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.


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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Latest Polycom VX450 Available now

Polycom VVX 450 IP Phone

Out with the old and in with the new.

Office IP telephone with 12 SIP lines

The Polycom VVX 450 IP Phone is a high-quality programmable IP telephone with twelve telephone lines, designed for small and medium businesses that offers reliable performance and high sound quality for professional use.

The VVX 450 combines Polycom HD Voice technology and Polycom Acoustic Fence . Together, they significantly improve the most important component of the VVX experience: the clarity of the voice. The HD voice provides superior sound quality and high definition through the capabilities of advanced voice processing. The technology Polycom Acoustic Fence patented by Polycom eliminates noise and echo of all conversations.

The VVX 450 combines a new and attractive ergonomic hardware design with an intuitive user interface that, together, reduces the time spent learning new functions. The VVX 450 is an IP phone designed to enhance collaboration and improve productivity in the workplace by providing users with easy access to calling features most commonly used, such as directory, hold / resume and transfer.

This terminal integrates perfectly with a wide range of UC environments . The professional-level web-based configuration tool facilitates the installation of the VVX 450, allowing administrators to easily provide a large number of phones throughout the organization. The VVX 450 phones are easy to implement and manage for service providers and IT staff through extensive open APIs.

It is ideal for executives and senior managers.


4.3 “colour LCD screen (480 x 272 px)
Answering machine
Wall or desktop stand to choose from
4 contextual keys
LED busy lamp (BLF)
12 lines
Multiple call functions
EHS support (off-hook)
Dimensions: 24 x 23 x 5.7 cm

Available now on our hosted platform.

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.

Is Your Business Ready For the BT ISDN Switch Off?

So you have heard that BT is planning to switch off its ISDN network and you are wondering how that will affect your business and what you should do about the switch off.

Fortunately, here at Criterion Systems business communication and telephone systems are our speciality and we have created this handy guide to help you through the ISDN Switch Off.

What exactly is happening?

In 2015 BT announced that is was phasing out its PSTN and ISDN networks, that are used for voice calls, in favour of more advanced IP voice services. This gradual phasing out of the older PSTN and ISDN systems is due to start in 2020, when BT will cease taking any more ISDN orders, leading up to 2025, the proposed date of the ISDN Switch off.

If your business makes use of or provides PSTN or ISDN lines or networks, then this switch off is going to have a significant effect on you. By 2025, businesses will be forced to find and use an IP-based system for all of their telephony needs.

What is ISDN?

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) is a telephone network that allows for both voice and data services to be delivered over digital lines simultaneously. Effectively it’s what carries your telephone conversations when you talk on the phone and your data when you use the internet. It was launched in 1986 to migrate old landline technology over to digital.

ISDN was a great system when it was launched as it could support an analogue phone line and early video-conferencing systems, something extremely useful for businesses at the time.

Unfortunately for ISDN, the introduction of new broadband internet access connections has made it an outdated legacy system. It is still used by many smaller businesses or as a backup phone system in the event the main line fails.

What is PSTN?

PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) is the familiar landline telephone system that has been used since the invention of the telephone. It was set up for analogue voice communication and was the most reliable way of making voice calls. ISDN allowed the digital transmission of voice and video using the traditional PSTN network.

What is the difference between ISDN and PSTN?

PSTN is the older technology that uses copper wires to send analogue voice data over circuit-switched phone lines. ISDN built upon that technology and moved the transfer of voice and video over to digital.

Why are BT phasing out ISDN and PSTN?

The short answer is that both ISDN and PSTN are old and outdated legacy technologies that have some serious drawbacks and maintenance costs. The infrastructure behind ISDN is essentially the same design that the early telephone networks of the late 1800’s used, with some significant improvements over the years of course. The cost of maintaining such an old infrastructure is continuing to increase and with much better alternatives available, it doesn’t make sense for BT to continue.

ISDN has also failed to keep pace with the demands of businesses and can only support speeds of about 128kbps, which is well below the speeds of modern broadband which is around 16 Mbps. Over half of UK businesses have already made the switch from ISDN to an IP system.

