The plain old telephone system has been a reliable and revolutionary invention that has served us for over a century. However, with the advancements in technology, the question arises as to why we would suddenly leave behind a system that has served us so well for so long. This is a question that we are frequently asked, especially as countries are beginning to shift away from PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) and POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service).
Some important definitions before we provide context:
POTS stands for Plain Old Telephone Service, it is a traditional analog telephone system that uses copper wires to transmit voice and data signals, typically over a distance of a few kilometers. POTS provides basic telephone services like voice calling, answering, and dialing services to households and businesses.
PSTN stands for Public Switched Telephone Network. It is a global system of interconnected voice-oriented public telephone networks, which allows the telephone communication between users in different countries. The PSTN is based on circuit-switching technology and uses analog signals to transmit voice and data over copper wires or fiber optic cables.
Here are some reasons typically cited for why a country is moving away from POTS and PSTN:
- Advancements in technology: The rise of the internet and other communication technologies such as Voice over IP (VoIP) has made PSTN and POTS obsolete. These new technologies offer more advanced and efficient communication solutions.
- Cost-effectiveness: Internet-based (IP) communication technologies are often more cost-effective than traditional PSTN and POTS. They allow for greater efficiency and cost savings in both the short and long term. Additionally, traditional landlines are expensive to maintain for carriers when considering many customers are leaving these services.
- Improved functionality: Digital communication technologies offer a wider range of features and functionalities compared to PSTN and POTS. They allow for better call quality, enhanced security, and additional services such as video conferencing and instant messaging.
- Increased accessibility: The widespread availability of the internet and digital devices has made digital communication technologies more accessible to the general population. This has led to increased demand for these services, making PSTN and POTS less relevant.
Overall, the move away from PSTN and POTS is driven by advancements in technology, cost-effectiveness, improved functionality, and increased accessibility.
Which Countries have already made the transition away from POTS?
There is no comprehensive list of countries that have turned off their PSTN networks, as the timeline for transition varies from country to country. However, several countries have announced plans to phase out PSTN in favor of digital communication technologies, such as Voice over IP (VoIP).
Examples of countries that have made announcements to phase out PSTN include:
- The Netherlands turned off its PSTN and ISDN network in 2018. The country’s main telecommunications provider, KPN, made the switch to VoIP (Voice over IP) technology and shut down the traditional PSTN and ISDN networks as part of its efforts to modernize the country’s telecommunication infrastructure.
- We are not aware of an exact date when Estonia turned off its PSTN and ISDN network, although some Press Releases indicate 2017. However, it is known that the country has been actively promoting the adoption of advanced communication technologies, such as Voice over IP (VoIP), and phasing out traditional PSTN and ISDN networks in favor of these more advanced technologies.
- Australia: In 2018, the Australian government announced plans to switch off PSTN and ISDN networks by 2023, in favor of the National Broadband Network (NBN). Articles
- United Kingdom: BT, the largest telecommunications provider in the UK, announced plans to switch off its PSTN and ISDN networks by 2025.
- New Zealand: The government of New Zealand has set a target to switch off PSTN by 2030.
- Denmark: The Danish government announced plans to switch off PSTN by 2030.
These are just a few examples, with Germany, Japan, and more planning for the PSTN shut off as well. The list of countries making the transition away from PSTN is likely to grow in the coming years as communication technologies continue to advance and become more widely adopted. The timeline for the transition away from PSTN can vary from country to country and may depend on a variety of factors such as government policies, the availability of advanced technologies, and importantly, the willingness of consumers to adopt these new technologies.
What we are seeing in Canada for PSTN/ISDN telephone networks
In recent years, we have seen sweeping changes. No, really. Telecom companies such as Telus and Shaw are reselling American cloud VoIP providers instead of utilizing their own telephone services. If this isn’t telling enough, increasingly in our own local market, we are seeing more customers have their analog (copper) traditional land lines replaced with a VoIP connection and an adapter to the analog line connections on the phone system. In our view, these adapters are an added failure point in your system’s connection. It would be better to change your phone lines to a SIP trunk (an internet based phone line) completely and remove the need for an adapter in between. Overall, although no Canadian company has announced these plans publicly, the signs are there, and it makes sense for the country to move with new technology, not against it. It is likely that PSTN will be largely replaced in the next several years.
What you should do to be prepared
To prepare your business for a PSTN shutoff or transition, you should consider the following steps:
- Evaluate your current telecommunication needs: Assess your business’s communication needs and determine what types of services you currently use over PSTN, such as voice calling, faxing, and alarm systems.
- Research alternative technologies: Look into other communication technologies, such as Voice over IP (VoIP), that can replace PSTN services. Consider factors such as call quality, reliability, security, and cost when making your decision.
- Get the right connectivity: What is your current internet and internal network like? Are there any weak areas that should be brought up to speed with fiber internet? This can be a major factor in ensuring a smooth transition to a new voice service.
- Educate and excite your team: To seize the opportunity of change, ensure your staff understand what is happening and know how to use the new technology. The biggest barrier to any system change is user education, stay on top of this piece and keep your team excited for the changes and new features they will have access to. The more excited people are, the more effort they make to learn.
- Plan and budget for the transition: Determine the cost of transitioning to a newer communication technology and budget accordingly. Plan for the timeline of the transition, including the installation of new equipment, and the training of employees on the new technology.
- Test the new technology: Before fully transitioning, it’s important to test the system to ensure it meets your business’s needs so that the transition will be smooth.
- Notify your customers and partners: Inform your customers and business partners of the transition and ensure they have the information they need to continue communicating with your business effectively.
- Continuously monitor and maintain the new system: Once the transition is complete, it’s important to continuously monitor and maintain the new system to ensure it continues to meet your business’s communication needs. With most new systems, you can have management access, which allows you to make any change you want at any time. This comes with a risk, so ensure you receive thorough training from your solution integrator or vendor.
By taking these steps, you can help prepare your business for the PSTN shutoff and ensure a smooth transition to digital/IP communication technologies.
We are here to help, always
We understand the frustration of feeling like you’re being pressured or forced to move to a different system or technology. Trust us, we get it. We are on the forefront of this change and, at times, can be frustrated too. The important thing is that we have looked through, played with, and demonstrated many different systems over the years from all different kinds of cloud providers, VoIP technologies, and many manufacturers. We understand the strengths and weaknesses of almost all systems – this is our job. With this in mind, we always want to ensure you feel informed, educated, and happy with your communications. In the long-run, everyone will see that these changes are for the better. Perhaps you’re just not ready yet and want a solution in between for now, and that is completely possible. There is no one-size fits all when it comes to VoIP. If you have questions, concerns, or want to understand what some of this means, give us a call – We’re here to help.