What is the PSTN?
The PSTN is the traditional analogue voice telephone system.
It’s been the backbone of the UK’s comms infrastructure for many decades, enabling voice calls over copper telephone lines.
What is the switch-off?
Basically, dial tones will be switched off by December 2025.
Any device which uses the analogue dial tone we are accustomed to hearing on telephones will cease to function after the switch-off.
Think of anything which makes a voice call, such as home & office phones, telecare lines, lift lines, and alarm lines. Also included in the switch-off are ADSL and FTTC broadband services (see below).
The technology behind PSTN is ageing, and maintaining it is becoming increasingly costly and inefficient. Moving to a fully digital infrastructure makes it easier for telecom providers to offer a broader range of services and ensures that the network is future-proofed.
What about broadband?
The big switch-off will impact broadband as well.
Most ADSL & FTTC services are supported by PSTN. When the switch-off happens, your broadband will need to move to a new digital variant.
Will we need new sockets?
Existing Openreach infrastructure will be retained, although it’s best practice to switch to full-fibre as soon as it’s available as a replacement.
We’re a housing provider/ local authority. What do we do?
First of all, analyse your assets. Acknowledge what your lines are being used for, especially lines with critical services that need to be retained.
Involve the suppliers of these services – your telecare supplier, your lift maintenance provider and your alarm provider. Ask them how they’re updating their products.
Plan your budget to include your new digital telephone lines and services.
That is a lot of work, how can Social Telecoms help us?
Step 1 – We can identify your lines.
It’s a common challenge for many organisations to keep track of essential lines, often leading to new lines being ordered when ‘spare’ ones could have been utilised. Years of accumulating telephone lines means you need boots-on-the-ground onsite surveys. We have the engineers and project managers who will organise and conduct on-site visits – pinpointing the exact location of each line and its specific function. Trust in our hands-on approach to optimise your transition.
Step 2 – Evaluation of implications
Post-audit, we’ll have a clearer picture of how deeply integrated PSTN is within your organisation. It’s vital to grasp the ramifications of the 2025 switch-off as older systems are particularly vulnerable. We’ll highlight to you which:
– Services require transitioning to digital versions,
– Lines require updated hardware to function post-switch-off,
– Lines are not being utilised and can be disconnected
The shift to digital isn’t merely about mitigating risks, it’s an opportunity. Transitioning from outdated systems unlocks the benefits of cloud technology, offering enhanced agility, security, and flexibility, as well as fibre broadband solutions.
Step 3 – Determining the path forward.
While 2025 might seem distant, it’s closer than you think when considering the size of the task and annual budgets that need to be planned. Working with you, we will consider the optimal solutions for each service and reflect on whether it’s an extension of your current connectivity or a complete change. This might this be a chance to redefine your IT landscape, and Social Telecoms are on hand to help with this.
Step 4 – Migration strategy
With a clear understanding of your options, it’s time to blueprint the migration process. Factors to consider include the Openreach timeline, plus the potential impacts on business operations, and necessary communication to both employees and other suppliers in your supply chain.
Being conscious of Openreach’s timeline is crucial. They’ve already commenced phasing out new PSTN services in specific regions, and this will only accelerate as the project progresses.
Connecting Tenants, Landlords and Suppliers
Increase productivity and improve tenant satisfaction scores An omnichannel environment improves employee productivity and the service you can deliver to your tenants. Agents connected through 8×8’s cloud-based communications platform are able to collaborate with third-parties, back-office staff and engineers to gain expert advice while maintaining a connection with the tenant, resulting in more enquiries being resolved the first time and improved operational efficiency. Intuitive user interfaces and AI simplify workflow management and provide operational data and analytics, with essential reports and insights that provide information business leaders, asset and housing teams need to deliver on strategic objectives.
