ISDN, the end of an era

Both Swisscom and Deutsche Telekom have announced the end of ISDN support. In Switzerland, Swisscom plans to migrate all existing ISDN customers to all-over-IP by the end of 2017.

This really means the end of an era for me. In the 80s, I remember ISDN being installed in the bank where I worked, my first real job.

When I moved to Munich in 1992, my first telephone line was ISDN. At the time, it was the latest and greatest. With ISDN one had a 64kb dial-up line without blocking the telephone, even 128kb with channel bundling. In comparison to the prevalent 33.6K and later 56K (V92) analogue modems, even the basic 64kb offered by ISDN appeared to be light years ahead.

In 1997 I moved to London and obviously asked British Telecom to have an ISDN line installed. At first this was met with “what?”, then I figured out it was referred to as “BT Highway” and we were off. Later on in Z├╝rich, Switzerland in 2001, ISDN was obviously my first choice again. At the time, ADSL was only just slowly beginning, and due to a poor connection to the local exchange, ADSL was initially not an option for me. Later on when ADSL technology improved, the internet connection moved to ADSL, but telephony remained on ISDN.

In 2004 when I founded my own company, obviously our telephone system was ISDN. We ordered a new line, Swisscom came and installed four. Both our private line and the business lines were easily plugged into the same 4-port ISDN card in the Asterisk server.

So ISDN has provided my telephone and internet services for the last 20 years. Deeply integrated into my private and business life, but usually hiding unseen in the back. Of course nne should not get so attached to an otherwise invisible technology, but I can’t help thinking it’s the end of an era.

Well, we still have two years, perhaps even more. Sofar Swisscom has not announced any actual migration plans, but I won’t wait and see. If we’re moving to VoIP, there are many options to be explored.

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