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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The "plain old telephone system" is slowly morphing into an IP network

It's not news that the old phone network - continuous end-to-end wired connections - is being left behind by packet-switched networks, in which voice is just another type of data hurtled around the Internet. But it hadn't really sunk in that the POTS (plain old telephone system) is going to be replaced, and maybe not before too long. An ArsTechnica story (read it here) makes the point:

AT&T had been discussing the transition internally, spurred on by the FCC's own suggestion that the Public Switched Telephone Network might be ripe for death somewhere around 2018. "This telephone network we've grown up with is now an obsolete platform, or at least a rapidly obsolescing platform," Hank Hultquist, VP of AT&T's federal regulatory division, said today. "It will not be sustainable for the indefinite future. Nobody's making this network technology anymore. It's become more and more difficult to find spare parts for it. And it's becoming more and more difficult to find trained technicians and engineers to work on it."

Part of the appeal, as the story notes, is that IP networks are largely unregulated, which gives companies more leeway to do what they want if they're handling phone calls over IP networks than over switched networks.