BT has also invested heavily in VoIP, one of the systems that are meant to replace ISDN, so it doesn’t make sense for BT to continue to invest in what is an obsolete system. By moving everyone over to an IP service, BT will be able to focus their resources and investment into a technology that will continue to meet the demands of businesses in the future.

What is BT going to replace ISDN with?

BT is planning on moving its network to be based on IP, which unlike traditional solutions, does not run on copper lines and only requires an active internet connection to use. There are two options involving IP; hosted VoIP and SIP.

Both are cloud-based telephony solutions and have been made readily available to most businesses thanks to the recent investment in the UK communication network and the new fibre infrastructure.

40% of the UK market has already recognised that switching to a VoIP provides them with a variety of key benefits.

What is VoIP?

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology has transformed traditional telephone services, superseding ISDN systems with cheaper, more advanced solutions. VoIP is the method of making phone calls over the internet or an internal network. Also known as an internet telephone, the use of this method of communication has become mainstream, removing the need for an old-fashioned and expensive to maintain phone lines at your premises.   

VoIP Features:

  • Cost-effective (free and cheaper calls, plus no more expensive line rental)
  • Better features and flexibility (integration, greater control and analytics that transform your business communication)
  • Higher resiliency (stay connected, ensuring business agility and productivity)
  • Greater flexibility (plug into your network from anywhere with Wi-Fi)
  • An Improved call quality (HD audio)

What is SIP?

SIP (Session initiation protocol) and SIP trunks is an on-premise solution for a telephone system that allows you to connect your phone system to the public phone network via IP data services rather than traditional fixed line telephone services, such as PSTN and ISDN. SIP offers improved scalability and functionality through a single internet connection which allows you to divide bandwidth between voice calls and data. Being 30-50% cheaper than traditional telephone lines, SIP is a popular choice.

SIP connectivity is now standard on most modern phone systems and available as a simple upgrade to legacy systems. This allows you to maintain your investment on your existing system and still benefit from the flexibility and cost-savings of SIP services.

SIP Features:

  • Reduced costs (SIP includes free landline calls and other lower priced options)
  • Scalability (individual SIP endpoint connections can scale from 2 to 30 channels)
  • Business continuity and reliability (Criterion Networks provide dedicated servers for your phone system to connect to as well as running carrier-grade software for superior reliability)
  • An Improved call quality (HD audio)

How to prepare your business for the BT ISDN switch off

2025 might seem like a long way off yet, but you will be unable to purchase a new ISDN system or amend your current system, after 2020. If you currently have a traditional ISDN or PSTN based system now would be a good time to begin researching a more advanced alternative.

If you are in the position where you haven’t got a business telephone system yet, then you are in a perfect place to start with a new IP based telephone solution. This means that you will be able to avoid the setup costs that come with an ISDN system.

If your current ISDN phone contract is up for renewal soon, then now is the time to start researching your options to swapping to a Voice Over IP system or SIP technologies.

No Good Reason to Wait

Waiting until the switch off date to update your telephone system might not be the best idea for your business. Closer to the date could cause a shortage of engineers as they struggle to meet the demand of the many businesses that still have an ISDN system, and could cause a delay in your upgrade.

You would also be missing out on all of the benefits to your business that come with VoIP or SIP technologies. So if you haven’t already enjoyed the business benefits of switching from ISDN, why wait?

Criterion Systems offer a FREE (no-obligation) assessment of your current set-up to determine your needs and can help you select the right telephone system for your business. We provide competitive business phone systems, full technical support, maintenance back-ups, advice and staff training. We keep you in touch with your customers and save you time and money on your telephony needs. To book your free assessment please get in touch.

Criterion recommends Avaya Scopia for video conferencing

Video conferencing is moving out of the boardroom and into the real world. Avaya Scopia connects customers, clients, colleagues, students, teachers, technicians, trainers, doctors, patients and more in high-quality, interactive face-to-face meetings using almost any video-equipped device over any type of network.

