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When to Turn Your POTS into PANS


Incumbent Local Exchange Providers (ILEC) are not shying away from moving services away from the legacy Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) ... nor should any No Jitter readers be surprised of this enormous network phase out. However, this does beg the question "When should you disconnect all of your Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) and move to the Pretty Amazing New Stuff (PANS)?"

Voice over IP (VoIP) and cellular are established options for voice communications and the most used form of communication whether we like the Quality of Service (QoS) or not. But what about essential analog services that are not used for voice? Let's address some examples.

How do you migrate the small office that has five voice lines and a fax and/or credit card machine? What about an alarm line? Modem line? What about those unique telemetry services that have been bulletproof for decades? You should now look at alternatives because the off contracts costs are high and increasing dramatically.

What about replacing the POTS line in the elevator? Nobody doubts POTS is the best solution: It's reliable, gets power from the Central Office, and is a secure solution. But if the cost becomes unreasonable, is cellular or IP an adequate alternative?

A deep look into your inventory is the first step, because if it hasn't already happened, the finance department will soon ask why a phone bill went up 800%. Finance will want to know what the services are used for and if they are necessary.

Second, you need to explore your options. This can be the most complex part of the process because although the carriers are moving away from analog services, many equipment manufacturers have not yet caught up. For example, many cities have water pump stations that monitor and report water level with simple outbound or inbound local calling. One might think you can replace the equipment with an Internet of Things (IoT) sensor and you are done. But not all of the infrastructure is there yet. Can the site receive a clear radio or cellular signal? Is Internet access available? Can the equipment handle harsh outdoor temperatures and the elements?

Third, you need to evaluate the long-term strategic plan for supporting this equipment. Organizations have varying levels of tolerance for downtime and even IT needs to know this along with the various technology options. In addition, you should prioritize the migration as easy, medium, and difficult, in addition to categorizing those with the least, medium and greatest tolerance of downtime.

This is a lot to consider for most overworked IT staff. If you outsource the work to a vendor, how do you know whether they truly know the best technologies for your business or if they are just pushing their product or solution? This is where an independent consultant can help.

We don't know when ILECs will turn off the last POTS line, but the process has already started. Don't be caught off guard or put your organization in a poor financial situation by procrastinating. Chances are you probably already finished migrating to some alternative solutions. It's those robust last lines that will give you fits if you don't come up with a migration plan.

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.