Not your fathers POTS phone system goes Voip
December 11, 2003 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Its not your fathers P.O.T.S. Plain Old Telephone Service is undergoing a fundamental shift as companies such as Verizon, AT&T and British Telecom embrace Internet technology to route long-distance and local phone calls to compete with services from the likes of upstarts Vonage and Packet8 and Skype etc. Is this the beginning of the Telepocalypse a race to the bottom of less and less profit and more and more layoffs? Follow the history and future of the woeful crumbling of the hiearchical phone phone company at David Isen's web page Are the guts of the phone companies the class 5 switch go the way of mainframe computer
posted by thedailygrowl (9 comments total)
the funny bit is that once more and more people buy voip hardphones, voip-to-pstn services like voicepulse, etc. will become pretty much unnecessary -- free registries such as fwd, iaxtel and iptel will be all you need to call someone else (well, and a broadband connection, of course). even better, the various free registries have already set up ways for the users of each to call users of the other free registries...for free, of course.

in fact you don't even need a registry at all to call someone else's voip phone/server, it just makes it easier.
posted by dorian at 3:15 PM on December 11, 2003

ok. Time to sell the wired phone stock, what with the fingerpainting on the wall and all. The best part . . . . since this link has been up for six hours and gotten only two comments . . . it is still under the horizon.

People who pay attention and sell may send me 1/10th of 1% of what they save by way of thanks. And don't forget a taste to Dorian.
posted by elmaddog at 5:18 PM on December 11, 2003

"...go the way of mainframe computer[?]"

Nitpick mode, on!

As in "undergo a rennaisance as a result of embracing open standards, becoming a deeply relevant and modern part of corporate infrastructure as well as finding new markets in traditionally-minicomputing environments like web hosting" a la the IBM s390 architecture? Or are you laboring under the impression that mainframe systems are somehow declining in popularity?

Also, the ESS-5 is pretty out of date, and is mostly sold for use as corporate PBXes. Most telcos have been using ESS-7 for over a decade.

(Also, is it strictly necessary to make the main link via tinyurl? This isn't some email newsletter. I have no idea where it goes, so the hell if I'm clicking it blindly.)

Nitpick mode, off!

All that said, watching the Bell Remnant industry implode is an incredibly appealing trainwreck. They deserve it for first giving us useless crud like ISDN and then the mindbendingly bad idea that was ATM.

To this day, as voice trunks massively migrate to IP-based technologies, the telcos still don't want to give up on the concept of the switched circuit.
posted by majick at 5:52 PM on December 11, 2003

I do have to agree with the nitpick about tinyurl/makeashorterlink/etc. not even b/c you don't know where it's going, but because it's bad for posterity/archival purposes ... those link redirectors can be rather ephemeral.

my latest cunning plan (as soon as I can afford it anyway) --
1. get a nice wifi-enabled pda.
2. install a voip softphone on the pda.
3. find various free/open-access hotspots in large cities.
4. use the pda to make free calls into my pbx at home, and then out again either for free or severely-reduced cost (e.g. 3c/min + no-monthly-charges)
5. laugh as the telcos and cell providers eventually go out of business.

parts 2 and 3 are easy, the pbx of part 4 is already done. alls I really need is the actual pda...

btw, thanks for the thought but I don't even want that 1/10 % (stupid dorian says that now, heh...) -- the telco death-knells will be more than enough.
posted by dorian at 8:32 PM on December 11, 2003

Can anyone recommend some good VoIP discussion or info resources? I use Vonage and I know the forums have a lot of info within them about various VoIP topics, but my eyes start bleeding after a few minutes on the DSL Reports site. I love my VoIP toys and the subversive "fuck you" I'd like to think I'm giving Verizon, but I've yet to find a decent, non-corporate, "go-to" VoIP resource site where I can educate myself about the various aspects of VoIP technology (not just the hand-holding, "here's your non-configurable hardware" bullshit being fed to me by the service providers).
posted by Hankins at 9:45 PM on December 11, 2003

I just signed up for Vonage also. There are some issues with VoIP that the hype is not addressing.

