What’s PSTN, and what’s VoIP? What does the forecast say about the future of telephony, why should you never buy a phone again? And what the heck does butter have to do with any of it?
PSTN is like churning: the old way of shaking up cream to make butter. Known for providing reliable communications to its subscribers, PSTN is the traditional and international telephone system, that originally carried analogue voice data through copper wires. Today, they’re digitized but carried over the phone network separately from Internet traffic. PSTN stands for Public Switched Telephone Network, and is also referred to as Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS).
Interconnected by telephone exchanges (circuit switches), telephone lines, fiber optic cables, microwave transmission links, cellular networks, communication satellites, and undersea telephone cables together enable telephones to communicate with each other, connecting seamlessly between different countries through the ITU-T standards.
Also known for its dial-up sound, PSTN use numbers like route maps. They consist of three codes: an area code or a national destination code, an exchange code which indicates the minimum need of circuits bundled for the particular call, and lastly, the subscriber’s individual number.
In the early days of PSTN, telephony needed assisting operators, physically and manually connecting pieces of copper wires to one another on a switchboard, in order to to connect every individual phone call. The longer the distance of the call, the more copper wire was required, and therefore, the more expensive the service. From the 60’s and forward when phone calls digitized and switching automatized, many calls could share the same line.
As for today, the number of subscribers are decreasing…
VoIP is like modern cooking: using a fast food processor to shake up the cream, and letting the spinning blades do the work. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, which means real-time transmissions of voice signals from one IP address to another. It’s a generic term for a set of facilities that sends voice in digital form, enabled either through Ethernet and Wi-Fi, through an analog telephone adapter (ATA) or through a softphone. VoIP calls can be made phone-to-phone, computer-to-phone, or in other ways. And there’s much more to it.
“Less than two decades old, VoIP has revolutionized communication all around the world”. VoIP was developed sometime around 1995, with a purpose of enabling intimate real-time communication while avoiding long-distance and international charges. VoIP rests on the two major innovations telephony and the Internet.
There were few incentives for using the somewhat redundant technology, with its poor sound quality and “free” calls compromised by series of advertisements. Or so it seemed. In early 2000, the call quality and connectivity improved with the availability of broadband Ethernet. VoIP switching became a thing, and people as well as companies worldwide finally started realizing the benefits of the technology, as operating costs soared.
Then came Skype, the company that “forever changed what we wear in front of the computer”. Starting off with voice in 2003, Skype was flexible and attentive to the user demand. After adding video conferencing options a few years later, and through limiting third-party software and hardware, Skype became top-of-mind in the entire market.
Why make the effort of churning the butter yourself? Today, 46,5% of U.S. households are without a landline, according to an estimation by Pew Research Centre, and VoWiFi (the wireless version of internet telephony designed to work on mobile devices) is estimated to grow massively within the next four years.
Graph borrowed from Cisco Visual Networking Index
“For more than 100 years, phones changed very little…Then touchscreen smartphones changed everything.”
In contrast, “the argument from the foodie standpoint is that the slow churned butter would have a better flavor and a better texture, and therefore be a better product”, says Steven Saslow, VP of ITG. He argues that the quality of VoIP calls is lower, and that, as a provider, it’s virtually impossible to guarantee a certain level of service, since controlling the data packets’ movement on the Internet is very complex. In other words, if your Internet connection is failing, then so will your calls. However, the technology has come a long way, and the problems of VoIP are now extinct. Accordingly, Saslow also says this:
“There is some solutions out there that are far better than others. In fact, there’s a couple of them that can almost guarantee you 100%.”
It all comes down to learning the difference between the two services, and how to deploy voice solutions based on it. Sometimes a hundred percent is vital. Other times, the few percents that goes unguaranteed is worth a service that’s free of charge.
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