PSTN Abandonment: Is it happening?

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What was once a 20 year life cycle for core networking switched voice equipment (the central office) has been reduced to 10 years, or even less. When you reduce a piece of equipment’s natural lifespan, you increase the monthly cost of its amortization accordingly.

Decreasing Equipment Lifecycles
Based on simple math alone, if you bought a “box” to provide a service to your customers, and the life expectancy of that box was 20 years, you could easily calculate your cost per month per customer. If, because of new technology, the life expectancy were reduced to five years, your monthly-amortized cost would increase by four times to compensate for that event.

Diminishing Customer Base
Based on simple math alone, if you bought a “box” to provide a service to your customers, and your customer base diminishes by 50%, based on the above “20 year model”, your annual amortized expense would double per customer.

Decreased Support Cost For New Equipment
The legacy network required a trained workforce, roving around in vehicles, full of expensive test equipment. New modern networks can reside in “dark centers” where access to programming and diagnostics is all accomplished remotely through a data connection. This does nothing to reduce the expense of a trained workforce, but it does remove the requirement to have that workforce out in the streets in vehicles. Not only does this eliminate transportation expenses, it reduces the average time to repair since travel is not required.

The Perfect Storm: SANDY
Late in the fall of 2012, Hurricane Sandy barreled its way up the East Coast causing significant damage to our telecommunications infrastructure from Washington DC to New England. It was a classic example of the 100 year storm, and in addition to causing several outages, much of the infrastructure became destroyed. This poses a unique problem to telecommunications carriers like AT&T, Verizon and Century Link. Do they rebuild their aging infrastructure that was just recently amortized off the books, or was just about to be? If they do, they have to start the “20 year clock” all over again, but they are faced with statements that the PSTN will start to go away in five short years. [See my blog at www.Avaya.com/Fletcher – PSTN to end in 2018]

It’s not surprising then why several stories are cropping up like the one about Fire Island, New York, and Verizon attempting to NOT restore the legacy telephone network on copper lines. See the story “Verizon Seeks to Abandon Landlines on Fire Island”, [http://stopthecap.com/2013/03/20/verizon-seeks-to-abandon-landlines-on-fire-island-wireless-or-you-are-on-your-own/].

The story reports that concerned residents may register a complaint either by filling out a complaint form on the New York State Public Service Commission website or calling the NYSPSC directly at (800) 342-3377.

The story also reports that “Verizon officials have defended their decision, claiming a wireless system is more robust and can withstand severe weather better than a wired network.” However, it seems that Verizon lost 25 percent of its landline business in the last two years, as the company claims 80 percent of Verizon-handled calls to and from the island are through Verizon Wireless.

The question that remains, “Does the Verizon Wireless Voice Link service offer the same functionality as traditional land lines?” Apparently, the answer to that question is “NO”. Verizon’s response is that Voice Link is a voice-only product. It does not support advanced services such as:

  • Broadband
  • Telephone modem connections
  • Faxing
  • Alarm monitoring
  • Home medical monitoring
  • TDD/TTY for the hearing impaired or deaf
  • Credit card processing

Once Again E911 is Questionable
Reportedly, it does support E911, however, I would like to know through what mechanism is E911 being supported. If it is being treated as a wired fixed location, then I have a concern with someone moving the service and not updating that location. If it provides E911 through the cellular network, just pick up the newspaper and you will see a plethora of stories with public safety recommending that you NOT use a cellular phone, but instead use a landline phone which by default provides address information to a 911 operator.

Cellular phones do not always use GPS positioning, especially indoors where a GPS signal is not available. In these cases, TDOA (time delay on arrival) algorithms are used to detect the distance of the device from one or more towers, therefore providing a general area. If interpreted incorrectly, public safety may show up at your neighbor’s house, while you lie on the floor unable to move or speak.

Since text messaging to 911 is NOT yet available, the requirement to have an analog line still exists for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and require the use of a TTY or TDD device. Once again a classic example of how this community of people is completely ignored from a technology perspective, and treated like second-class citizens.

Big Brother is NOT Watching
Most of the conspiracy theorists think that there is too much oversight and watching by the government. No matter what side of that argument that you sit on, there is a concern where no government oversight exists. While customers are afforded some level of protection with legacy telephony services and oversight by the Public Service Commission and the FCC, customers will lose that oversight if things go wrong with Voice Link. As it stands today, Voice Link, is an unregulated service not subject to government oversight.

Got a complaint? Call the PSC.
Oh wait, that’s right, you can’t call the PSC, as your phone line is dead.

New England is Not Alone
Hear that rumbling? That’s not the daily thunderstorm rolling through the Sunshine State. It’s Verizon’s “Project Thunder”. It seems that the extensive buried underground facilities are deteriorating beyond repair, and if you are outside of a Fios service area, when you reported trouble on your copper circuit you will be persuaded to move to Voice Link wireless services.

The Crystal Ball Predicts . . .
This evolution of the Public Switched Telephone Network should come as no surprise to anyone. Several articles have been written including this one by Teresa Mastrangelo last July in her article, ” Verizon Getting Aggressive with Copper Plant Shutdown
[http://broadbandtrends.com/blog1/2012/07/23/verizon-getting-aggressive-with-copper-plant-shutdown/]

As published in “BroadbandTrends”:

“Historically, the gating factor to shutting down the PSTN was regulatory. However, Verizon has successfully lobbied in Florida and Virginia and Texas to pass some forms of deregulation, which allows Verizon “to invest where customers want us to invest and start to sunset some of the older technology.” As such, it appears that once FiOS reaches a certain penetration level in a market, the decision is made to migrate all customers towards FiOS as is already happening in markets such as Dallas.”


Want more Technology, News and Information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at http://avaya.com/APN . There you will find additional Podcasts from Industry Events such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN Staff.

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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog on E9-1-1, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉
Until next week. . . dial carefully.

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