1. Line goes dead when the broadband goes down. Power outage, cable outage, internet outage. If you have a cell phone, no problem, otherwise, how do you call the broadband provider or electric company to report an outage? Stuck. VoIP requires a secondary backup line of some kind.

2. Bandwidth. You need at least 90kbps. During a recent snow storm when everyone was home surfing, I had no VoIP phone service because Comcast was over loaded.

These 2 issues are fairly serious for the typical user. Unless you are willing to put up with occasional outages and have a backup phone line of some kind POTS is not going away.

My solution was to buy a $12.48/month Verizon barebones POTS line as a backup. As a bonus, this number I give out to merchants so that all my spam phone calls go here where an answering machine is hooked up with the ringer turned off, I check the messages if its blinking. Spamers don't leave messages so only legit calls from my plumber or bank get through.
posted by stbalbach at 5:09 AM on December 12, 2003

I've had vonage for 9 months or so, mostly because I moved, but was looking for a job, so I could take my phone to another exchange in the same area code, (aparently the number portability fee I had paid for a year would only allow me to move within the same local office... how many people move within a few miles?)

Anyway, During the super big blackout vonage was dead, but I actually realized that I could just UPS everything since they're all low power boxes. Even though it needs a cable modem, router and the cisco box, if I can save $13 by buying a low power UPS, it would be fine. Also, I live in a very low-tech area, so I get insanely fast speed on cable modem, (regularly over 300KB down). And I do have a cell phone, which worked until its battery went dead during the blackout (I could have charged it in the car, but I didn't care)

Hankins - Have you tried Cisco? They do sell the ATA 186 to other people besides vonage, you could reach their techie info on what you can configure and such. Also they have lots of VOIP phones for businesses and such which probably have explanations.
posted by stryder at 5:49 AM on December 12, 2003

Cell phone and VOIP aren't the only options.

My father worked for AT&T for almost forty years, and retired three years ago. At that time, I advised him to sell all of his stocks in all of the phone companies, except for Lucent Technologies (they are the shell around what used to be Bell Labs, which is still an incredibly productive R&D center, and if you may recall, was the home of Claude Shannon).

At that time, I also predicted that all phone service would soon be flat fee - i.e., you'll pay a flat monthly fee to one provider for all of your connectivity, and there will be no such thing as "long distance charges."

Turns out I was right, but it has happened faster than I'd thought.

So yes, if you haven't sold those stocks, sell them now. But that doesn't mean you should abandon them as a customer.

As all of these technologies get implemented, the competition will drive consumer costs down.

Eventually, the land line companies will be offering unlimited calling, nationwide (perhaps even limited free international service to select developed countries), for a price between $10 and $20 per month.

And these connections stay live when the power dies - because the phone companies power up their systems from branch exchanges that have backup generators and batteries.
posted by yesster at 7:04 AM on December 12, 2003

2. Bandwidth. You need at least 90kbps. During a recent snow storm when everyone was home surfing, I had no VoIP phone service because Comcast was over loaded.

this is definitely a big issue, and most of the smaller companies are planning to resolve it quite soon. for example: up until now I have been using voicepulse-connect which, being their business/reseller service, offers gsm and ilbc codecs (both low-bandwidth, fairly low-complexity) -- very nice. then I bought one of these, which comes with a free month of voicepulse's consumer service. quickly found out that said consumer service only supports ulaw (aka g711u), which is the 90kbps-hogging of which you speak (well technically it only takes 64kbps but with overhead is in practice more like 80 or 90, yes). however, the spa2000 device does in fact support adpcm (g726 flavors from 16kbps to 40kbps) as well as g729 (also both low-bandwidth and low-complexity) -- but only now is voicepulse working to support these on the consumer side.

as for the free registries: fwd operates over sip, and does ulaw only; iaxtel runs over iax, and does gsm; iptel also on sip, not sure about codec but most likely ulaw.

agreed, the signal-to-noise ratio on the dslr forums is a bit low. some interesting stuff on there but you often have to dig for it. I recommend:
joining the asterisk-users list (where the intelligence is high and newbies often get flamed rather than hand-held)
this insanely great wiki (which documents just about everything and has nice links to external sites as well)
posted by dorian at 7:53 AM on December 12, 2003

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