A Connected Workforce
Technology plays an important part in how we communicate, and with so many channels available these can easily become difficult to manage. The average business currently uses around 7 different communication applications, workforces are disconnected with individual groups and departments using different applications including WhatsApp, personal text messages, tenant 121 video calls, Microsoft Teams and more. These disparate communication channels, when not brought together, compromise staff productivity and the service delivered to tenants. 8×8 brings all communication channels together onto a single, centrally-managed platform. Integration with CRM provides Contact Cent, UC and Teams users with the information they need and a single view of all tenant Interactions. Agents are easily connected with other customer-facing teams;- housing, compliance, tenant arrears officers and engineers through chat; video, voice and SMS to share information and instantly connect tenants to experts for a faster and first-time resolution to enquiries and improved tenant satisfaction scores.
of CX leaders believe CX
will be the role of every employee by 2030
Source: 8×8 research
Connecting tenants with experts
8×8 Contact Centre improves agent efficiency with a single-pane view of all communication channels, where agents can handle multiple digital conversations simultaneously, increasing agent productivity without compromising service.
Team leaders and supervisors can adapt faster to unexpected changes in staff levels and manage workflows including call routing plans, automated SMS messages, email and more, using drag-and-drop technology.
Tenant payments are securely processed, without leaving their conversation with a credit controller or agent, enabling debts to be cleared and next actions to be taken, faster.
Integrations with your favourite business applications, CRM and Teams provide valuable cross-platform analytics for managing performance against strategic and individual KPIs.
Video interactions between engineers and tenants provide faster, remote fixes, reduce callout costs and are attached to a tenant record to identify recurring incidents and where preventative maintenance may be required.
Source: Platform Housing
Coaching and training
Stay on top of training requirements and improve tenant satisfaction scores with targeted, timely feedback to your team.
Supervisor Workspace is easily configurable to provide insights to drive best behaviour and ensure compliance standards are met. Changes in agent and tenant behaviours are quickly identified using sentiment analysis, allowing agents to be guided through
conversations to ensure the best possible outcomes are achieved.
Areas for improvement are easily identified with essential performance metrics monitored through a series of regular reports with trend analysis, end-to-end journey analytics and call recording for examples of best practices.
New employees are quickly brought up to speed with intuitive user interfaces, a library of best practices calls and options to highlight and tag employees for targeted and efficient coaching.
Automated surveys ensure the tenant voice is heard and valuable feedback is captured and acted upon.
Transform the way your IT Teams work and how tenants and employees interact with a single, centrally managed communication platform.
Cross-platform analytics provide business and team leaders with customisable reports and valuable insights for important decision making.
A single communications
platform has an averaged
lower TCO than a multivendor
Analytics & Reporting
Gain complete visibility into performance metrics with valuable insights and real-time reports. Sort, filter and distribute important statistics to share details of trends and interactions, improve operational efficiency and increase tenant satisfaction.
Use instant intelligence with ML/AI to sort and prioritise calls, chats, texts, and social posts and alert agents accordingly.
Obtain greater insights into tenant interactions with important call metrics; abandoned, answered, durations, call patterns, call recordings and end-to-end journey analytics that provide essential insights into trends, with granular detail to monitor KPIs.
Deliver consistency across digital channels, handled from a single solution and capture valuable insights with holistic reporting that delivers a simplified, single source of truth for better decision-making.
“8×8 has transformed the way that we work, not only from an IT infrastructure perspective, but also from a customer experience perspective.”Hassan Bahrani, Head of IT, Thirteen Group
The demand for social housing is increasing, putting pressure on landlords to deliver more homes and ensure regulatory standards are met, which also means increased workloads for already stretched contact centre teams.
Increase tenant satisfaction with a design-led approach.
The intuitive, design-led interface that powers the 8×8 Contact Centre streamlines tenant interactions and offers agents a simple, efficient, and engaging way to deliver positive experiences. Developed with universally familiar and friendly design patterns, agents are able to resolve enquiries faster, using a modern digital interface. Automated workflows and streamlined navigation empower your agents to provide frictionless tenant experiences and automate tenant satisfaction surveys.
Make each interaction more tenant-centric
Customer expectations around service continue to rise. With multiple communications channels together on a single pane of glass, 8×8 is perfect for today’s contact centre environments. Plus, tenant data is intelligently stored and readily accessible, empowering agents to handle interactions efficiently. Agents can connect with experts throughout the organisations, process rent and arrears collections and engineers can use Video Interaction to provide remote fixes to service requests. Supervisors and team leaders can quickly manage workflows to adapt to unexpected situations, while speech analytics ensure behaviour and compliance targets are met.
- Maximise tenant safety and satisfaction with omnichannel experiences, real-time Video Interaction for remote fixes, analytics for performance and behaviour management and self-service options.
