What does the end of PSTN in Europe mean for IoT businesses?

We live in ever-connected worlds where friends and family are available at just the touch of a button, even if they are on the other side of the world. This has been particularly valuable in staying connected during COVID-19. Yet while the digital era has totally redefined the face of telephony, we’re still surprisingly reliant on infrastructure that is decades old in some of the ways we communicate.
Europe is currently in the process of ending one of its oldest and most fundamental pieces of networking infrastructure – PSTN. We look at what the end of this technology means for IoT service providers and dig into some of the opportunities that will come from it.
So, what is the PSTN?
For over a century, the majority of phone connections around Europe have been predicated on the public switched telecoms network – or PSTN. It takes different forms across Europe, known as RTC in France and BT in the UK, but it is all based on the same infrastructure devised years ago.
In recent years, telecoms companies have started to upgrade landline services to internet protocol (IP) based services which can support both landline and broadband telephone services. While there are regional differences in when this technology will become obsolete, it’s believed that Europe will have closed these last-generation services by 2025.
Why the switch to IP-based networks?
This move away from PSTNs reflects a wider shift in consumer attitudes to communications. Not only is it practically second nature for most of us to make IP calls over Skype or Microsoft Teams, we’ve also come to expect a better level of service – i.e. crisper call quality, no dropouts – when we make these calls.
At the same time, the cost to maintain existing PSTN networks is a sizable burden on providers and the industry. This is due to huge maintenance costs, it can be hard to find replacements for faulty equipment and the increasing risk of it breaking down.
What does this mean for providers of IoT services?
The end of PSTN networks gives service providers and manufacturers in the IoT space an unprecedented opportunity to make sure they are setup for IP connectivity in this evolving landscape. Businesses, for example, might want to think about making sure their IoT devices are setup for future-proof business connectivity – which means making sure that they are equipped to operate on 4G and 5G, being mindful of the limited shelf life of 2G and 3G.
Within 4G and 5G, there are different technologies available depending on the business application that you are targeting. If, for example, you work with Point of Sale (POS) devices, you’ll need connectivity that can afford high bandwidth and power to be able to accommodate for the volume of data that your applications will be sending regularly. On the other hand, if you are a smart meter manufacturer, your device will be sending much smaller packets of data...