As has been predicted by telecom operators in the industry for years, the public switched telephone network (PSTN) is becoming obsolete. Multinational telecom companies already have plans in place to phase-out the country’s PSTN and gradually move to an IP-only service. Nationwide rollouts have already begun with telecom giants like Orange in France, Deutsche Telekom in Germany, and Swisscom in Switzerland, to name a few. Europe is not alone in their efforts to phase-out the PSTN; Major Australian telecom companies have already announced their rollout calendars, and providers have been conducting regional testing of all-IP phone services in the US.
The main reasons for the migration to an IP-based network is that the traditional PSTN model is becoming increasingly expensive to maintain. Not only does it consume massive amounts of energy, but thousands of older model circuit switches still in operation to maintain existing PSTN networks are based on electromechanical technologies that are over 30 years old. Spare parts, when they exist, are very hard to come by and many equipment suppliers are abandoning the technology. When repairs are needed, locating these components or their equivalent can become extremely expensive.
A major generation gap
Telecom operators around the world have already been working on replacing time division multiplexing (TDM) technology with IP or SIP trunking solutions for nearly two decades, for example, by building voice over internet protocol (VoIP) on fiber optic infrastructures. On the level of regional infrastructures, however, traditional telephony around the world remains mostly in parallel with that of the 1980’s, which means huge maintenance costs and increasing risks of breakdowns and malfunctions.
It’s important to note that the migration towards an all-IP service won’t completely cancel out the older generation of technology. The copper network (twisted pair cabling) remains useful in supporting other, now digital forms of telecommunications, such as dedicated link services (or “leased lines”) and xDSL Internet access.
Why switch to IP? Because it meets all demands
The Internet’s packet-switching architecture, open standards, non-proprietary protocols, peered networks and digital hardware are a clear improvement over separate, closed analog networks still using older technology.
For years, phone companies dismissed IP as an inadequate alternative. Carriers of all sizes have now grasped that the Internet is the only option to satisfy the ever-growing demand from consumers and cloud-based services.
Europe’s IP Network Migration Rollout
Migration plans are starting to take shape across Europe, with many countries at various phases of implementation. With 200 national telecom operators across the European continent, it’s understandable that complete IP adoption will take time.
- Orange explains that from Q4 of 2018, telephone lines in mainland France will no longer be built on the analog Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), but on IP technology. All operators will then offer tailored commercial services. By the end of 2018, neither homes or business in France will be able to order analog phone lines on the old model.
- As of June 2017, Deutsche Telekom had migrated 61% of access lines in Germany and 64% in the Eastern European countries where it holds stake. Macedonia, Slovakia, and Croatia are now all-IP. DT’s rollout plan is set for completion by end of 2018.
- As of February 2018, Swisscom has successfully transitioned 2 million customers to all-IP services. They estimate that nearly all private customers will have converted to IP by Q4.
Even though an all-IP future is taking shape, carriers can’t simply “switch-off” existing PSTN networks, even in countries where there are clearly better and cheaper IP alternatives. In many cases, there are decades-old regulations that enforce the continued operation of obsolete analog networks, no matter how many users they have and regardless of costs.
Implications of an “All-IP” future
Telecom companies have already had plenty of time to advance their alternative offers, and have been providing solutions that combine fixed and mobile telephony very transparently for years. Many organizations around the world are already operating on a hybrid model. Take businesses, for example, who’ve maintained the same telephone infrastructure for years, but who’ve decided to reap the cost savings benefits of cloud fax solutions. We’re already in the era of a mobile workforce, and many companies are already on-board with the technology of the future, using fully implemented IP phone systems and cloud-based UC solutions that seamlessly link their mobile, email, and data infrastructures.
IP networks can use packets to transmit voice, data, or video content equally— and for telecom companies, this represents a single network for voice, video, and data. It’s no shock then, that IP technology has already won the telephone network war, just as it won the data war and is also dominating the video war.
Europe’s bold move toward an all-IP service is setting an example of what’s inevitably to come for the rest of the world. There’s no question that analog is obsolete, it’s only a matter of time before telephony as we know it globally is completely IP based.
What can organizations do now?
At this stage, it’s necessary for organizations who want to take the next step (if only partially) to analyze the expectations and needs of different internal departments: management, business units, marketing & communications, etc. Identify various special needs, and where you could benefit from a migration to IP such as videoconferencing, group calls using collaborative tools, secure file exchange, etc.
There is already a wide variety of choices for all your needs on the market whether you prefer IPBX, on-premise options, or a solution hosted by a service provider through the cloud.
Are you looking to learn more about IP solutions that can boost workflow, save money and future-proof your telecom infrastructure? Speak with an expert today about which solution would work best for your specific needs.