Shortly after I originally wrote my last post, the FCC held its December open meeting. At this meeting, the Technology Transitions Policy Task Force gave its update on the transition. Chairman Tom Wheeler’s response refers to the “transition from 19th-century analog technology to 21st-century IP technology.”
This hand-waving of the hundred years’ worth of development to get from analog to IP demonstrates that the focus is on rapid advancement and that, while customers will be kept in mind, the intent is to disrupt minimally rather than to eliminate disruption. This is a major shift from an organization which has typically driven policy based on the “five nines” of reliability.
What began as an outside chance of businesses being halted, as the PSTN is taken offline, now seems a certainty. The next FCC meeting is scheduled for January 30 and, based upon the pace set by Chairman Wheeler, testing could start as early as the second quarter of 2014. It is vital to know the options available to prepare users ahead of the switch so as to prevent service interruption.
One popular solution is to move existing CO lines to SIP COs and provide an Integrated Access Device (IAD) that will convert these COs to a PSTN format, such as PRI or FXO, to interface to the existing system without making any configuration changes. Most carriers who are pushing the IP transition are doing so due to the success of IADs, but it is important to be aware of the ramifications of such conversions. IAD FXO circuits, due to greatly shortened line lengths, typically bump into issues involving echo and excessively high volume, and can often create problems with phantom ringing due to ring voltage and cadence instability; and IAD PRI circuits often experience clocking difficulties, due to inconsistent and misconfigured IAD clocks, which lead to poor audio quality and, in severe cases, dropped calls.
The cleanest and most straightforward solution is to move existing CO lines to SIP COs and connect to the phone system directly as a native SIP client. In ESI Communications Servers, this can be done with the addition of a SIP add-on card. IP Server 900 systems are already SIP-capable and simply require a license to enable the functionality. Either solution not only escapes the issues of the PSTN shutdown and the conversion issues experienced by IADs but also opens the system to new carrier features as they are developed and released. With products like the ESI Voice Router and hosted solutions such as ESI cloud services installing SIP COs, ensuring compatibility has never been easier.
It’s not exactly a jump out of the 19th century, but it is a step into the 21st. And that, at least according to Chairman Wheeler, is a good start.