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A Guide to POTS Lines Going Away: 3 Reasons to Replace Your POTS Lines

telephone lines being transformed with digital signals

Why Companies Depend on Plain Old Telephone Services (POTS)

First of all, what is POTS? Plain old telephone services, or POTS, have been around in some form since 1876. But by the mid-2010s, many businesses began taking steps to reduce dependency on POTS, partly due to the mass migration to VoIP and partly due to the expectation that carriers would eventually stop supporting their vast network of aging copper lines.

Organizations began by moving whatever they could to alternative technology, such as DID on the PRI, eFax, SIP, or IP-based technology. However, all organizations left some services reliant upon POTS, usually those that were not a good fit for VoIP. Services requiring an analog dial tone remained on POTS phone lines (including some required by law), such as fax, alarm, point of sale, elevator, and e-911.

By 2021, for the average enterprise, much of their remaining POTS billing was for business-critical voice and fax services without a reliable alternative.

Why Are POTS Lines Going Away?

POTS lines going away raises a lot of questions and issues, especially for most businesses that rely on them for communication. For one, can you still get a POTS line, and if so, should you? After decades of seemingly reliable service, you may be wondering what’s driving this massive change. Let’s take a closer look at the decision by the Federal Communications Communication (FCC), POTS lines going away, and the primary reasons why they’re being phased out.

FCC Phase Out

When it comes to the reasons surrounding POTS lines going away, the FCC started phasing them out due to a number of disadvantages and challenges. This shift was significantly influenced by regulatory changes, including FCC Order 15-97, known as Technology Transitions, which permitted incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) to begin phasing out analog phone lines, provided they issued a minimum 180-day notice to customers. The process accelerated with FCC Order 19-72, which eased the retirement of copper infrastructure by lifting ILECs’ obligations to offer unbundled copper loops and discounts on copper resale POTS lines.


Cost is another key driver for customers to move away from copper POTS lines.  Maintaining copper plants to support POTS lines is costly for service providers, and these costs are passed along to customers. For a business, POTS lines can cost hundreds of dollars per month. Considering that there are millions of business POTS lines currently in use, this change could amount to huge savings for businesses across every industry.

Environmental Factors

In addition to higher prices, environmental factors are also a critical factor. Since the copper network has been around for many years, POTS lines are susceptible to disruptions, such as moisture, natural disasters, theft, and so forth. When a copper phone line is down, it stays down until repaired.

Lack of Monitoring Abilities

One of the reasons for analog phone lines going away and the rapid replacement with digital solutions is greater monitoring abilities. Monitoring a physical infrastructure like POTS lines is difficult, and it means operators don’t immediately know if a line is broken. Compare this with a digital network that offers comprehensive monitoring and control. With POTS replacement solutions, visibility into device usage, connectivity, and performance are readily monitored.

Digital Transformation

The biggest drawback of POTS lines is their limited ability to support multiple voice and data applications. This severely limits their use in a world where multi-channel communications using video and digital data are commonplace. Newer technologies are more efficient and flexible and include features and capabilities that POTS simply don’t have, making the transition away from POTS lines a part of the broader digital transformation.

There are many options for replacing POTS: VoIP is a popular choice, allowing you to make calls over the internet. Other businesses are abandoning landlines altogether and opting instead for mobile phones and using cellular networks. Additionally, businesses consider fixed wireless, cable, or fiber options. And many companies have already transitioned their “traditional voice” service to hosted PBX, Unified Communications and Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) for in-browser voice and video.

One key consideration here is specialty lines still utilizing POTS such as elevator lines, fax lines, burglar and fire alarm circuits and modems connecting branch locations. These are costing organizations significant amounts of money and since they are essential, reliability is critical for these lines. 

The Impact of POTS Lines Going Away

As with any big change, the effects of the decision will continue to be felt across the country. Here are some of the ways POTS lines going away will affect businesses.

Increased POTS Line Costs for Customers

The most immediate effect of retiring copper-based POTS lines is that it will increase costs for those still using them. Month-to-month rates for POTS lines have skyrocketed in the last eight years for TDM services. In some states, business POTS lines alone cost over $1,500 per month. Ultimately, subscribers who insist on staying with POTS services will continue to see their bills trend higher.

Decreased Service of Existing POTS Lines

As carriers retire their copper POTS lines and turn their attention elsewhere, you can expect Service Level Agreements on POTS to decrease or be eliminated entirely. This could translate to longer installation and repair times. Voice quality could also suffer as carriers dedicate less time and effort to maintenance.

Product Withdrawals

With copper networks being retired, carriers are steadily sunsetting services on their copper networks other than POTS, such as ATM, T1, and DS0. Subscribers who don’t migrate in time could see their communication disrupted.

Three Reasons It’s Time to Replace Remaining POTS Lines

1. Cut costs by cutting POTS.

While the concept of POTS might be simple, sending signals over a wire, the infrastructure required to support this process is complex. Calls made over POTS lines travel between multiple locations on a grid, comprised of mechanical buildings and parts like copper lines, switchboards, and towers. This aging physical infrastructure, which is susceptible to weather-related outages and frequent repairs, requires investment from carriers, which they pass on to customers. But digital is less expensive. MetTel sees an immediate average reduction of 30% in costs when clients migrate their POTS lines to a digital alternative solution.

2. The days of POTS are numbered.

Due to the complexity of maintaining their POTS infrastructure, carriers have mapped their plain old telephone services exit strategies. In the past several months, major carriers like Verizon, AT&T, and CenturyLink have announced they are retiring POTS copper lines. Because much of an enterprise’s services still relying upon POTS are business-critical, like fax lines, alarms, point of sale, and elevator call buttons, organizations must get ahead of this issue. Without a POTS transformation plan, hospitals may be left with unreachable fax machines, office towers without elevator emergency lines, and retailers without burglar or fire alarms to protect their locations.

3. There’s finally a reliable POTS alternative for all services.

So, what are the next steps to consider if you’re ready to make the switch? Luckily, there’s a reliable POTS alternative. MetTel has built an innovative solution, POTS Transformation, to completely transform all traditional phone lines for voice and data services that had previously been left on plain old telephone services.

MetTel’s POTS Transformation is a cost-effective and turnkey solution transitioning to a digital voice service, where a company can keep legacy equipment and plug in a preconfigured solution (POTS in a BOX, or PIAB, technology) into the existing environment. The PIAB device connects to the internet via broadband, Wi-Fi, and/or dual SIM 4G LTE connection. With redundancy and backup, the box provides each business true fail-over capability for business continuity with the highest level of security and the most reliable cellular connectivity.

With this fully managed service, from deployment to replacement, MetTel oversees the entirety of the migration process, to ensure a seamless transformation.

MetTel POTS Transformation includes:

  • Turn-key deployment, including managed equipment and professional installation
  • Wireless backup provides business continuity during primary network outages
  • Ongoing management from 24/7/365 US-based NOC monitoring & support
  • LTE/5G connectivity for new locations and wireless backup services for existing locations with broadband access.

Benefits of POTS Transformation and how it works.

MetTel recently hosted a webinar highlighting the technology at the heart of POTS Transformation. The on-demand webinar is a great way to learn more about the MetTel POTS Transformation network, the deployment and installation process, as well as technical specs. Plus, we discuss real-world results, including a case study from a healthcare client who saw a 40% savings from the POTS migration to MetTel’s solution.

Learn More

Read about how Extra Space Storage turned their copper retirement into a digital transformation opportunity.

Read Case Study

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