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FCC Report: Voice, Almost There

Looking through the Federal Communications Commission's Voice Telephone Services report issued late last year, telephone service connection data for years 2012 through 2015 shows that the needs of retail voice customers are met by switched access lines and interconnected VoIP, as well as mobile wireless services.

By year-end 2015, carriers provided approximately 459 million retail voice telephone service connections in the U.S. Those break down into 65 million end-user switched access lines, 59 million interconnected VoIP subscriptions, and 335 million mobile subscriptions.

Over the three-year period shown, mobile voice subscriptions increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3%, interconnected VoIP subscriptions increased at a (CAGR) of 12%, and retail switched access lines declined at 12% per year.

Source: FCC

What the report doesn't say is how, and when, the remaining subscribers are going to be absorbed into either IP or mobile voice solutions with the PSTN getting the cut.

We know objections to VoIP are waning, and the likelihood that traditional wireline (TDM landline) services costs will eventually increase as the number of subscribers continues to decline.

Given the rate of decline, by 2021, half of the wireline subscribers will be on VoIP, mobile, or both VoIP and mobile subscriptions. Several factors could propel the rate of decline.

First, I think software-defined networking/network functions virtualization offerings from managed service providers looking to offer a la carte subscriptions will reduce the amount of on-premises gear and place more IT responsibility in the cloud. But this won't be available to many businesses without reasonable Internet access, such as provided via AT&T U-verse, Comcast DOCSIS 3.1, and Verizon Fios.

More intelligence is moving to the network, and this fills a huge gap with small- and medium-sized businesses that don't get the best or right fit to meet their ongoing IT needs cost effectively. Fiber solutions and the Comcast DOCSIS 3.1 Gigabit service are delivering greater and better access to the network. Mobile connections also are a certainty -- and isn't it ironic that the once-unaffordable device usually leased, not owned, by the chosen few is now in the hands of almost everyone.

We are almost there. However, where there is is still really somewhat undefined... and will almost certainly change, as will how we finally arrive at a state of being without the PSTN.

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