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Analogue Service Failure

Last year we wrote about global PSTN retirement plans - copper pairs are expensive, fibre optic connectivity is common, so it makes sense to the telcos. Some PSTN users in the UK are protesting plans to shut down service by the end of next year, saying that their existing services will not work adequately over replacement technology. They’re right. Here’s the story.

By Kristin Kiewitz

Kristin, as a business analyst and researcher, has identified operational shortcomings in the planned global PSTN retirement.

Copper-based Services

Many traditional telecom services that depend on copper cable connections have been/will be retired by the telcos as part of the PSTN retirement. These include systems such as:

This list is not exhaustive.

Fade Out

In North America, copper-based services are slowly being discontinued without much fanfare. In 2020, the CRTC, who regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada, approved an application from TELUS Communications Inc. to de-standardize Dedicated Loop Service and Analogue Private Line Services so that new installations, moves, additions, and changes will no longer be available to existing customers, including the existing end-customers of resellers.

Power Failures

Power outages used to have no effect on telephone service. Now they’re becoming ever more important. The copper connections of the PSTN carried 50V Central Office power directly to the telephones and other terminal devices to keep the service running reliably. With newer IP services, this is no longer true.

IP based services, particularly when delivered over fibre, cannot power the terminal equipment – not the phone, the TV service nor the internet access. All equipment needs to be connected to local utility power. Even worse, the distribution network, which no one thinks about – the roadside cabinets that lie between the Central Office and your office or home, contain electronics that are powered by local utility power. Battery backup is often provided but doesn’t last long.

This is discussed in Peter’s article, published in May 2023, on Remote Work + Power Outage where his local UPS powered his servers but his connection to the outside world failed. The telecom providers will simply not be able to guarantee service for more than a few hours during power outages.

VoIP Compliance

The general ‘wisdom’ is that all analogue devices can be moved over to VoIP service with an adapter. This usually works for fax machines though low-cost VoIP adapters may not work reliably. It is not always an option for other terminal equipment. Several local authorities in the UK have just discovered that their traffic control systems rely on old-technology PSTN modems, which are not VoIP compliant.

Looking Forward

Your first step is to audit all of your telecommunications services to identify what needs to change in your non-PSTN future. There are costs associated with making the change and you need to fit this into your planning and budgetary cycles. Simply taking an analogue service and buying a VoIP adapter may not be the best solution. Most older services are better re-engineered as native IP solutions, which are usually cheaper.

The unexpected payoff of an audit is that it will likely uncover services that are being paying for that have not been in use for years. Also, you may be able to piggy back some of the costs onto a redevelopment project, or share IP network costs purchased for other needs.

PSTN sunset may not affect you tomorrow – but it will some day in the not too-distant future. If you’d like to discuss how to conduct your own audit, when to include these changing technologies into your IT plans, or to comment on this article, please email me at .

This article was published in the February 2024 edition of The TMC Advisor
- ISSN 2369-663X Volume:11 Issue:2

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