29 February, 2008

In praise of POTS

As in Plan Old Telephone Service

In this age where a growing minority (according to some reports now the majority – at least in the USA, several developing countries have bypassed land lines and gone directly to cellular) of folks have abandoned traditional land line telephone service in favor of either cellular or VoIP. While there are compelling economic reasons for such a shift there are a few things to consider particularly if you live in a more rural area and subject to prolonged power outages.

This winter has made some of these apparent, for the VoIP customers if you don’t have power, unless you have a UPS on your cable modem, router & VoIP gateway chances are very good that you won’t have phone service, especially if you are trying to use a wireless (not cellular) handset & base station, and even then the cable may (or may not) last as long as their UPS. Same applies to Cellular service, chances are – again if you live in a more rural area the local towers will shut down a few hours after the power goes out unless they have generator backup which is not common for cellular towers and how do you charge your cell phone?

Other things to consider;
Both Cellular and VoIP have interesting results when you dial 911
Both systems are subject to service affecting glitches that may not be related to the service

Returning to the humble twisted pair of copper telephone line, while you won’t get a guarantied data rate for your modem other than the line being broken about the only thing that will disable a POTS line system is more than 80% of its handsets being off the hook at the same time, besides uncommon mass voluntary usage exceeding the limit the only event that can disable a well designed POTS is a major earthquake.

And as recent travels in flyover country have shown, not every where has WiFi.

1 comment:

  1. The hilltop Cell towers I've seen have propane tanks for backup power. I suspect sites with substantial coverage and tower expense also have space and justification for extended backups.

    My cable provider, on the other hand, has a generator at their switch point (the town trash transfer station), but it or some system upstream or downstream gives up after an hour or two.

    Of course, POTS keeps working, and we have one self-powered phone on the line. Remarkably reliable technology....