How will IP benefit my business?

VoIP mockup image man dialing on a telephone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The UK’s phone network has been gradually upgraded over the years, but many businesses still rely on the ageing, analogue, public switched telephone network (PSTN) for their phone operations. By 2025, this will be replaced by digital phone services, more technically known as internet protocol (IP) or voice over internet protocol (VoIP) which enable phone calls to be carried out over the internet.

This means that businesses have until the end of 2025 to switch to IP calling, or see their phone systems become obsolete and unsupported.

IP phone services operate using packet switching. This means when you speak into an IP phone, your voice is compressed into a digital signal, which is broken up into packets that are sent to your internet router. These packets are then sent over the internet via the most efficient path to the person on the other end of the line.

The switch from PSTN to IP is more than just a change in standard that is necessary to keep the phones on. It’s a major move in digital transformation that brings business phone networks to the cloud, and will allow businesses to make use of all of the flexibility and insight that comes with it.

Many businesses have already embraced this new way of making calls, but those who haven't yet made the switch may wonder what benefits IP can offer.

Benefits of IP

More effective security solutions

Many businesses use their phone lines for more purposes than calls, with alarm systems being a notable example. When the PSTN switch-off happens in 2025, firms that rely on their legacy security systems could be left unprotected.

Luckily, IP is not only capable of fulfilling the same roles as the PSTN with regards to alarm systems — it’s also a marked improvement. Because PSTN relies on establishing a direct connection via a copper phone line, alarms connected to the PSTN have to first phone an alarm monitoring centre when tripped, which can lead to a delayed response by private security or emergency services. In contrast, IP is capable of establishing a connection in seconds over the internet, and can simultaneously notify security personnel via notifications to their handsets.

Scalability without added installation cost

Because IP is hosted in the cloud, it’s also a flexible and scalable solution. If you’re looking to supply your startup with a phone system this is ideal, as you can start with a small number of phones connected to the network and expand this as your business grows without the need for additional connections to be installed.

BT offers a range of packages to suit the needs of your business, covering a number of users on your phone system, the bandwidth, and extra features — ensuring that you only pay what you need while always having the option of expansion at hand.

Powerful integration

As IP calls are routed over the cloud, those on the call can connect in a number of ways. Employees could dial in on an IP phone or their own smartphone, but also through their laptop, desktop, or tablet. This means that calls can be both audio and video.

Additionally, BT has worked with Cisco to integrate the latter’s Webex package into its digital phone service offering, bringing high quality video with automatic transcription to conference calls. Webex also allows users to connect their calls to a number of productivity apps such as Microsoft Teams.

If you’re a business based in a number of locations, video conferencing can help your team to feel connected, heard, and seen. With IP calling, employees can engage with meetings and client calls in the way that best fits the situation.

Flexible costs for each business

Whenever there is a change to a new way of working, business leaders will question whether the cost of switching outweighs the benefits. With IP calls, plans can cost as little as half as much from day one as they run over an internet connection, which the vast majority of businesses already have. All you need to buy is the phones themselves.

In addition, IP services receive regular updates free of charge, a far cry from the slow and expensive maintenance cycles that businesses have endured with PSTN phone systems for decades.

A shared phone system for remote work

Because IP phone services work over the cloud, businesses are no longer limited by physical restrictions for their phone systems. Remote working employees can be routed into the shared business network to ensure that they’re just as productive in their home office as they are at their desks.

Calls can even be automatically switched from an office handset to an employee’s business smartphone when they step off the premises, ensuring that businesses can continue to offer great customer service without being tethered to just one site at a time.

Detailed call analytics

Another benefit of IP is the analytical insight that one can gather from calls made through the cloud. Businesses with IP phone systems can leverage data on calls made and received, and look into detailed trends on both customer and team metrics. This could be ideal for a company launching a new marketing drive via phone, providing easy to access data on how long customers stay on the phone on average and what times of day produce the best engagement.

On a larger scale, it can benefit businesses running call centres and IT support hotlines, with real-time information on incoming calls allowing managers to run their department efficiently and ensure customers are receiving the best phone service possible.

Improved calls and added value

Unlike PSTN, IP converts a user's voice into data which is broken up into separate packets and sent using the internet. With modern high-speed internet, this process allows for high-definition voice calls, as well as video calls over the same network.

It’s also a more efficient system than PSTN calls, because the line isn’t being maintained regardless of the signals being sent. This means that if you’re on a call but no one is speaking, data packets aren’t constantly being sent back and forth.

With IP phone services, value added features such as caller ID, call forwarding, and hold music are also bundled in at no extra cost. As the service is run over the internet, business leaders can also easily alter their settings on call routes and even granular details such as specific hold messages and music from a centralised dashboard. It’s these small details, traditionally difficult to keep up-to-date and functional, that become even easier with IP calls.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.