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Communications AT&T United States

FCC Wants To Trial Shift From Analog Phone Networks To Digital 218

An anonymous reader sends word that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has given the go-ahead for telecommunications companies to start experimenting with an IP-based telephone protocol. From the article: "The experiments approved by the FCC would not test the new technology - it is already being used - and would not determine law and policy regulating it, FCC staff said. The trials would seek to establish, among other things, how consumers welcome the change and how new technology performs in emergency situations, including in remote locations. 'What we're doing here is a big deal. This is an important moment,' FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. 'We today invite service providers to propose voluntary experiments for all-IP networks.' The move in part grants the application by AT&T to conduct IP transition tests as companies that offer landline phone services seek to ultimately replace their old copper wires with newer technology like fiber or wireless."
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FCC Wants To Trial Shift From Analog Phone Networks To Digital

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  • Re:The real motive (Score:5, Informative)

    by stox ( 131684 ) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @01:20AM (#46132163) Homepage

    Make that "ARE currently unregulated."

  • Re:Huh? IP already? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 02, 2014 @01:30AM (#46132201)

    Of course! Anybody not using POTS is already VOIP. Of course, even POTS customers are VOIP if they call beyond their local exchange, probably.

    On the plus side, if done right (HA!!) POTS would still be POTS but from the neighborhood Uverse/FIOS/etc box rather than from the central office - think many neighborhood exchanges rather than one or 2 per town. Or maybe each neighborhood on a phone co. PBX. The concept goes downhill from there ...

    And if that works they can get rid of some central offices which are often on valuable real estate near the middle of town.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 02, 2014 @02:02AM (#46132279)

    It works this well because it is /mandated/ that the resources required to /make it reliable/ are /spent/ to make it so.

    If wireless networks were provisioned with the battery backup/generators necessary and the redundancy of overlapping coverage to account for faults in towers (or some random drunk plowing in to one) then they too would be this 'reliable' (though the software in the stack would be in question; having multiple brands/models of phones would help).

  • by Casandro ( 751346 ) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @02:19AM (#46132323)

    Analogue telephone networks were phased out starting in the 1980s when digital transmission lines became affordable.

    The only part where you still can get an "analogue line" is the last mile. However even there the first thing that gets done is a conversion to digital.

    What the FCC is talking about is turning traditional digital TDM networks to VoIP networks. This has nothing to do with analogue or digital. With the proper adapters you can connect your dial phone to both, and your phone company can still charge you extra for touch dialling.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Sunday February 02, 2014 @02:22AM (#46132333) Journal
    Most people have been digital from the central office for over 20 years. Only the last mile has been analog for a rapidly shrinking fraction.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by stox ( 131684 ) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @02:36AM (#46132355) Homepage

    Digital has been around a lot longer than that, T1's were introduced in 1962. This is changing from circuit switched to IP. Enabling the carriers to jam more call over less wires/fibers than before. This will, of course, increase profits, but not reduce your bill.

  • by deconfliction ( 3458895 ) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @03:44AM (#46132589)

    Yup, more latency as you mentioned, and also likely to accompany it- worse audio quality as more calls are put through the same amount of bandwidth. Ain't progress grand? 30 years ago when I was a child, you could flip cable channels with maybe 0.25s latency for the picture to stabalize, now you can stare at a black screen for a few seconds. (not that my ability to waste my life channel surfing is defensible, but it's the same basic issue. And yes, DVR features do outweigh the degradation of channel change latency, but again, I'm just highlighting that tradeoffs are being made, and it isn't always a net win on user experience)

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @05:51AM (#46132921) Journal

    Modems and fax work fine over VoIP if you set their speed (bandwidth) lower than the bandwidth setting of the voip. If you set the voip channel to 48Kbps and set the fax to 56Kps that doesn't work well - you're trying to 56K of data through a 48K channel.

    Instead, set the VoIP to 64 and the fax to 34. 34K through a 64K channel works fine.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @05:51AM (#46132923) Homepage Journal

    The difference is that the phone company has a humongous UPS with a diesel backup maintained by professionals. Your grandma would likely get one from BestBuy and have no idea they have batteries that might fail without warning.

    Your cellphone might carry you for 3 to 4 days, and your generator might go indefinitely, but how long will the cable network itself stay up? Remember, it was designed at a time where if the power was out, so was anything that might be connected to the cable. And that was fine since it was just TV, the phone was for emergencies and important news came from a transistor radio. I know in my area there is no UPS on any of the network hardware. If the power glitches the network goes down.

  • by macpacheco ( 1764378 ) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:38AM (#46134137)

    There's really nothing to it.
    I worked for two carriers that have been doing it (POTS over SIP using the straight Internet).
    Apart from TDD (which we never had to deal with), it just works as long as the customer is using the carrier's ip network (mainly if the customer needs to do FAX or data calls), voice works using third party networks well too.
    This is the typical case of slowing down the process, just migrate it already.
    At the same time, there are millions of phone lines running over triple play boxes (typically HFC fiber-coax networks from CATV providers) for at least a decade, the only difference is in that case you're 100% stuck with using the provider's network, but it's IP as well (typically MGCP).
    This looks like a case of pretending it isn't done already...

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:58AM (#46134227) Journal

    A company that charges you $10 for a single call and you still haven't switched to Vonage at $25 / month, or Vitelity (cents per hour) or any of the other companies that treat you as a customer rather than a victim?!

    My business has used Vonage for years and we're very happy with it. Only when we first got it we had it set to high bandwidth, which our modem wouldn't carry without stuttering. Since we set it to medium or low bandwidth ten years ago we've had no trouble. If you've used something like Magic Jack $10 / year?) and you thought that all VoIP was like that I can understand. It's not, though. If you're willing to pay a few dollars per month there are several very good VoIP providers who will provide you with good service.

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