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POTS in a Box: An Alternative to Copper
Many enterprises still rely on “plain old telephone service” (POTS) lines today for critical services such as fire alarms, security alarms, automatic meter reading for gas meters, water meters, electric meters, temperature sensors, water sensors, etc. POTS lines are the same analog technology as the old-fashioned “landlines” that you may still have at your house – simple, analog telephone service that may or may not have features such as voice mail, three-way calling, or call forwarding.
Today, carriers are moving towards newer services and away from POTS, so naturally, market forces are causing POTS line prices to rise significantly. This is what prompted my company to explore alternatives. I recently had a chance to demo a POTs in a Box – the CDS 9010 made by DataRemote.
Here are some of the capabilities I found valuable to me:
- ISP via cellular
- Auto failover ISP
- POTS in a box:
- Ringdown - Courtesy phone, control gates/locks, etc.
- Modem - Compatible with utility meters and alarm systems
- FAX – Facsimile
- DTMF - To acknowledge call alerts
- NAT router/firewall
- DHCP server and client
- Battery backup
Out of the box, the DataRemote’s CDS-9010 looks like any other home router. Cellular service is provided by an AT&T or a Verizon SIM card. I found it easy to set up and manage and was impressed by the features and capability. I also appreciate the fact that it comes with two removable, rechargeable 12-hour capable battery packs providing up to 24 hours of backup power. Four small antennas are attached to the back – two for Wi-Fi and two for cellular service. While our network engineering department could use it to quickly deploy Internet service to an office or provide an Internet backup solution, it’s capable of much more.
After a few minutes of setting up, I plugged in a regular analog telephone and made several test calls – crystal clear quality.
I wanted to test a real event that we see in our data centers. So, I used an old Sensaphone 1104 for the next test, configuring a trigger event to call me if the temperature reaches 75 or above. After sitting near a heater for just a few minutes, I received a call alerting me that my data center’s temperature had been reached. More importantly, I was able to respond with DTMF tones to acknowledge that call. I repeated this test and had a 100% success rate.
Although my voice services department doesn’t delve into much networking, I figured if I had the device for testing purposes, it wouldn’t hurt to explore other features. I found it easy to establish Wi-Fi networks, and I was impressed with the rich features and intuitive web portal interface.
Optionally, the CDS-9010 will support FirstNet and Band 14 (with the appropriate license approvals). I can see this being popular with first responders. Here is an excellent article, which explains both FirstNet, Band 14, and how they work together.
Here is a full list of features from their spec sheet:
- Direct plug and play analog POTS line replacement
- (Two) RJ-11 lines
- Integrated router with one WAN port
- Two wired gigabit LAN Ports
- Support for legacy FAX transmission
- Burglar and fire alarm signal transmission
- Ringdown telephone line circuit
- Native analog M2M support
- Legacy analog modem support
- Automatic utility meter reading
- Telemetry command and control (SCADA)
- Emergency responder access
- SMB router/gateway
- Integral Wi-Fi (host & client)
- FirstNet Band 14 option
- LTE dual cell carrier capable
- GPS capable
- 24-hour power failover battery
- One number dialer capable
- Elevator, paging, taxi phone line (auto dial)
- Monthly managed voice service
If your organization has even just a few POTS lines, it may be worth considering some type of POTS in a box solution. In many cases, these can pay for themselves quickly. Or, if you need an inexpensive ISP failover option, this may also be a viable solution for your business.