Insights & Resources

Why Do We Still Have a PSTN?

Many people find that they use the PSTN less and less, and—for many consumers—it’s entirely possible to get through the day without using the PSTN at all.

Josh Whitaker
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As VoIP and platform-based communications technologies have taken over, many people find that they use the PSTN less and less, and—for many consumers—it’s entirely possible to get through the day without using the PSTN at all.
On the surface, it seems that IP-based communication is just better than making a call from a PSTN landline. So why do we still have a PSTN?

An All-IP Network Will Eventually Replace the PSTN

Right now, the goal of both communications organizations and regulators is to someday replace the PSTN with an all-IP network, and carriers are working toward this eventuality. However, the process of replacing the PSTN is expensive and slow.
Additionally, the PSTN does have some characteristics that make it desirable to keep around, at least for the time being.

The PSTN is reliable

For the most part, the PSTN ‘just works.’ One thing that many of us learned as children was that our landline phones usually worked even when the electricity was out, provided the phone lines hadn’t been damaged.
This sort of reliability makes the PSTN ideal for emergency services like:
  • 911
  • Fire alarms
  • Medical alert services
  • Security systems
  • Fax machines.
In many areas and situations, VoIP solutions aren’t yet dependable enough to use as the only option for communication.

The PSTN is Very Secure

Cyber security costs businesses over $400 trillion dollars worldwide each year, and IP-based communications have security vulnerabilities that make them susceptible to some forms of cyber attacks. The software, data networks, and wireless data transmission that are often involved with VoIP communication all present potential access points for security breaches.
The PSTN, on the other hand, is mostly built on copper wiring. To compromise the security of PSTN voice communications, one would have to physically access the phone lines. This is why the old method of listening in on phone calls was called, “wiretapping.”
While cybersecurity has come a long way, and all-IP voice communication is used for a lot of things that were once considered too sensitive for digital transmission, the PSTN is still preferred for some conversations where security has to be guaranteed.

The PSTN is a Transition Tool

The TAC had envisioned that all-IP communications would be standard by 2018. However, the transition to VoIP and wireless solutions must be slow and methodical in order to prevent any disruption of service to end users.
Migration to IP technology must be done on a per-line basis, which is a very deliberate and methodical process. Additionally, IP capable infrastructure still needs to be built out to many rural areas, so carriers also face the task of making some physical improvements before the conversion to all-IP communication can be completed.
What’s more is that any solution which replaces PSTN service needs to be an equal replacement of the existing service. So, even though an IP-based service might be better overall, it must also provide the same features as the old service in order to be considered a viable replacement to PSTN technology.
At some point, an all-IP network will be reliable and secure enough to serve as a straight-over replacement for the PSTN. In the meantime, the PSTN will remain in place—at least as a failsafe—until VoIP and wireless solutions are deemed stable and secure enough to be used for all voice communications.

About Telnyx
Telnyx provides voice communication and messaging over a global IP network based on a private fiber-optic backbone and tier-1 interconnects for the most secure and reliable calling in the industry. Contact our customer success team to learn more.
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