The Sunset of POTS

After a century of good and faithful service to the citizens of the world, POTS – Plain Old Telephone Service – is singing its swan song.

With the advent of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), the day of physical landlines is coming to an end. At least one in three households no longer have a physical landline, opting for mobile only or a combination of mobile and VoIP service, often bundled by their internet or cable provider.

On the business side, the chasm between traditional phone service and VoIP is even wider – by some estimates, 80% of small and medium sized businesses will be using VoIP for business by the end of 2014. Why the sudden swing away from POTS and into the world of digital voice? One factor is user preference, while another is increasing unwillingness of providers to maintain two distinct networks. Overall, there are many reasons that VoIP is better than POTS:

  • VoIP is cheaper. With VoIP, local and international calls are extremely inexpensive compared to POTS, which often limits “local” to a very small area and mandates costly per minute toll charges for long distance intrastate and interstate calls, as well as staggering upcharges for international calls. With VoIP, most continental calls are included in a basic flat rate per month package, and international rates are significantly lower.
  • VoIP comes with all the bells and whistles thrown in. POTS providers can deliver features like Caller ID, call waiting, call blocking and so on, but most of these services come with additional fees and usage charges. With VoIP, these and other features are generally included in the package at no extra cost.
  • VoIP expands easily and cost effectively. With POTS, new offices must be painstakingly and expensively wired, and office layouts cannot be readily reconfigured. With VoIP, moving an office to a new site or expanding an office from ten to one hundred workstations can be done almost instantaneously with minimal cost and hassle.
  • VoIP is increasingly mobile. POTS doesn’t work except in the location the hard phone is wired to. With VoIP, phone service can be accessed from nearly anywhere using all types of enabled devices, making it simple for employees to switch between locations, work on the go, or telecommute from home.
  • VoIP is increasingly flexible. POTS is limited to voice only interaction, and even phone conferences are clumsy and prone to poor sound quality. With VOIP, conference calls, webcam functionality, file transfer, and other features are possible.

There is still a small but undeniable need for POTS, mostly in rural residential areas where VoIP is not available. VoIP for home use is still lower than for business, thanks to many residents opting out of “home phone” service altogether and depending on personal mobiles. 9-1-1 capability is still being refined for VoIP as well, but as VoIP becomes more available in remote areas and emergency services update their systems to coordinate with internet phone service and alarm / security upgrades, POTS will continue to see reduction in subscriptions and usage.

VoIP for both home and business, will continue to see increases in both usage and demand, as costs continue to fall and more devices become VoIP enabled. The ever expanding possibilities of VoIP for business leave POTS at a significant disadvantage, and in another decade we can expect plain old telephone service to be a thing of the past.