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Preparing Your Business for Japan’s ISDN Phase Out

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With Japan’s complete termination of ISDN phone lines by 2028, businesses that haven’t made the switch to alternatives must act soon to avoid disruptions to their operations.

In today’s landscape, the impending shutdown of ISDN in Japan has sparked a flurry of questions and concerns. Drawing upon our 25 years of industry experience, the engineering team at systemsGo has diligently crafted a guide to help navigate through this transitional period.

Retiring Legacy 20th Century Technology

The integrated services digital network (ISDN) protocol was first introduced in the late 1980’s to better integrate digital technology into pre-existing public switched telephone networks ( PSTN), which at the time consisted of hybrid digital/analog telecommunications infrastructure.

The ISDN protocol was a replacement for dial up services and introduced the world to a telecommunications protocol that allowed for simultaneous use of phone lines, internet, and fax over existing PSTN telephone infrastructure.

With the proliferation of higher bandwidth media content and increasingly reliable broadband infrastructure such as fibre optic networks over the last few decades, the ISDN protocol has become obsolete. In addition, much of the PSTN infrastructure, which the ISDN protocol was created for, include outdated hardware switchboards and copper cabling which are set to reach the end of their lifespan by the end of this decade. With better modern alternatives today, it is no longer worth the cost to replace and maintain this infrastructure.

Due to these factors, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications have set the  phase out of the ISDN protocol   . Starting in 2010, Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) began informing subscribers about the migration of their network’s backend from PSTN to IP networks. This plan was put into motion in 2020 and is slated for completion in January 2028 (with the first phase to be completed by Q1 2025), culminating in the complete retirement of the PSTN network and ISDN protocol support across Japan.

Many Japanese Businesses Still Reliant on ISDN

According to Statista, there were 2.12 million ISDN subscriptions in Japan as late as March of 2022.

As ISDN services were mainly targeted at enterprise customers in Japan, many enterprise telecommunications systems still rely on this legacy protocol and make up a significant portion of the remaining ISDN subscribers in Japan. With the 2025 deadline for the ISDN phase out fast approaching, these businesses will be most at risk.

If you are not sure what shall be done to ensure compliance with these new regulations, feel free to contact our experiences team.

How Can Companies Find Out If They’re Still on ISDN?

The Japanese deployment of the ISDN was named the Information Network System (INS). As such, the two tiers of ISDN subscriptions offered by the NTT were named the INS64, providing lower bandwidth basic rate interface (BRI) service, and the INS1500, providing higher bandwidth primary rate interface (PRI) service.

  • The INS64 phone line is used by small businesses who just need a phone line in a business environment where internet access is not necessary.
  • The INS1500 phone line is popular amongst call centres, corporate offices, and government offices because it makes use of fibre optic lines, allowing it to handle up to 23 calls simultaneously.

In addition, hybrid systems making use of both INS1500 and INS64 include point of sale (POS) systems, ATMs, and credit settlement systems.

While the quality and reliability of ISDN phone lines have helped them remain popular into the 2020’s, all these phone lines will be nonetheless be phased out by the Japan’s retirement of the ISDN protocol with the first phase to be completed in 2025.

systemsGo hint: To ensure your business has already prepared for the phase out, check your contract with your telecommunications service provider. Most contracts will list the type of phone line your business uses, so we urge businesses to review their contracts for terms like “INS Network”, “INS 64”, or “INS 1500”.

Alternatives to ISDN

Much like how the ISDN protocol replaced dial-up, today’s Internet Protocol (IP) based systems represent the next generation of telecommunications protocols.

The benefits of IP based telecommunications systems over ISDN are numerous. By routing calls through the internet as opposed to physical telephone lines, IP systems offer major cost savings when it comes to international calls. In addition, IP systems are more scalable and can more readily integrated with enterprise software such as customer relationship management (CRM) platforms.

systemsGo hint: The two most popular IP-based phone line alternatives to ISDN today are Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking and Voice over IP (VoIP). While both VoIP and SIP trunking act as virtual phone lines and support voice calls, SIP trunking also supports video, messaging, and fax. If you need help understanding or moving on with the switch from ISDN, our team of engineers would be happy to help!

systemsGo takes a personalized approach to transform MNC’s IT landscape, starting with a comprehensive engineering solution consulting stage. We have rich experience in auditing IT infrastructure and other telecommunications networks services that might be relevant to your company at this time.

Switching Early to Reduce Impact on Your Business

With the phase out of ISDN digital services to be completed by Q1 of 2025 across Japan and the full phase out ending in 2028, businesses must begin the task of switching over their telecommunications networks now. As the migration process can take up to three months, the earlier businesses begin planning their switchover, the less risk they run of business disruptions.

As a leading provider of AV/IT solutions across the Asia Pacific region, systemsGo is ready to guide businesses through their telecommunications infrastructure changeover from ISDN to IP-based alternatives. We tailor our IT solutions to the needs of our clients to ensure their businesses fully benefit from Japan’s upgrade to the next generation of telecommunications technology.

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