Print 22 comment(s) - last by DocScience.. on Feb 3 at 1:59 PM

Carriers would be able to replace old copper wires with either fiber or wireless

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is allowing carriers like Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. to conduct trials for digital phone networks instead of the traditional analog versions. 
According to the FCC, it unanimously voted in favor of trials that test a switch from circuit-switch technology to internet protocol-based networks. But the FCC said it isn't testing the new technology itself -- since it's already in use -- but rather, it will test how consumers react to the switch, how it benefits them, how it performs in important situations, etc. 
This could certainly prove to be advantageous for consumers, especially those in rural areas that often complain about little to no connectivity when it comes to their IP-based services. 
The carriers would definitely benefit, as they'd be able to replace old copper wires with either fiber or wireless. This would mean they wouldn't have to continue investing in both old networks and new networks anymore. 

It's not clear when the trials will begin, but they will be voluntary and cover multiple areas with different topologies, weather conditions and population densities/demographics. 

AT&T is just one U.S. company that has been launching a fiber network around the states. For instance, the carrier released its U-verse all-fiber Internet network with GigaPower in Austin, Texas last month, which will deliver initial speeds of 300 megabits-per-second. According to AT&T, its new service will offer upstream speeds 20 times faster than what’s available today, and it will reportedly allow users to download a full HD movie in under two minutes. 

Google is another tech giant implementing its fiber network around the country. It has already gone live in Kansas, Utah and Texas

Source: FCC

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Copper good
By Motoman on 1/31/2014 2:03:42 PM , Rating: 2
In the interest of full disclosure...

We live in a "rural" area...although we're 10 minutes from being downtown in a town of about 20,000, and can be downtown in our state capital in 30 minutes.

Everyone in the house has a cell phone that is virtually the exclusive manner of communications with other least as far as phone service goes. We have a landline...but it's essentially never used.

Don't particularly want to use the landline really...since long distance is free on the cell phones, and since we always have a cell phone in our pockets, there's little point in walking over to where the landline phone is to use it at all.

...unless. Unless there's some kind of emergency. Like, there's a big snowstorm that's blocking cell phone reception, and our power goes out. Need to call the electric company and at least let them know. Or maybe the house catches fire...who knows? But there are times when cellular service just isn't there...and if the power's out, than no manner of IP phone would work either (assuming we had cable or DSL to run VOIP on...which we don't).

You know what always works, no matter what the weather is or if there's electricity or not? A landline phone. With the caveat that, of course, it's possible that something broke the physical phone lines too...but that happens with almost *no* frequency, whereas weather (or cellular congestion during an emergency) can make your cell phone useless on a regular basis, and losing electricity is a lot more likely than losing your phone line.

If the "solution" is running broadband of some kind to all houses, so that they can do VOIP, then I'm all for that...if for no other reason than it would firstly include getting us all broadband in the first place, and if need be I can run my cable modem off of a generator. But if the "solution" is just tossing all the physical connections and declaring that cellular is good enough...well, that's just stupid.

RE: Copper good
By Azuroth on 1/31/2014 3:10:38 PM , Rating: 2
I'd just like to point out that POTS requires power to the central office. If their power goes down, (and their backup/generator runs out of power) your copper lines don't have service either.

I think most phone providers go for 5 sigma reliability on their POTS lines, which means for around 5 minutes a year you wouldn't get a dial tone.

Much more reliable than wireless, but not immune to blanket power outages :)

RE: Copper good
By Motoman on 1/31/2014 3:12:56 PM , Rating: 2
True...although clearly the likelihood that *they* lose power is exponentially smaller than the likelihood that *you* lose power ;)

RE: Copper good
By Lord 666 on 1/31/2014 8:33:30 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, the spec for POTS is DC current supplied by batteries. Another interesting thing about POTS is alarm systems look for variations in current for up/down situations vs dial tone, part of the reason why alarms are not connected to a pbx. So if this digital service goes full effect, some alarms will have to be redone. Even in my own house, the alarm system is fed by a FiOS ONT, but some people have issues with it.

There were quite a few CO's that were knocked out during Sandy. Wireless (specifically VZW) proved to be reliable.

RE: Copper good
By Belegost on 1/31/2014 3:31:39 PM , Rating: 3
The suggestion is that they prove to the FCC that a wireless infrastructure can meet the reliability requirements the FCC mandates. That is the purpose of these tests.

Overall I tend to agree with this direction as it would free up resources from maintaining hundreds of miles of copper line that is slowly becoming unused. And if the FCC does it's job simultaneously wireless reliability should be improved to maintain standards. So, ideally you would find you have better service from the cellular which is what you want to use anyways, and you can drop the landline.

Of course this requires that the FCC actually hold them to the standards, and with a lobbyist like Wheeler as chairman my faith in that happening is effectively none.

Perhaps I'm pessimistic, but I expect this to raise rates and lower quality across the board, with execs throwing parties in their boardrooms at all their extra profits.

RE: Copper good
By ebakke on 1/31/2014 3:56:47 PM , Rating: 2
The other obvious alternative with an IP phone is to have a backup power source. As you said, unless something severed the utility lines (which is rare) you'll still have a connection at your house. You just need something to power your modem/phone. Perhaps a battery backup if you just need to be able to turn it on once every few hours to make a short call. Perhaps you already have a generator and can just plug in your modem and phone.

RE: Copper good
By sorry dog on 1/31/2014 4:15:09 PM , Rating: 2
IP phone boxes with battery backup is widely available to give a few hours of service without power.

With that said, analog pairs are much more resistant to outages since the complexity, support, and fine tuning is way less than DSL or HFC coax connections. It goes a lot further without additional power as well where coax needs amplifiers every so often that run on battery backups if power is lost.

RE: Copper good
By rudolphna on 1/31/2014 8:43:25 PM , Rating: 2
That only works as long as the system you are running it on has power. For example, in a Cable system, there is generally 60-90 minutes worth of battery backup for the Fiber-Coax Nodes, and the amplifies along the way. Once those backups run out of power, the cable system is offline until the company rolls trucks with generators to power the nodes and various equipment along the way. It depends on how long the power is going to be out.

RE: Copper good
By sorry dog on 2/3/2014 10:03:11 AM , Rating: 2
In a properly maintained system, it's more like 8 to 24 hours... depending on number of LE's on a line.

(LE = line extender)

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