POTS Replacement – Waiting Is No Longer An Option
By Chris Miller, Director of Service Delivery, One Source
By this time next year, support for POTS services will be discontinued. That means the time to change over to modern IP-based solutions is now.
For companies still relying on POTS lines for critical communications, the time to retire these antiquated systems in favor of IP, fiber, or cellular-based alternatives is fast approaching.
In response to a 2010 order from the FCC that mandates all POTS lines in the US be replaced with an alternative service by August 2, 2022, major carriers like Verizon and AT&T have been dropping support for these copper-based lines as well as raising prices for POTS service dramatically – sometimes doubling or tripling per-line costs.
Now, what is POTS? POTS stands for plain old telephone service. It is based on analog technology and twisted-pair copper wire network to connect everything together. At the turn of the 20th century, this was cutting-edge technology. Today, it is outdated, inflexible, and expensive to maintain. Most organizations likely have some POTS service lines supporting critical functions like elevator phones, fire alarms, and security systems.
As the major carriers sunset their POTS services, all these functions will need to be migrated onto either voice over IP (VoIP) lines, a dedicated IP network like Ethernet or fiber, or a cellular connection over the air.
The challenge for most organizations is that POTS line systems were designed for reliability long before the internet and IP telephony were even a thing. As a result, you cannot just swap out one mode of communication for another and expect everything to work as intended. You need a plan.
Planning for the changeover
The first thing to do is to identify which services rely on POTS. You will need to do an inventory assessment to figure out exactly where the POTS services reside, what hardware they are using, where they are located geographically, and what the potential effect on your business is if you interrupt those services (even for a little while).
A common example of a service that relies on POTS would be an elevator pull phone that dials 911 automatically if it is removed from its hook. While there are direct replacement boxes that will emulate this same functionality, it’s imperative that you plan ahead so that 911 does not respond when you are doing the changeover and ensure no one is left without an emergency line if needed.
The good news is that voice communications today – as long they are not being delivered via a T1 line – are not going over POTS lines so you can take those lines off the table right away if that is the case. However, you might not know if your voice communications service is being delivered over a T1 line so you may have to investigate further before discounting this from the scope of your replacement project.
Once you have a handle on the scope of the challenge, you will need to figure out which alternative means of communication will work best under the current conditions. For example, because POTS lines are powered, you don’t have to think about battery backup. But when you change over, you may have to add that functionality to maintain the service during extended power outages.
The third fact to consider is cost. Different connectivity solutions cost different amounts. Typically, you can expect to save between 30% to 50% on your existing POTS costs by switching. Most of our customers opt for a hybrid approach, using the internet first and then cellular as a backup.
One of the things to consider when moving to a cellular modem is you will likely need a separate service plan with the provider for that service. These plans may contain overage charges so that is something you will have to be conscious of or factor into you budget if necessary.
The good news is there are many turn-key solutions that do not require you to change any internal wiring or swap out system hardware. These solutions also work with many different vendor offerings.
Because POTS replacements are IP-based and controlled by software, all of your new service lines can be configured and monitored remotely. Likewise, 99% of problems can be handled by someone sitting at a console in a central office. This dramatically shortens mean-time-to-repair and lowers costs across the board since technicians are no longer dispatched to fix equipment.
Given that the FCC and the major carriers are forcing the hand of every organization that relies on POTS for some sort of critical infrastructure and that the cost of doing nothing is becoming increasingly burdensome, there has never been a better time to invest in future-proofing your operations by changing over today.
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