Someday soon it will all be VoIP - FCC seeks public comment on plan to move PSTN to IP

Updated: January 07, 2011

The federal government has finally noticed that almost all new development in voice and telephone services is running on VoIP with even more of the voice call transport passing through the global IP network at some point, whether it is on a public portion of the netowrk (the internet) or on one of the many private IP networks maintained by the major carriers. They have ewven noticed that voice calls are making up a smaller and smaller percentage of communications traffic as mobile phone carriers also convert to underlying digital networks.

As a result, the FCC is calling for public comment on proposals to convert all of the current PSTN to full-blown IP. This really would mean all voice traffic of any kind would be VoIP traffic. This is not a radical change - by far the majority of voice traffic already is VoIP even if the users and callers are not aware of the fact. But it is an acceptance that it is time to move forward and remove the need to support the aging PSTN infrastructure that holds back the available features and capabilities of the most basic phone systems. Once there is no need to support the many cludges that the PSTN has required to deliver services like multiple line phones and caller ID and so forth we can expcet an explosion in features and capabiulities.

Is there are downside - actually, yes. The PSTN was engineered to be absolutely rock solid in terms of availability and reliability. A simple example is power outages. Local power outages often do NOT affect the old PSTN which carried enough power on the line itself to power a traditional telephone. But modedrn IP devices must be self-powered and power outages can easily kill the line if alternative backups are not provided.

The FCC is seeking public comment on the issue precisely because of issues like this and also the issue of providing comprehensive IP services to every location in the US. This is being done as part of the manadated national broadband plan that is requiring the broadband services be available to all US citizens.

To read the FCC's notice and take part in public comment, see here.

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