- Deliver a higher quality of service with self-service environments and IIVR, cross-platform call and sentiment analysis to explore trends and granular interaction detail, identify training needs and optimise workflows.
- Create operational efficiency with a single platform that integrates with 50+ apps out of the box, including Microsoft Teams, and connect the contact centre with the rest of the business and the information they need for faster problem solving, better collaboration and lower TCO.
Omnichannel environments with self-service options for low-touch engagements give tenants 24/7 access and provide essential analytics and statistics for continuous improvement.
- New tenant onboarding is faster and easier with an omnichannel environment and self-service options. Tenants can choose how to connect with landlords, and agents have a single view of all interactions to reply in context.
- Rent collection, arrears and recharge processes are faster and more efficient with secure PCI/DSS payment processing and simple workflows for delivering reminders and alerts.
- Repairs and service requests can be fulfilled remotely, burst pipes and damp are easily investigated and tenants can be shown how to work boilers through Video Interaction without unnecessary call-out charges.
- Compliance property checks can be quickly arranged and appointment reminders sent via SMS with text-to-speech to minimise unnecessary return visits.
- Local agency connections are easily maintained, with supplier and tenant interactions on a single system that integrates with CRM, for a simple view of interactions, across all channels.
- Tenant feedback is easily obtained with automated surveys and satisfaction rates are improved with speech and sentiment analysis to guide agents through interactions to the best possible outcomes.
- Metrics and reports provide valuable insights into trends with granular detail, including call metrics, abandoned and answered calls, call duration and end-to-end journey analytics. Customisable reports and call recordings can be delivered regularly or generated on demand to give supervisors the information they need to identify training and performance requirements and make informed decisions for continuous improvement.
- Integrations are plentiful with open APIs and 50+ out-of-the-box integrations, including CRM, Teams and internal ticketing systems, to provide a consistent experience across internal (informal) contact centres and customer-facing (external) contact centres .
Founded in 1972 by Dr Margaret Blackwood, Blackwood is now a leading housing and care provider specialising in accessible, modern, attractive and bespoke housing and care services for people with disabilities.
It currently has over 1,500 social housing tenants, just over 400 care-at-home customers, 60 residential care home residents and 17-night support service customers across 29 out of 32 local authorities across Scotland.
Only around 30% of the people Blackwood serves are ‘general needs’ customers without some form of care and support need. While Blackwood predominantly works with those with a physical disability, its customers also include older people and people with a learning disability.
Blackwood has embraced the challenges of taking housing and care into innovative areas at a time when funding is increasingly limited, by being at the forefront of investing in digital solutions to help people manage their own lives at home.
As a result of disabilities, age, or complex care needs, Blackwood’s customers are traditionally among the most digitally excluded people in Scotland.
Internet access has been found to improve the quality of life of older people and people with disabilities. Being digitally included improves measures of psychological well-being and reduces feelings of social isolation or loneliness as well as improving cognitive performance in later life. However, in Scotland, as with other areas of the UK, people with disabilities and older people are two of the most digitally excluded groups in society.
The housing and care sectors are facing some of the toughest challenges we’ve ever seen. However, at the same time the leap forward we are seeing in technology is giving us tools to meet these challenges, while greatly improving how people can live life to the full.”Fanchea Kelly; Chief Executive, Blackwood Homes & Care
In a survey carried out with 174 of their properties; Social Telecoms found only 30% already had a home broadband service. The figure for the general population of Scotland is 84%. Already aware of this divide following their own surveys in previous years, Blackwood began to develop its CleverCogs system – a touchscreen home hub installed in customers’ properties. The purpose of CleverCogs is to keep people independent, in control and in their homes and its current features include care, safety, housing, home automation, information, digital inclusion, and health and well-being; a carefully designed system with IT training could increase the levels of digitally included residents in their communities.
Being an online, mobile system for residents and staff to utilise, CleverCogs requires a WiFi service to be designed, installed and maintained to a high level. All internal and external areas within the respective location are to have no black spots and a network strength required to support video and VoIP at all times. The project would comprise over 1,500 properties across 118 sites within a 2-year timeframe.
