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What is the PSTN?

 In Blog, Fax, FoIP, Productivity, Security, Technology, Unified Communications, Voice

PSTN stands for the Public Switched Telephone Network – it’s a telecommunications industry term encompassing copper land lines (“POTS”), fiber optics, cellular antennae, satellites and trans-oceanic cables.


1. What is POTS?

“POTS” in the telephony world is an acronym for “Plain Old Telephone System”, the modern name for the part of the PSTN made up of old analog copper wire technology. POTS has done the job for decades, but is reaching the end of its usefulness. Modern communications simply require more bandwidth and lower costs than POTS can provide.

Because of this, analog telephone lines are in the process of being slowly phased out in many developed countries as they transition to more powerful broadband-based communications networks.


2. What are the advantages of the PSTN?

When you think about it, the PSTN is one of humanity’s great technological achievements. It gives us the ability to make instantaneous voice connections point-to-point across much of the world, across networks provided by a range of different governments and businesses operating in a variety of different languages.

A global set of standards mean that any telephonic device can connect with almost any other telephonic device. All you have to do is dial a few numbers, and the network knows exactly where you’re trying to call.

Because telephone connectivity is considered an essential service in most of the world, governments, businesses, and charitable organizations have gone to considerable trouble to make it as accessible, affordable, and reliable as possible.


3. What are the disadvantages of the PSTN?

The primary disadvantage of the PSTN is cost. Maintaining the copper wiring system is time consuming and expensive. The rise of wireless connectivity has led to point-to-point wired connections in general making less sense to install and maintain.

Business and home telephony is transitioning more and more into VoIP and FoIP technology, as utilizing existing data connections and bandwidth, rather than dedicated phone lines, makes a lot of financial sense.

The PSTN’s universality is a huge strength, but it also brings with it a notable weakness. Because everything on the network has to work with everything else on the network, across the whole planet, protocols and standards either have to be universally adopted or interoperable to the point where a caller doesn’t have to wait (or lose the call) while their signal crosses from one system to another.

This can not only lead to increased costs from building in that interoperability, but it also makes change a very time consuming process from a regulatory, roll out, and adoption point of view. The realities of the market can easily interfere with better technology being developed and/or integrated into the system.


4. What’s the difference between PSTN and VoIP?

VoIP technology refers to converting vocal communications into data packets and transferring them via internet infrastructure rather than the phone system. VoIP calls can be made between software (i.e. “soft phones”) or physical telephones (“”). If one or more hard phones are involved, it is likely that the phone call at some point has travelled across the PSTN, converted into a normal phone call for at least some distance via network devices known as gateways.

The use of gateways allows more adaptable and affordable VoIP systems to connect with the more universal and widespread PSTN, giving callers many of the benefits of both. The PSTN portion of the call, with its associated costs, is between the gateway and the recipient’s (or caller’s) phone, which is likely a local call rather than a long distance one. Most of the distance covered is via the internet, where it isn’t a factor in the cost.


Enhance Your Organization’s Communications with XMedius Solutions

XMedius offers a range of solutions that can help your business interact with or avoid the PSTN and the Cloud on your own terms. In addition to secure FoIP and file transfer technology, our portfolio also includes CX-E, a top quality Unified Communications platform delivering a suite of applications to companies of all sizes. Reach out to our team to discuss what our technology can do for your organization.




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