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October 6, 2010

The migration to IP-based telephone systems and the death of PSTN

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by Brian Turner

A few months ago Panasonic quietly announced a move away from TDM telephone systems to focus on IP-based telephony.

TDM - Time-division multiplexing - was an established protocol in digital telephone systems, but has now been superceded by IP-based telephony using a packet-based system.

Certainly Panasonic and others are focusing on the IP market, and companies such as Avaya and mittel have already developed a strong market presence for IP office telephone systems.

To most general users, the switchover has been invisible, merely the supplanting of old technology with a newer one.

For people within the industry, it emphasises the continued emerging importance of internet technology in driving basic communications within business.

VoIP as an industry is still struggling to capture the wider public imagination. While Skype has become a household name, few are likely to be able to name rival VoIP services, let alone subscribe to one.

However, with the continued development focus on IP telephony, the chances are that in your workplace the telephones are now IP-based as opposed to using the more familiar PSTN (Public switched telephone network) system.

Now, the chances are that your workplace communications - telephone calls, faxes, and voice-messaging - are taking place over an Internet Protocol (IP) driven system.

Back in the Dot com boom years, the telecoms companies were realised to be at the forefront of development technology in tandem with the internet.

Most telecoms companies saw a massive rise in share prices as investor expectations focused on individual companies. Digital technology was already accelerating in the telecoms market, and it was promised to grow further.

Those expectations came crashing down along with share prices as the dot com bubble burst.

That’s why I find it interesting to observe the inherent switch to IP telephony within the telecoms industry - it’s a quiet revolution that most consumers seem blissfully unaware of. And why should they be?

After all, as some commentators have suggested, all we’re seeing is a system of improved technology replacing older technology, so why should anybody care? Certainly they did in the dot com years.

It used to be the case that we lived in a simpler analogue world. Digital technology has exploded our possibilities.

While many of us will use digital technologies, chances are that we are not aware of many of the revolutionary changes that have occured.

Man is an adaptable animal, and we simply adapt to change, regardless as to whether or not we understand it.

Now that BT and other telecoms providers are pushing on fibre-based broadband, what we’re seeing is not just a move to faster broadband speeds, but the laying of a whole new set of foundations - replacing our old copper telecoms network with fibre-optic based telecoms network. An IP telephony network.

To some, it is simply progress. But sometimes I like to stop, and instead of looking where we’re going, look to where we’ve been. The past is a simpler life, but the future is always more exciting.

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