Have you heard of FCC Order 15-97, Technology Transitions? It allows ILECS (incumbent local exchange carriers) to phase out POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines, also known as analog phones, as long as they give customers a notice period of at least 180 days. More recently, FCC Order 19-72 accelerated the pace of copper retirement by removing ILEC requirements for offering unbundled copper loops and discounts on copper resale POTS lines.
POTS lines going away raises a lot of questions and issues, especially for businesses that rely on them for communication. For one, can you still get a POTS line, and if so, should you?
What are POTS Lines?
POTS refers to the traditional analog phone lines that have been in use for decades, made up of a network of copper wires throughout the country. The reason for POTS’ longevity lies in its simplicity and reliability. The infrastructure is capable of providing a clear voice signal even during bad weather or power outages, and it’s also considered reasonably secure. This is why, even in the modern age, approximately 41 million POTS lines are still in use for things like modems for vending machines, point of sale machines, credit card processing, fax machines, elevators along with life/safety lines.
However, POTS presents a number of disadvantages and challenges, prompting the FCC to start phasing them out.
Why Are POTS Lines Going Away?
After decades of seemingly reliable service, what’s driving this massive change? Let’s look at a few of the reasons.
Cost is perhaps the number one reason for phasing out copper networks. 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.
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. Repairing that line is cost-prohibitive due to time and the resources it takes to do so.
Lack of Monitoring Abilities
Monitoring a physical infrastructure like POTS lines is difficult, and it means operators don’t immediately know if a line is broken or even where the issue is located. Compare this with a digital network that offers comprehensive monitoring and complete control. With POTS replacement solutions, visibility into device usage, connectivity and performance are readily monitored.
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.
The Impact of POTS Lines Going Away
As with any big change, the effects will continue to be felt across the country. Here are some of the ways POTS lines going away 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 $1,400. Ultimately, subscribers who insist on staying with POTS services will see their bills trend higher.
Decreased Service of Existing POTS Lines
As carriers abandon their 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.
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 won’t migrate in time could see their communication disrupted.
Taking Action: Replacing Analog with Digital Service
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 or cable options and fiber. 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 elevators, fax, burglar and fire alarms, and modems connecting branch locations. These are costing organizations significant amounts of money and the aforementioned solutions will not allow organizations to maintain them. Since they are essential, and reliability is critical for these lines, POTS digital transformation is recommended.
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 [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 for business continuity with the highest level of security and the most reliable cellular connectivity.
A fully managed service, MetTel handles it all from deployment to replacement. MetTel is responsible for managing equipment, installation, 24/7/365 NOC monitoring and support, firmware updates, and break/fix. The business now receives equal reliability as an analog line with equipment transforming those lines into a digital mode of communication, which also brings with it enhanced features and functionality, lower cost, and one single provider for everything including billing.
Contact us today and discover how MetTel can help you prepare your business for the future.
In addition, you can read about our work helping Extra Space Storage with their POTS Transformation project. This case study provides insights into the challenges they were facing and how their successful POTS Transformation project allowed them to overcome those challenges and improve their entire communications network.