with your normal mobile phone provider, you will be connected to the strongest network.

The upgrade involves using a world sim to connect to mobile networks. You are not tied to any one particular provider—instead, the sim connects to the strongest signal. And if one provider happens to go down, there’s no problem as the sim will connect to another. 

This makes your connection far more robust and gives you the confidence that your alarm is always going to be operational in the event of a mast failure.

4. No more variable costs and potential savings

Although there are differences between the way the single path and dual path systems work (read more about the difference here), potential for saving is similar.   

As the monitoring module connects to the mobile network, there is no need to have a telephone connection. Of course, you can keep your landline if you want to, but you can also make a saving by cancelling the connection. 

By switching to the mobile network, the other advantage is that you will have a fixed annual cost. Currently, every time you receive an alert, activation, or you want to get a report sent to you, your system uses a telephone line, which means you get charged. However, the new digital modules do not need telephone lines, so there are no extra charges.

Many businesses only have a PSTN line for their alarm system—which could amount to over £200 a year, not including the cost of each alert—but digitalisation will render this unnecessary. In the future, your intruder or fire monitoring will be available for just one fixed annual cost.

There is an additional cost for the single path module, a £40 annual subscription fee for the sim. But this will be more than offset by savings made. For the dual path model, there is a one-off installation charge of £240.00, but no extra annual fee. This cost will include the upgrade of your monitoring module. To keep costs to a minimum, we will arrange the fit at the same time as your next service visit.

Why the change?

Elon Musk couldn’t have summarised it any more accurately when he said that “Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster”. 

Any change is difficult at first, and it’s sometimes inconvenient, but it is important to remember why BT are doing it. 

Telephone communication has been enabled by a 140-year-old system called the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) that uses underground copper wires to carry analogue data. There was a significant upgrade to the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) in the 1980s—but there has been a lot of technological development in the past 40 years. And it’s these developments that have led to the BT PSTN and ISDN UK switch off.

Adopting new tech, like transitioning from mobile phones to smartphones, brings numerous benefits. But also it’s important to understand there are risks if you don’t make the change.

Risks of not making the change: void insurance coverage

It is likely that your business or home currently uses a traditional analogue phone line to send the communication signal to your alarm monitoring company. But when the line is switched off by BT, your alarm monitoring will automatically stop—and it’s likely that you won’t even be told. 

If the old line no longer works but your alarm is activated, it will cause a system failure. This means the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) will not be notified, and, consequently, no alert will be sent. Failure to upgrade your signalling device to one that no longer depends on PTSN to send a notification to the ARC means that your alarm will be rendered useless—not a good idea. Even dual-path systems, which rely on both IP and PTSN, will be affected.

If you don’t upgrade, it’s likely that you are breaking your insurance requirements and won’t, therefore, be covered. But many people are in the same situation; approximately 4 million fire and security systems across the U.K. are connected with ARCs using analogue lines.

Luckily, it’s easy to make the switch and ensure you’re covered. We’re encouraging people not to leave it until the last minute as the analogue network in parts of the country is being switched off now.

Plus you can enjoy those benefits we mentioned earlier.

Give us a call

If you’re a customer and haven’t yet upgraded, please contact us. And if you are not an existing customer, get in touch with us, and we can give you a quote for how much it will cost to upgrade your monitoring device for your fire and/or intruder alarm.