The National Broadband Network (NBN) is well into its rollout across Australia. This means the process of decommissioning residential and business copper landlines is already well underway.
From a business telephony standpoint, long-standing technologies like traditional ISDN and landlines need to be migrated to alternate solutions. This could affect the operations of small business, enterprises and government agencies. Organisations need to pay special attention to the migration of these services, as there may be critical functions dependent on them that are not immediately obvious. In other words, the way a phone system operates may not necessarily be the same after moving to the NBN.
What are the changes?
NBN-based voice services utilise internet-based (Voice over Internet Protocol or “VoIP”) services, rather than traditional, dedicated circuit-switched or analogue technologies. This brings with it a number of changes, including the following:
Altered operation under power failure
Traditional technologies can remain operational in a power outage, whereas most NBN-based voice services do not. This may have implications for the following types of services:
Delivery of general telephony functions when the building has lost power (e.g. if the phone system has backup power).
Lift phones that are legally required to operate in the event of power failure.
Emergency analogue phones, which normally continue to operate.
As a result, organisations should revisit business continuity plans if they rely on the availability of voice services during power outages. Alternative ways of delivering these functions should be sought, or plans changed.
Modified support for legacy services
This includes traditional fax and modems. Although these functions may continue to operate with fine-tuning of equipment, they may not do so reliably. Business processes should change to incorporate alternative technologies.
More flexible voice resiliency options
Usually available through internet-based services, introducing new ways of delivering business continuity.
In summary, it’s not necessarily like-for-like!
Understand Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD)
Many people may assume that existing telephony solutions need to be replaced as a part of moving to the NBN. Some conversations in the marketplace may actually be promoting the idea that existing phone systems or solutions are not “NBN-compatible”, using this as a selling tactic to unnecessarily replace systems. Although this is generally not the case, it may still be a great opportunity to review telecommunications requirements. Migration or an upgrade to a new solution could be the answer.
Know how the phone system is used and ask the right questions
It is important to check if the critical features of phone systems will continue to function under the NBN. This helps in knowing the right questions to ask of providers and internal business stakeholders. The answers to these questions may guide decisions around solutions and engaging with existing or alternative providers (even non-NBN, if available).
IT network security requirements
Connecting internet-based voice services into an IT network requires protection against malicious activity. As highlighted here, Session Border Controllers sit between an organisation and the internet to offer protection against common internet-based IT security threats.
Where to seek advice
It is important that the relevant stakeholders are engaged to achieve the best outcome, including:
- Carrier service provider(s): for discovery around what types of NBN or non-NBN voice services may be available and suitable
- IT Network and Security stakeholders: to mitigate IT security threats related to connecting NBN-based voice services
- Business unit owners: to address impacts on business processes
- Existing telephony provider: to determine whether the existing phone system(s) can remain unchanged, modified or require upgrading
Be prepared and plan in advance
With adequate planning and a little investigative work, migrating away from traditional copper services should be a smooth process. It is important to understand what’s needed from the phone system and how the NBN could impact operations. If help is needed from a trusted source, this is a good place to start.