In a recent Washington Post article, the author discussed plans from AT&T for their transition from a traditional Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) physical facilities-based telephony environment to one that is entirely based on using the Internet, as Phone.com has been doing for nearly six years now! The article is a bit misleading, as it implies that these are bold and innovative steps on the part of AT&T. There is much more to the story, and this industry-wide transition is going to be very exciting for all of us!
To put this into perspective, The US Government’s Federal Communication Commission (FCC) created a Technical Advisory Council (TAC) to assist the Commission in understanding how technology could and/or should be evolving. In June 2011, The TAC issued a report calling for the “sunset” (end of life) of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) as we know it by 2018! That is four years from today! The rationale was very clear. For example, by this year – 2014 – the number of traditional telephone access lines was expected to have dropped to 42 million in the US, declining by an average of 8%-10% each year. It was projected that, by 2014, there would be 32 million VoIP access lines accounting for nearly 45% of all access lines (Source). The PSTN is withering away and AT&T knows it. Will a complete and total transition happen by 2018? Probably not, but much work is underway from many different parts of our industry to help move this along.
In May 2013, the FCC issued a call for comments and trials regarding various elements of the transition to an all-IP network environment (Source). The Commission indicated their views as to why this transition must go forward. “… (A)s we move from TDM to all-IP networks, providers are migrating to voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) interconnection. VoIP interconnection should be more efficient and has the potential to unleash new, innovative services and features.” Also, “as we transition away from TDM, the nation’s emergency calling (911) system must also migrate to Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911). Although there is broad consensus regarding the benefits and potential of NG911, when these new capabilities will be introduced is less certain.” The ability to replace wired with wireless information transport will also be considered, especially for rural or high-density areas. Lastly, consideration is being given to telephone numbers and related database issues. “The technology transition offers an opportunity to take a fresh look at the assignment of numbers and the features, capabilities, and security of numbering-related databases.” For example, there have been industry proposals for a unified, IP-accessible database that provides secure access to number-related information. A technology trial could test new technical proposals for assigning telephone numbers individually instead of in blocks of 1,000. We may then be able to determine what protocols and procedures are most effective to assign and port numbers in an all-IP environment. This would improve services for customers of companies such as Phone.com!
As you can clearly see, the article regarding AT&T’s planning for the migration fails to mention the fact that the entire telecommunications world is undergoing change. We at Phone.com believe that this is for the better, and are delighted to be playing an active and continuing role in making these dreams reality!