It’s the traditional, Analog Voice Transmission Phone System — POTS or Plain Old Telephone Service and it’s been around over 141 years.

POTS is the most basic telephone call service that consumer and businesses have been using since the 1880s — an upgrade over the fundamental phone system invented by Alexander Graham Bell.

However, digital technologies have stepped in to subvert most of the roles served by POTS.

A Bit of POTS History

Originally known as the Post Office Telephone Service, POTS relied on telephone operators to connect them to their destinations. When the service moved away from the post office, the term was changed to Plain Old Telephone Service.

Today, the term POTS is sometimes used in discussions of new telephone technologies in which the question of whether — and how — existing voice transmission for ordinary phone communication can be accommodated.

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) connections provide a portion of their bandwidth for POTS, most of the remaining bandwidth is used for digital data transmission.

How does a POTS line work?

To implement a telephone call, the various elements of the POTS network work together to execute a sequence of steps. But, in general, POTS works by establishing a dedicated circuit (connection) between two points — Point A to Point B — for the duration of a transmission between them. Copper wires connect these two points.

To establish the connection and enable the parties to communicate over the POTS line, the call is routed over one or more switches operating locally, nationally, or internationally.

Voice transmission along the POTS line occurs when the sound waves are first converted into electrical analog signals that flow through the network. Copper wires carry these signals with the help of switches. The signals are then converted back into sound waves that enable them to hear the caller.

Copper wires are generally susceptible to noise, which creates interference over the network. The signals also tend to get weaker as they travel over longer distances, so amplification may be required to carry them to their destination.

Transistors and Modems Paved the Way for Digital Networks

Phone lines were enabled to carry digital signals sent in the form of discrete packets thanks to the evolution of transistors and modems.

Different from the analog system, packet-based technology does not require a continuously open and dedicated circuit or channel. It uses the underlying network and switches to transmit voice and data messages independently. For this to happen, however, copper wires simply are not sufficient.

Copper wires have a limited frequency and cannot transmit digital signals which are binary. That’s where a modem plays a major role. It enables digital capability to be added to the existing analog POTS without the need for a complete overhaul. These are the two common modem types.

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN)

ISDN enables the transmission of both voice and data over a regular copper phone line. It was one of the earliest attempts to provide digital services via copper pair wires.

ISDN offers faster connections and higher-quality calls than standard POTS. It can also be integrated with other phone systems, like a private automatic branch exchange. For these reasons, ISDN is best suited for large companies or rapidly expanding businesses. The fees for using the service are calculated based on length of transmission time.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)

DSL enables data transmission over POTS. A transceiver connects to a computer and uses the local phone network to connect to the network of an internet service provider or ISP enabling the computer to access the internet.

Like ISDN, DSL is a last-mile solution that provides digital service over existing copper pairs. But, unlike ISDN, DSL offers speeds of 10 megabits per second or more, which is why it is more widely used. A DSL modem can meet the needs of individual users or small businesses, providing just enough bandwidth for a limited number of users to access the internet.

POTS to voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Another example of technology that has enhanced POTS is voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). VoIP uses an existing internet connection to transmit voice and data messages between two parties. With VoIP,  multiple remote offices can be connected while maintaining stable, robust communications.

It also offers features like interactive voice response, call forwarding and dynamic caller ID. One of the most common VoIP protocols is Real-time Transport Protocol which carries streaming audio and video over the internet, thereby enabling the VoIP. RTP is generally used with a signaling protocol, such as SIP, which sets up connections across the network.

Unlike POTS, VoIP carries voice via packet-switched data networks, which reduces calling costs, especially for international calls. Two of its drawbacks are security and downtime. If a  network is compromised by a hacker, it may compromise the confidentiality and integrity of VoIP calls. And, if the network goes down, both voice and data networks go down simultaneously.

Beyond VoIP to UCaaS

UCaaS or Unified Communications-as-a-Service is  essentially VoIP services that have expanded into multi-channel delivery systems. By pushing your communication solution to the software layer, you’re opening a myriad of new doors when it comes to enhancing the capabilities of what most people think of when they look at a phone.

From adding new features to the technology to integrating it with the software your business relies upon most, it’s all possible with VoIP, and especially UCaaS solutions, which are usually designed with integration in mind.

One limitation of VoIP, even for services that are delivered and managed via the cloud, is that they can be taxing to your local area network. With VoIP enabled, suddenly many of your PCs will start transmitting voice traffic not to mention all VoIP-enabled desktop handsets, mobile phones, tablets, and other devices. The biggest problem this invites is that this onslaught of new traffic is also sensitive.

UCaaS Features

UCaaS generally includes voice as one of its communication options, but as the name implies, it provides a more robust communications capability by offering other channels as well, notably video.

With UCaaS, your service provider will let you also schedule one-on-one video calls as well as one-to-many video conferences. This may not be a significant need for smaller companies but, as your team scales and as you hire in different geographical regions, you will want the ability to conduct “face-to-face” video calls.

With video conferencing and VoIP, you’ll be able to conduct meetings with hundreds of attendants, share your screen with everyone attending, and even share and receive files with everyone or certain individuals on the call.

POTS is being phased out and major telcos such as AT&T and Verizon are no longer supporting or adding new accounts. If you have received a notice like this, it’s your red flag to rethink POTS and move forward to a better business communication systems.

Dear Business Owner:

Effective immediately, the cost for your current POTS line phone services will be increased by 50%.  Your new price for the services will be $145 per line,  Please be aware that your current POTS line phone services will no longer be available after February 1, 2021.  We do have some alternate IP-based communications solutions that might fit your needs and allow you to remain at your current pricing structure. Please contact us at your earliest convenience.

There’s no reason to throw your money away on an antiquated, unsafe system when National Telesystems can guide you to the most effective, unified solution for all your business communication needs. Contact one of our professionals today and get on board with NTI for a brighter future.