Closing the Digital Divide Between Landline and IP Telephony

The digital divide between internet-based voice service users and traditional PSTN (Public Switch Telephone Network) users is undergoing a transition. The Federal Communications Commission launched a proceeding in January permitting phone carriers’ limited use of IP-interconnections in order to test how the technology transition will impact consumers.  This action was initiated in response to wireline carriers’ desire to transition from the traditional PSTN to interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services that rely on session initiation protocol (SIP) based IP networks. In the future, the FCC faces a decision on how it will regulate the interconnection of telecom networks by carriers in an all IP-environment.

The fact is, fewer and fewer Americans are utilizing landlines for communication. In 2003, more than 90 percent of Americans had a wireline phone connection; today it is down to 26 percent. Some key reasons for this transition to all IP networks include the high costs of maintaining analog technologies and their relatively slow performance. IP-based systems are less costly, easier to manage and maintain and offer substantial benefits for users.

IP-based systems are perfect for small businesses. Internet telephony is made possible with VoIP—an extremely useful protocol that integrates voice and data through one physical link, such as an Ethernet network. With VoIP, users can keep all branches of a company connected nationally (or even globally) without having to pay long-distance fees. A variety of communication services like phone calls, instant messaging, streaming, file transfer, video conferencing, presence and more are made possible with VoIP.

Compared to the PSTN, IP-based telephony expenses are lower, power usage is minimal and audio quality is delivered in high definition. In addition, IP-based cloud services now enable businesses to store valuable information remotely and securely at an affordable cost. Previously, businesses stored information though the phone connection, which was extremely costly not only from set up of the in-house servers, but also in system maintenance, anticipated downtime due to hardware updates and potential security breaches.

The transition from the traditional PSTN could potentially impact businesses that rely on it to manage their premise-based PBX servers. Traditionally, businesses use conventional PBXs as a telephone switching system to manage incoming and outgoing calls for employees. A PBX is connected to the PSTN and automatically routes incoming calls to specific extensions. However, with IP technology one can combine IP with conventional PBXs to produce IP PBXs. An IP PBX can do exactly what a PBX does, but also performs the switching and connecting of VoIP and landline calls. As you might expect, because it runs on an IP data network, it reduces overall telephony costs for businesses and eliminates the hassle of managing an on premise network.

The value of IP-based telephony is clear. Internet telephony can increase the productivity of any business by allowing employees to conduct virtual meetings, share data via video conferencing, attach documents and multitask. Even safety is improved because businesses can eliminate separate cabling for traditional phone systems, thereby reducing clutter and potential hazardous obstructions from electrical wires. The scalable nature of Internet telephony enables the easy addition of new components with minimal hassle, which provides a sound investment for businesses looking to optimize for growth.

As the end of the analog era approaches, Americans can look forward to more efficient and optimized communication streams. And as IP systems come to fruition, businesses will be able to enjoy communication infrastructures that are more affordable, reliable and secure.

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