What do you do when copper is no longer available? Can Wireless replace your aging POTS lines?
While the question is a bit misleading, a major challenge for many businesses is the gradual elimination of the traditional copper line or POTS basic telephony service. This is not because of telephones connected to POTS, but rather because of the myriad of devices that were designed to use a POTS line as a basis for the product or service.
From fire and burglary alarms to elevator and gate entry systems and a range of business integrations, using a POTS line has become basic not only into products and solutions in the market but also into regulation, such as NFPA 72 and UL 864 for life-safety systems. These regulations codify the functionality of POTS (that five nines availability) into regulatory statutes. The challenge is not only how to manage and maintain these systems for your business, but also how to continue when they are part of a service, such as an alarm system.
The problem is the combination of wireless and VoIP telephony has dramatically reduced the demand for traditional POTS lines. Maintaining complex last-century equipment for an ever-decreasing user base has become untenable and the FCC has enabled the carriers to eventually abandon their traditional POTS infrastructure. FCC reports the number of POTS lines in the United States declined from 122 million in 2010 to 41 million in 2019 and many carriers are on a path to drop POTS lines within five years. For remaining POTS users, service rates are going up dramatically as providers are forced to support their remaining POTS infrastructure from a smaller pool of customers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, POTS rates increased 36% from 2010 to 2021, even as mobile phone rates have gone down.
A potential answer for many applications is to move from the ubiquitous copper-based POTS of the last century to the modern wireless future. In the modern 5G world, the traffic and usage of these systems are essentially irrelevant, resulting in a great potential solution, if there is a way to access wireless from a node or service designed to use an ancient technology.
Enter Ooma, a SaaS infrastructure provider. Ooma announced this week the AirDial, an integrated edge point to make POTS-compliant calling across the mobile infrastructure. AirDial uses the T-Mobile wireless infrastructure to provide a wireless alternative, that according to Ooma, easily replaces POTS lines in solutions. Ooma AirDial is designed to serve as a POTS replacement, with features that include:
- Up to four analog connections with standard dial tone and full backward compatibility with POTS
- Options for either an exclusively wireless connection or failover from a wired broadband connection to wireless
- Backup battery that will maintain service for eight hours or more during an outage
- LCD display that shows wireless signal strength, battery status, and phone line status
- Remote management across multiple locations through an online portal, with the option to set automated alerts for events such as outages and batteries that need replacement
- Heat sink and ventilation for fan-less cooling
- Support for external antennas for installations where the AirDial unit isn’t near the exterior of a building
- Number porting
- Mounting that can be either vertical (wall) or horizontal (table)
The Ooma AirDial appliance and the service will be primarily made available through Ooma partners and channels.
While the Ooma AirDial may not be the only answer to replace a POTS line, it is intriguing both in simplicity and in potential low cost. While solutions and products that currently use POTS may migrate to a new IP-based model, the millions of existing products that have hardware that only support a traditional POTS connection will need to be supported. These are the myriad of gate controllers, elevators, and fire alarm panels that will have to be replaced or significantly upgraded to replicate the POTS functionality.
For companies and businesses that have a dependency on POTS capabilities for your monitoring or business needs, the Ooma AirDial may be a great answer to continue operations after POTS lines become unavailable (or uneconomic) for local carriers.