Public switch telephone networks (PSTN), some believe, are among the latest casualties in the technology landscape. With VoIP subscriptions on the rise, and PSTN subscriptions falling, it's leading many to question if the PSTN has passed its prime and may be on the way out.
There's certainly cause to believe such a thing; the FCC (News - Alert) recently brought out a report that said that, between 2008 and 2011, VoIP subscriptions rose at a compounded annual growth rate of 19 percent. Meanwhile, switched access lines fell at a rate of nine percent per year, making it clear that switched access is getting its lunch, dinner, and breakfast the next day eaten by VoIP. VoIP's rapid maturation and improvement in overall service and capability—not to mention its outstanding prospects for cost savings and its potential for adding extra services—have taken a lot of the hesitation out of enterprise users' part, and opened the floodgates for adopting the services.
Some have even recently begun to project that there may not be a choice in the not too distant future; as more business users proceed to VoIP, the cost of supporting a PSTN without an appropriately substantial number of users may force users out of the PSTN altogether and put them on VoIP. Indeed, recently, AT&T (News - Alert) sent a request to the FCC to give them some guidance and assistance in terms of getting away from the public switch and onto a larger VoIP network, showing that AT&T has some substantial interest in shutting down that part of technology and moving on.
AT&T asks these questions with good reason; while it's becoming evident that more users want VoIP and fewer users want PSTN, the questions of execution remain. Making the necessary improvements in the infrastructure won't be easy, or cheap—so figuring out how to roll out the necessary supports to the new technology will take some time. The issue of addressing rural networks, for example, is one of the biggest impediments to a full VoIP transition, as the infrastructure is set up for PSTN, and trying to completely remake the countryside to allow for VoIP requires a huge amount of ground be covered for a comparatively few number of connections. That translates, basically, as “expensive,” so trying to do it in a fashion that's cost-effective is difficult to say the least.
The balance of cost savings, technological necessity, and improved feature sets have a lot of users looking to VoIP, but figuring out how to get VoIP to all the people currently served by PSTN is a difficult measure. User demand certainly isn't the issue, but innovative new measures are going to have to be put into place in order to get the necessary bandwidth into play to allow everyone the kind of access that they currently enjoy with their PSTN system.
Edited by Rich Steeves