Voice, data, video, and broadcasting companies are now offering customers more services than ever before, but they also have to maintain a multitude of legacy networks. This includes the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The PSTN is the original, analog landline telephone network, and is also known as plain old telephone service (POTS).
Initially, the PSTN was only intended only for voice, but as our communication needs evolved, the PSTN was modified and enhanced to carry data traffic. In particular, the addition of Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) lines offered a major leap forward in the simultaneous digital transmission of voice, video, data, and other network services.
The analog equipment underpinning the PSTN is outdated, it is costly to maintain and knowledge of the infrastructure is diminishing.
Telecoms providers are encouraging consumers to move to voice over Internet protocol (VoIP). VoIP is a technology that converts voice into digital signals that can be delivered over an IP network such, as the Internet. While the switch-over is voluntary at present, it will ultimately become mandatory for both home and business consumers. In some European countries, telecoms providers aim to switch off the PSTN as early as 2020. Globally, the target switch-off is by 2030.
What does this mean for communications providers?
The migration to an all-IP network will simplify network management for communications providers and no doubt lead to cost savings and streamlining of services. Communications providers will no longer need to manage and maintain a hybrid infrastructure with analog and digital components. However, there are still challenges ahead. The replacement of the outdated equipment is a huge task and the customer migration needs to be managed very carefully. In addition, the communications industry is highly regulated, and providers will need to demonstrate that their new services are thoroughly tested, adhere to standards, and meet the interests of consumers.
What does this mean for consumers?
Many businesses are already using VoIP to some degree, and without realizing it, some home consumers may already be using an IP-based service delivered by PSTN emulation. VoIP actually offers many benefits. Businesses that switch to VoIP often achieve considerable cost savings as there’s no line rental and call charges are not based on time and distance. Digital technology also presents possibilities for new and improved services. It’s much easier to provision new lines and has enhanced call routing and queuing features. Smartphone apps even allow people to take their office extension numbers with them wherever they go.
What are the risks?
IP-based networks are not really designed to carry voice traffic. Just as the PSTN was originally designed only for voice and then evolved to carry data, IP-based networks were originally intended only for data and have evolved to carry voice. The PSTN is a circuit-switching network, which means that a dedicated circuit is established for the duration of a telephone call. In contrast, IP-based networks are packet-switching networks, where messages are divided into packets that are sent across the network individually. Voice calls are treated like any other data, but IP-based networks can suffer from packet loss and jitter that will affect voice traffic. While service providers have been aware of this issue for some time, it has never been fully resolved.
What can you do to prepare?
Be proactive. If you are still using ISDN lines, you need to talk to your service provider and explore your options. Begin the switch gradually and as soon as possible. You can iron out any service issues while still maintaining connectivity through your old landlines.
Monitor your critical contact numbers. With voice, data, and video all traveling over the same network, voice services may be affected in ways that are difficult to predict. Until the transition stabilizes, there could be a degradation in service or even outages. Make sure you’re the first to know! Spearline can help you proactively monitor and manage your calls, safeguard your customer experience, and ensure that your conversations are supporting your business growth.
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Spearline is the leading network intelligence company in the telecommunications industry. Our platform enables enterprises and telecommunications service providers to test connectivity and quality on global telecoms networks, testing automatically at volume. If you are interested in our platform or would like more information, please get in touch with us.