How have our phone call habits changed due to COVID-19

It is no surprise to learn that our habits changed during the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Many will be aware of the zoom craze, with the countless hours worth of quizzes to get us all through, but whilst there was a rise in new media it was the old, somewhat forgotten mediums of communication that many found solace in, the humble phone call mainly.

In a world of social media and instant messaging the phone call has fallen out of favour, especially with the younger generation, so how has a worldwide lockdown impacted how we use our phones? The short answer is we are using them as phones once again, rather than the handheld computers they have now become but we will delve a little deeper to see what the numbers show.

United Kingdom

So we start with the UK, like most countries the lockdown began in March, at which point, mobile provider O2, said that 25% of 18-24-year-olds had not made a traditional phone call, one that is done on a phone network rather than mobile data, by the time we went into lockdown. This paints a picture of how the younger generation use their phones, but it is worth noting that this is only based on traditional phone calls, with things like Facetime and WhatsApp video calls not included in this. There are no figures for the number of people who have made a traditional phone call since then but it is safe to say that a majority of us have made a phone call since March.

The younger generation have definitely shifted back towards the traditional way of phone communications, this could be due to them not being able to meet older family members so reverting back to something they feel more comfortable on is the only way to contact them. If we have a look at the trends in the data for the early part of the lockdown you can see that phone calls quickly became an important part of everyday life. 

  • Landline Calls – In March they were up by 49% and in April they rose by 51%
  • Length of Calls – Overall call length increased 85% on weekdays and 65% on the weekends
  • The overall length of calls increased from 3:40 to 5:26, so nearly a two-minute difference.
  • EE found that voice calls lasting longer than 5 minutes have doubled, with overall voice calls up by 45%.
  • More rural call volume, a shift in focus from the city where phone call volume normally peaks.

All of this shows that the traditional phone call was on the rise and became part of everyday life. What this has shown is that as we as a population were forced apart, we turned to phone calls for that intimate connection in our lives. This seems to be especially true when you consider that weekdays saw a larger increase in volume, this would indicate that the lack of office time and colleague interaction had an impact on people whether they knew it or not.

Whilst we have focused mainly on the personal usage of there was also an impact on other areas. In business there was a sharp rise in WFH, with teams now working remotely, meaning the usual lines of communication, namely walking over and talking to someone, are no longer viable. This is something that many believe will not change, if and when we return to some sort of normality, so businesses are going to be reliant on other ways to communicate with team members, the two standout ways being, video calls and voice calls. Apps like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype cover most of these but you may also see more businesses turning to VoIP phone systems, that allow people to connect remotely with just an internet connection. 

One final thing to mention is that those pesky cold callers have found the lockdown period harder, with a drop of 34% in March and 77% in April, compared to where they were predicted to be, although there is set to be a sharp rise in these over the coming months.

Europe

So we have looked at how the UK has shifted its communications focus back towards traditional phone calls, have we seen the same shift from our continental friends in Europe? Well, the answer is yes, in Spain, Telefonica reported that the overall increase in phone call volume on their network was 50% during lockdown. The Orange Group reported that in France mobile phone calls increased by 50% too and there was an overall increase of mobile phone usage of 41% according to Statista research. Finally, Poland saw an increase of 60% in mobile phone calls during their lockdown, once again showing that phone calls became a larger part of everyday life without the face to face interaction.

United States

Across the Atlantic, in the United States, there was also a sharp increase in phone call volume, with Verizon stating that they were dealing with 800,000 weekday calls with an increase of 33% in the overall length of these calls, this follows a similar pattern to the UK and Europe. AT&T also said they saw an increase in mobile phone call volume, with an increase of 35% overall. Whilst the numbers aren’t as high as in Europe and the UK, it may be that due to the size of the USA the population may be more accustomed to phone calls due to distance, something you generally don’t have to deal with in the smaller European nations.

One thing that seems to be slightly different to the European figures is that WiFi calls also increased dramatically in the US, 100% to be exact. This could very easily be down to the number of people who move to the USA from overseas and have family still there, meaning that calls via WiFi are not only vital but also free.