Following a formal tender exercise in late 2017 for a pilot site, Social Telecoms were commissioned to deliver their Community WiFi service to a large, modern housing complex in Aberdeen to support the CleverCogs system. As with many of Blackwood’s locations which make up the project, include homes developed for wheelchair users and people who have limited mobility, as well as flats for non-disabled people, all within an integrated community setting. Our Community WiFi service, with CleverCogs would ensure constant connectivity between residents and their relatives and carers, building and bringing together neighbourhoods by enabling customers to live as independently as possible.
The successful delivery of the pilot and the monitored uptake of the CleverCogs system led to Social Telecoms being awarded the contract to deliver Community WiFi to the rest of the locations specified. Social Telecoms also exceeded procurements requirements and compliance by their status as no.1 ranked supplier to Procurement for Housing’s telecommunications framework. This meant a direct award to ST using lot 1 – Network Communications. PfH is a buying consortium for housing associations that ensures its members not only get the benefits of combined purchasing power but also that suppliers pass stringent quality and service standards. By overseeing the whole process, PfH also ensures that any agreements are fully compliant with EU procurement standards.
Social Telecoms’ Community WiFi is a digital inclusion product that brings affordable and flexible internet access to tenants of social housing, tenants of sheltered schemes, apartment blocks, high-rise flats and housing estates. By designing and installing a network of wireless access points throughout Trust’s sites, tenants are able to access the internet in the privacy of their own homes without being tied into a long-term contract or paying for more than they need.
Whereas various systems from other providers include greater upfront capital expenditure and annual licencing costs, Social Telecoms’ Community WiFi solution is provided for a relatively low installation cost and can have an unlimited number of network locations and access points added and would avoid additional recurring licencing costs.
Each of our Community WiFi sites installed for Blackwood allows their customers to enjoy the benefits others take for granted, including entertainment, access to services and real-time communication with family and friends, even video chatting with them. Used with the CleverCogs system, it also strives to make Blackwood’s services more accessible and efficient to their residents, allowing them to access the information they want and receive convenient reminders of any appointments, care visits or medication they need to take.
My new WiFi is absolutely marvellous. I’m really impressed with the guys that installed it and I was finally able to get rid of the ethernet cables that used to have across my living room. This system certainly adds value to my tenancy.Blackwood resident
A typical Community WiFi network will comprise numerous wireless Access Points installed around the interior of an apartment complex. These APs would present several WiFi networks for devices to connect to for online operation. One of these networks would be provided to residents to connect their own devices, such as phones, tablets, computers, games consoles and televisions and Social Telecoms would ensure there was enough data capacity for even intensive activities to function without flaw; such as online Video-on-Demand services.
In the case of Blackwood’s networks, other WiFi networks have been enabled for CleverCogs devices such as the touchscreen home hub and the sensors installed around the properties; and their staff’s corporate network access. By having these networks set up separately, Social Telecoms would be able to meet the primary criteria to meet the specification requirements of the CleverCogs system.
Blackwood personalises each and every CleverCogs device so that regardless of whether a customer is into gardening, history, music, football or anything else, they can have easy access to the interests they enjoy. The boost in confidence that comes from using CleverCogs and Community WiFi can be huge, opening up people’s horizons to a whole new world. This includes activities like browsing the web, doing online shopping and using email, as well as connecting with family and friends.
CleverCogs™ allows customers to:
- have help at hand if they need it
- receive automatic reminders to take medication
- shop online and use other internet resources
- automate heating and lighting.
An added advantage is that the Community WiFi network used by customers is safe and secure. This means that only the people they want to connect with are on their personalised CleverCogs system, and other connected devices cannot access their own files, folders and apps.
An essential part of the success of CleverCogs is recognising that everyone learns in different ways and at different speeds. For many of its customers, this will be their first time using any kind of computer. For this reason, they tailor training sessions to a level that each customer is comfortable with. Our WiFi networks have been set up so that residents only need to connect once per device, and we’ve made doing so as easy as possible with simple yet secure passwords and user guides for everyone. CleverCogs too is designed to be extremely easy to use and, very importantly, it’s the customer who decides which features go on their device. Blackwood’s Digital Skills team works with users to ensure they get the training and support they need.
