Businesses Can't Afford to Cling to Costly, "Ma Bell" Era Communications Systems

If you haven’t said “goodbye” to traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN) systems for your business, you will be. Probably sooner than you think.

PSTNs, after all, were designed for an entirely different era. To function properly, they’d come to depend upon telephone exchanges, trunks, circuit switches, telephone operators and miles of wires lining our neighborhood skylines. And, of course, Ma Bell. In fact, the first known PSTN dates back to the 19th Century, when the Bell Telephone Company built an experimental telephone exchange in 1877. That’s right. PSTNs literally predate Thomas Edison’s introduction of the modern light bulb – by two years. Given this kind of history, what’s the likelihood that the PSTN is still relevant today? Not very.

Not when there’s an ongoing push within private industry and the government to phase out PSTNs by 2018. Why? Because more than half (PDF) of U.S. households no longer have or use landlines, and that number is growing daily. In addition, an increasing number of businesses are recognizing the many advantages of converged Internet Protocol-based systems, including access to Cloud-based services and solutions, to enhance communications functionality, productivity, efficiency, security, affordability, and the overall quality of voice and data services.


That’s what converged services are all about. Voice is just one of many applications in the cloud, where improvements are more effectively and swiftly made. PSTNs obviously weren’t invented with the modern concept of connectivity in mind – it was strictly intended for simple, one-on-one conversations. Not multiple-party phone and/or video conferences in which multimedia files are shared, in sessions conducted on sophisticated mobile devices.

How can a system designed for rotary dial machines remain relevant in an age when everyone is making calls from the high-powered computers that we call smartphones, or from iPads? It can’t. Why would we still depend upon PSTNs when modern communication has driven demand for the very latest in unified communications, such as Visual Voicemail, so employees can see all of their voice messages in an email inbox and no longer spend time getting frustrated going through a maze of phone-tree prompts? We shouldn’t.

As always, the conference was an eye-opening experience. This was the clear takeaway: The timeline for PSTN is coming to a close. Businesses of all kinds – from dentist offices to law firms to multi-store retailers to large, global enterprises – will all have to make the transition to IP and cloud-enabled voice and data systems. Because if they don’t, they won’t be able to reach and support their customers as well as other businesses in their space. They’ll fail to retain talented employees who are frustrated by a lack of modern, productivity-focused features and services. They’ll spend too much money and end up with far, far less as a result.

Let’s just suggest that you’re leaning toward sticking with your current PSTN plan. What happens when you expand locations, and then need to spend heavily for the extension of traditional phone line infrastructure and implementation? What do you do when the plug inevitably gets pulled? How much more will you pay to rip out the old, and finally convert to the new?

In an upcoming blog post, we’ll elaborate upon how we at Fusion and those same partners from the conference are constantly working together to come up with better, more affordable ways to help businesses like yours make this transition. Meanwhile, if you’d like to ask about what we can do for you now, please get in touch.

Questions of the week: Do you still use a PSTN-based phone system? If so, what would convince you to switch to an IP-supported one?

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