The Scopia is a very high quality and intuitive video conferencing experience and Criterion offers the full installation and configuration service. We can show you how easy it is to set up a conference call in full dual high definition 1080p 60fps, ideal for sharing detailed visual information over video.

  • Dual 1080p 60fps live video and content
  • HD audio
  • Scalable Video Coding

The Avaya Scopia® Elite 5000 Series is a next generation solution for high definition multiparty conferencing that uses DSP technology to deliver 1080p processing, telepresence connectivity, dynamic resource allocation, and individual video layouts per participant. Free Demonstration Available.


“Criterion have played a critical role providing our communication systems for both Prosurv and for a number of schemes we have worked on for our key Clients. We are very pleased with their professional outlook, foresight and technical approach to understanding both our business requirements and the requirements of projects which we have delivered. Criterion have delivered Prosurv with systems befitting a professional consultancy with major blue chip and FTSE 200 Client base.”

“Criterion’s communication & IT solutions have enabled our business to grow in line with the ever changing demands of modern day business. Criterion have provided us with everything from simple hold music and call logging facilities to an advanced thin client network all with first class service levels. The thin client network has provided us with a cost effective solution to continually upgrade our IT systems with the constant advances made in business software with little or no disruption.”

Avaya introduce J100 Series Phones with IP Office 11 update

Avaya J179 Handset

Avaya have recently announced their latest desktop handset, the J series. These new  multi-function phones work with the recently updated Avaya Office 11.

Criterion have a long standing relationship with Avaya and recommend their products for the quality and reliability of service.

Features of Avaya IP Office;

  • Cloud Delivers Hassle-free Customer Experience Management and Robust UC
  • Leverage the hybrid cloud for seamless integration and migration between your premises-based and cloud-delivered services.
  • Protect your existing investment in installed call control, phones, and more while expanding to the cloud.
  • Maximize the flexibility and scalability of the cloud for business expansion, seasonal capacity, or additional functionality.
  • Minimize disruption to your employees with a common code base between premise and cloud, which means your employees won’t have to learn a new system. Plus, the communications they use in the office will be available on their mobile devices.
  • Utilize an unparalleled full stack solution for rich cloud delivered voice, Unified
  • Communications and Contact Center management.
  • Modernize with minimal technology risk.
  • Protect your business with always on security.

MiFID II Compliance

MiFID introduces new call recording regulations

The revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II) comes into force in January 2018 and it will regulate the financial services sector with a new, much stricter set of rules around call recording.

Call Recording
Call Recording

The regulation will also be applied more widely than the current requirements for recording phone calls, which apply to City traders.

Under current MiFID I regulations, Members allowed discretion as to whether they required firms to record telephone calls and electronic communications that resulted or might result in transactions. This recording obligation will become mandatory on firms under MiFID II.

Under the revised MiFID II you need to record all conversations that are intended to lead to a transaction or trade, even if they ultimately don’t. These rules apply equally to firms dealing with their own account as well as providing services for external clients. It also includes those who were previously exempt under MiFID I from having to record such as financial advisors and brokers – anyone involved in the advice chain that may lead to a trade or investment.

MiFID II also includes premises in which these calls or conversations take place, and requires that all “communications that are intended to lead to a transaction” be recorded and retained. Recordings will also need to be stored for longer – for a minimum of five years against the six months currently required.

More robust rules around how businesses should record and store their conversations will be introduced. MiFID II requires all records be kept in a durable medium that allows them to be replayed or copied but which prevents the original being altered or deleted. All calls recorded using Tri-Line’s Echo are securely encrypted using 256-bit AES symmetric key algorithm to ensure compliance with MiFID II regulations.

MiFID II also states that businesses must ensure the quality, accuracy and completeness of these records, and they must be stored in a medium that is accessible and readily available to the FCA on request. Under MiFID II businesses will also need to review their recordings from time to time to ensure compliance. Tri-Line’s Echo call recording allows authorised users to download and provide a copy of any call in .wav, .mp3, or .ogg format to the FCA on request.

For more information visit the FCA Call recording information page here.