Since rolling out the system an impressive 75% of users moved from being extremely digitally excluded to being more confident, and less lonely with increased high levels of user engagement
An analysis of the home networks already present at seven Blackwood locations, showed that 53 out of 174 properties (30.46%) already had a home broadband service before Social Telecoms began installation of Community WiFi.
Of these, 31% subscribed Sky/NowTV broadband, 19% were BT customers, 19% TalkTalk and 9% Virgin Media. Contracted subscriptions to these ISPs begin at £20 per month so significant savings can be achieved immediately upon cancelling these services.
Figures for Community WiFi usage three months after installation to these sites show that 718 devices use the service each month totalling 4.7TB of usage. Focusing just on digital participation without CleverCogs related devices and sensors, 342 devices use the network, totalling 3.2TB.
At the time of this study, the Blackwood Community WiFi project totals 31 completed networks supporting 7,581 devices using 20.6TB of data.
47% of online usage is for streaming Video-on-Demand services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer, adding up to approximately 3,238 hours of video per month; 28% of online usage is used on general websites, 12% on gaming, 6% on Social Media such as Facebook & Twitter and 3% on audio streaming services such as Spotify and Audible.
Trust is a housing association with quality and commitment at its core. They aim to provide first-class accommodation for older people, families and individuals which they can enjoy and immediately feel at home in.
Over a period of 40 years they have gained extensive experience and insights from their customers to ensure they create comfortable homes; especially for retirement communities, which support individuals and enable them to relax and enjoy independent lives, with varying degrees of support at hand.
Friendships are crucial throughout life and there are strong communities across all of their locations in Scotland, which now number over 100 and serve around 2500 customers. Trust strives to create vibrant environments, with a range of social activities on offer for customers to interact and form friendships. Trust is more than just a home, it is a way of life, a sense of belonging. Trust’s tenants are from all over Scotland, with many tenants being based in very remote areas.
Trust is a not-for-profit housing association and is registered with and monitored by the Scottish Housing Regulator.
A growing digital divide in Scotland is being driven by social inequalities. A significant number of older social housing residents are also unwilling or unable to log online, meaning their access to public services and benefits could be restricted. Trust provides housing and care and support services mainly to older people across Scotland. They are amongst the most socially isolated and lonely groups in society and they are also one of the lowest users of technology.
Research has found those who don’t have internet access are less likely to have a car; to have been on a flight in the past year; to participate in hobbies; to go to the cinema, a library or live music; to volunteer; to use the services provided by Trust; to take part in outdoor leisure or recreation at least once a week; and to keep in touch with families and friends easier.
Trust believes their tenants should experience ‘A Bright Future & Customer Excellence’, they’ve promised to adapt and evolve their services to ensure they’re fit for the future to exceed their customer’s expectations by improving the services they offer.
“Being online will help to reduce loneliness and social isolation.”Gail Gourlay, Director of Customer Experience, Trust Housing
Assisting their tenants to become digitally connected became a priority when pressure started to mount for social housing providers to help close the digital divide, alongside this, they could see the obvious benefits of having their tenants online and how it would improve loneliness and isolation.
Some of the comments their tenants said:
“We feel we’re alienated from society”
“We’re getting left behind”
“We get into a terrible pickle sometimes”
“Wi-Fi would just be a great thing”
“We decided to provide Wi-Fi in all our staffed developments as we could see it would bring both social and business benefits.”Gail Gourlay, Trust Housing
In early 2016, Trust contacted Social Telecoms to find out how our products and services could help increase their levels of Digital Participation. After reviewing the situation, we suggested the pilot of our Community WiFi in some of their sheltered schemes which would bring a resilient and secure broadband connection to residents in their own homes and communal areas. To complement this connectivity, access to shared computers in the communal lounges would be provided in the form of our KiOSK terminals.
In addition to the technological merits of these two cloud-managed solutions; Social Telecoms’ bid met procurement standards and compliance through their affiliation to Procurement For Housing (PfH) as the No.1 ranked supplier to the telecommunications framework.
PfH is a buying consortium for housing associations that ensures its members not only get the benefits of combined purchasing power but also that suppliers pass stringent quality and service standards. By overseeing the whole process, PfH also ensures that any agreements are fully compliant with EU procurement standards.