Rest of the World

Taking a look further afield and you can see that there is the same trend, but with growth not quite as significant as in Europe. India, one of the largest countries in the world experienced an increase in mobile phone calls of around 15-20%. This may not sound like a lot but in a country where WiFi calling is the predominant method of voice calls it is quite the jump.

Even further afield in Australia there was a more concerning stat from the start of the lockdown period with almost 3,000 calls to the countries suicide hotlines, an increase of 20%, so whilst we talk about the increase in phone calls to keep connected people are still finding lockdown life difficult, therefore staying connected is vital for everyone.

According to Statista, 70% of people in their study turned to their mobile phones moreover lockdown, so in conclusion, the answer to whether our phone call habits have changed during the COVID lockdown period is yes, and remaining in contact with each other has become an even more important in a world where contacting each other is as easy as it has ever been!

The Hidden Costs of a PBX Phone System

Many PBX phone system manufacturers make the claim that the 5-year costs of their systems are cheaper than the equivalent cloud-based alternatives. 

However, what they don’t tell you is that there is a host of additional hidden costs that come as a result of the limitations of the hardware and software of the PBX systems. Such as hardware maintenance costs, set up costs and system management costs. 

Here at Criterion Systems, we are aware of all the hidden costs of the different business phone systems and have put together this handy guide to make sure you know how much you would pay for a traditional PBX phone system.

For additional help with choosing your business telephone system, contact us on 0800 0832083  and our expert team will help you select the best phone system to meet your needs and budget. 


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What is SIP Trunking and How Does it Work?

SIP trunking is becoming increasingly popular in the business world because of its many benefits over traditional telephone systems. The benefits that are often championed include increased reliability, cost-saving opportunities and flexibility in scalability and strategy.

Of course, there is more to it than that. At Criterion Systems, we have written this handy guide on SIP trunking to help businesses that are still considering whether SIP trunking is right for them to identify the best telephone system for their business needs.

What is SIP trunking?

SIP Trunking (Session Initiation Protocol) is a form of telephony technology that is intended and sold as a replacement for the ageing ISDN phone line network. The imminent switch off of BT’s ISDN network and SIP’s many benefits are leading to SIP trunking quickly becoming the most common way for businesses to manage their voice communications. SIP connectivity is now the standard that is on most modern phone systems available.

What is SIP trunking used for?

SIP trunks allow businesses to place telephone voice calls through the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) through the internet, rather than traditional phone lines.

SIP services are considered to be more flexible than traditional ISDN networks and are also much less expensive to maintain. This means that many businesses are increasingly looking towards SIP trunks for their telephone and communications needs.

How does SIP trunking work?

SIP Trunks are essentially virtual phone lines and work in the same way of traditional ISDN lines by connecting your PBX with the PSTN. The only difference is that instead of old copper phone lines, SIP connects through a broadband internet connection.

SIP trunking services can support a varied number of connections, from two channels for smaller PBX equipped businesses to an unlimited number of channels for much larger businesses. SIP trunking removes the need for traditional phone lines on premises.

As such, SIP is completely reliant on data connectivity and you will need to be aware of your business requirements. For example,  you will need to know things like the volume of inbound and outbound voice calls that you receive and the size of the bandwidth required to support these calls. It is possible to use an existing data connection for your SIP system, however, a dependent connection is the best way to ensure the reliability of your voice traffic.

What is a SIP trunk?

A SIP trunk is the lines that transfer data signals from one another via electrical currents. SIP does this without the need of a physical connection, unlike ISDN that used copper wires. SIP links trunks to other IP systems or the PSTN through an internet connection.

What is the difference between SIP trunking and VoIP?

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a technology that allows you to make or receive voice calls over the internet instead of traditional phone lines. SIP, however, is an application layer protocol that can establish, change and end multimedia sessions over the IP network, such as VoIP voice calls.

Unlike Voice over IP, which can only make voice calls, SIP trunking allows you to send data or video content. VoIP handsets also require a connection to an active computer to make or receive calls. SIP phones, however, are able to make calls without a computer and only require a modem to work.

What are the benefits of SIP trunking?