Social Telecoms’ Community WiFi is a digital inclusion product that brings affordable and flexible internet access to residents of social housing residents of sheltered schemes, apartment blocks, high-rise flats and housing estates. By designing and installing a network of wireless access points throughout Trust’s sites, tenants are able to access the internet in the privacy of their own homes without being tied into a long-term contract or paying for more than they need.
Whereas various systems from other providers include greater upfront capital expenditure and annual licencing costs, Social Telecoms’ Community WiFi solution is provided for a relatively low installation cost and can have an unlimited number of network locations and access points added. These would not create additional recurring licencing costs.
Designed specifically for registered providers, Social Telecoms KiOSK machines are ideal for sheltered scheme lounges and other communal spaces. The device is fully customisable, secure and theft-proof, and comes as a managed service package with full technical support so there is no extra burden on IT or onsite staff.
The machines will never retain end users’ passwords or confidential details and is tamper-proof. The touchscreen is simple enough for anyone to use – especially for those who struggle with a keyboard and mouse. Computer novices can go straight to important services at a touch while more advanced users will appreciate the browsing feel of a tablet. Users have easy access to recommended and useful websites and online Trust services by way of the bespoke user interface designed and hosted by Social Telecoms.
With the scope of the project to provide WiFi Internet access to all of Trust’s sheltered communities, Board approval for the pilot was received in early 2016. Three sites of varying size and design were selected in Edinburgh, Motherwell and Callander. WiFi coverage would be “flood filled” throughout the sites and desk-mounted KiOSK terminals would be installed in the communal lounges.
In 2017, after the enormous success of the pilot project, Trust Housing received board approval to incorporate Social Telecoms’ Community WiFi and KiOSK terminal into Trust’s Digital Participation Project across the rest of their sheltered housing stock. This would total an additional 67 sites across Scotland; including several in the highlands and islands. The contract would once again be provided through the PfH telecommunications framework agreement.
Trust managed to secure grant funding to cover items such as digital training, tablets and KiOSK terminals.
Tenants can now communicate with Trust Housing digitally should they choose. They will be able to report repairs, view rent accounts, make complaints, apply for housing etc. By adopting a self-service approach for those who want to communicate in this way, we have freed up front line resources and we can now direct them to where they are most required, reducing void loss and days to let.” “We are supporting tenants through staff, assistance to identify appropriate training and through tenants identified as Digital ChampionsGail Gourlay, Trust Housing
The implementation of the Community WiFi network across the pilot sites has resulted in a dramatic increase in online access amongst the residents and visitors to the schemes. A comparison between the estimated online users at the time the pilot started and 12 months later shows an increase of 550%.
“It opens up the entire world even if you’re not able to get out of your own flat.” – Trust Housing Tenant 2017
“I’ve ‘visited’ my brothers in Australia.” – Trust Housing Tenant 2017
“It’s my own private jukebox.” – Trust Housing Tenant 2017
“My son works in IT and I am enjoying learning how to use the internet just like he does. My son is impressed and has been helping and encouraging me” – Trust Housing Tenant 2017
“I am nearly 90 years old and have ignored the digital world long enough. I now feel I should give it a go and will try the training sessions so I can Skype my family in Canada and France “ Airdrie
“ I am finding it great, it’s like looking up an encyclopedia and you can find anything you want to know. Wonderful!” Stockbridge
“I am having a great time with my IPad. Both my families have been away on holiday, daughter and husband in Lake Garda, I have been able to Skype them” Wishaw
This project has opened new opportunities for Trust Housing tenants, they can experience things they’ve never experienced, talk to people they’ve lost touch with and take up new hobbies or interests. For some tenants, it really does bring the outside world right to them, combatting loneliness and social isolation.
Not only this but tenants can now easily contact Trust Housing, view and pay rent accounts, report repairs, make a complaint or apply for housing, all from their own homes or communal areas. This has resulted in rent now being paid quicker and fewer tenants are in arrears.
“Rob and the installation team provided excellent customer service and understood the needs of our older tenants. “ – Gail, Trust Housing
“It was great to be a part of Trust Housing’s digital participation project. Every stakeholder involved from their ICT and Community teams to their customers has been co-operative and supportive. They continue to assist us to build the networks and services that’ll meet their needs of connected, online Trust Housing communities across Scotland.” – Rob Mottram, Social Telecoms
“You’re never too old!” – Trust Housing tenant