There are many benefits of SIP trunking that makes it an excellent choice for your business’ communication needs, including:

Cost-saving: SIP trunking, and other IP based phone systems, can help your business dramatically reduce its call costs. SIP trunking is 30–50% cheaper than traditional telephone lines and it is often possible to get free UK landline calls using a SIP phone system. IP connections are significantly cheaper than traditional ISDN lines and also has reduced maintenance costs thanks to fewer hardware requirements. SIP trunking can also offer you cheaper mobile calls and significant savings on international calls.

Security: SIP trunks add an increased level of security for your connections than traditional lines and should offer increased protection from fraud. A correctly configured SIP channel should allow you to take care of your connectivity security through a dedicated firewall or a router with firewalls.

Flexibility: Similarly to VoIP, SIP gives you control over your phone numbers. For example, If your business has established a presence in different countries, then SIP trunking allows you to have a virtual phone number that has local codes. This allows your customers or partners in these locations to contact your business as if it were local, rather then using expensive 800 numbers. This is helping businesses establish a foothold in foreign markets without having to open a local office.

Resilience: SIP trunking offers your business an increased resilience, helping you be prepared for anything. With SIP it is incredibly easy to divert your lines without expensive forwarding costs. In the event of a disaster or line fault, calls can be automatically routed anywhere else that has a broadband internet connection. This removes the need to maintain a parallel set of phone lines as a back-up and makes then inherently disaster recovery and business continuity ready.

Scalability: The main advantage of a SIP trunk phone system is its flexibility and scalability. SIP trunking can be easily scaled up or down, depending on your businesses needs. SIP gives you the option to immediately add extra trunks if you are experiencing an increased volume fo voice calls, or remove them when that demand has ended. This is significantly cheaper and easier than having to purchase and install fixed lines and is one of the things that makes SIP trunking so popular.

Why your business should choose SIP trunking

You are not alone in thinking that SIP trunking is the perfect solution to your business’ communication needs. In fact, British businesses are increasingly realising the many benefits that come from SIP trunking. SIP trunking is a reliable, cost-effective voice service that is cheaper and more flexible than traditional digital or analogue phone lines.

You are not alone in thinking that SIP trunking is the perfect solution to your business’ communication needs. In fact, British businesses are increasingly realising the many benefits that come from SIP trunking. SIP trunking is a reliable, cost-effective voice service that is cheaper and more flexible than traditional digital or analogue phone lines.

Not only is that scalability useful for growing businesses, but if you are a company that relies on seasonality or has an increased demand on their telephony at certain times of the year, then SIP trunking is a perfect choice for you.

SIP trunking allows you to plan for and accommodate for this season based change in demand and simply update your existing infrastructure when you need it, helping you cope with the increased demand. SIP trunking lets you easily increase the number of SIP channels you use, and decrease them afterwards.

SIP trunking is also a perfect phone system if your business operates across multiple sites. SIP will let you reduce the number of connections that you would need at each site, and would also reduce the associated maintenance costs.

SIP trunks and Unified Communications

Unified Communications (UC) is when you combine all of your various communications, such as email, voicemail and video conferencing, into one manageable strategy. SIP trunking can act as a gateway towards UC and can help your business access the benefits of an IP based system. A SIP trunk will let you control a unique ID from multiple networks or devices and is a great way to adopt unified communications.

SIP trunks connect your phone system directly to the PSTN, and can also connect mobile apps and other devices directly with your network. SIP trunking also allows you to move your network to the Cloud, which is a great way to unify all of your business communications.

How much does SIP trunking cost?

Similarly to adopting any other new technology, there are costs involved with setting up SIP trunks in your business. If your business does decide to invest in SIP trunking then it must be prepared to invest the time, effort and resources into setting up and maintaining the equipment.

There will be an initial investment for the set up of the hardware and purchasing SIP trunks from your service provider to consider. However, the return on that investment will be fairly substantial.

SIP trunking is far more cost-effective than traditional ISDN phone lines. With SIP you no longer have to pay for line rental and the infrastructure and maintenance costs are lower due to the reduced hardware requirements.

Getting started with SIP trunking is not difficult for your business, however, it is important for you to fully understand the technology and how it works before committing. SIP trunking is often the most suitable choice for a business that operates in a digital business environment.

If you have any more questions about SIP trunking or the other telephone systems that we provide then please contact us here or call us on 0161 429 4910 and we can help you select the best phone system for your business needs.