Light Reading

Line-Powered Phone Lines: A Hot Topic Again

Carol Wilson
8/20/2014
50%
50%

There was a time when the fact that phone lines provided their own electrical power was a differentiation point for telcos in their competition against the cable industry. In fact, there was a time when it was considered a primary weapon in the battle against cable, when many expected that neither consumers nor regulators would want a phone service that relied on a battery backup in times of natural or unnatural disasters.

The lack of line-powering was also considered an early hurdle for fiber-to-the-home deployments. Some even thought every fiber line would come with a copper line, to provide the power.

But a lot has happened since the debates of the late 1980s. I would argue that wireless phones inside the home created the first break with line-powered telephony -- many people went to cordless phone systems because of their convenience without thinking about the fact they require in-home powering to operate.

Then came the widespread adoption of cellular phones, which became the emergency service phone of choice when the power went out. So when cable launched its "digital voice" initiative about 10 years ago, consumers had already become accustomed to the idea that the wired home phone was no longer the lifeline it was once considered. Cable voice was, in fact, voice-over-IP, and required its own battery backup to function when commercial power failed.

When Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) rolled out its FiOS service, installing the battery backups was one of the things that initially slowed technicians down, and led to long installation times. But most consumers were enamored of their faster Internet access and loved having a competitor to cable for TV, so the poor old POTS line wasn't a priority. (And the industry cheered Verizon -- as per this Light Reading poll, dating back to 2007.)

So it might come as a surprise to learn that the issue of line-powering the phone hasn't gone away -- in fact, as this Ars Technica article relates, it's become a major sticking point for Verizon, as it tries to phase out its copper network in areas where it has deployed FiOS. Some consumers are angry about being forced to give up what they see as a necessity: a line-powered home phone line. So Verizon is being accused of neglecting the copper network that feeds those consumers.

But retiring the copper network where FiOS was deployed was always the plan, at least as I remember it. Part of the cost justification of FiOS deployment was elimination of an aging copper network, which is less reliable, harder to troubleshoot and more expensive to maintain than a newer fiber network. The idea of continuing to run a copper network while taking on the expense of a new fiber network didn't seem to make financial sense.


Want to attend our next big event? Then check out the agenda for NFV and the Data Center, September 16 at the Santa Clara Marriott, Calif.


After a series of major storms -- mainly Hurricane Sandy -- taught the densely populated East Coast new lessons about disaster recovery, however, there is now a new -- or maybe nostalgic -- attitude toward those reliable, line-powered phones. And that attitude could spread, and affect the plans of Verizon, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) and others, to retire their old copper lines in favor of fiber or even wireless access.

Other people in other places -- such as Houston and the surrounding area after Hurricane Ike hit in 2008 and took out commercial power for weeks -- have learned similar lessons. The phones worked when not much else did.

And so, the whole notion of line-powered phones, which seemed almost quaint just a few short years ago, is once again center stage. I wonder what this next act will reveal.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

(11)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
brooks7
50%
50%
brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/22/2014 | 12:39:21 PM
Re: 8 hours
 

Duh!,

The specifications are pretty simple for the older telecom systems.  They are supposed to be able to have direct battery backup for 8 hours.  The complication comes in what is modeled for the battery drain of a system.  For our DLCs (outside of the systems that were used by ISPs), we used 25% off-hook for a model.

For the FiOS ONTs, yes we devolved into specification nightmare about talk time and service shutdown.  I was unhappy with the custom battery chemistry because of this requirement.  I think it would have been better to use off the shelf batteries that consumers could easily acquire so that they can replace them.

Carol,

One other HUGE change that happened is that the line powering only works if the phone does not require AC itself.  People started having cordless phones with answering machines built in.  If the power is out at the cabinet, it is likely to be out at the home.  That means that a customer needs an old fashioned, simple phone to make it work.  There are fewer of them than you might think.

Now if we can just the the Panasonic Answering Machine issues solved....

seven

 
Duh!
50%
50%
Duh!,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/21/2014 | 10:33:18 AM
Re: 8 hours
I don't remember the details, but the requirement was a bit more complex than that.  I believe there were separate specs for standby time for data, standby time for POTS on-hook, and POTS off-hook.  Plus there is no reason why a customer couldn't plug the service provider's UPS into a secondary UPS. 

Also, all that line power has to come from somewhere.  COs generally have generators in addition to several hours of battery capacity.  DLCs generally have a couple of days worth of battery capacity.  Beyond that, the operator has to dispatch a truck with a portable generator.  During extended outages, generator fuel becomes a problem (as BellSouth discovered after Katrina).

This points to a bigger issue.  Our industry does a lousy job of informing our customers.  We live in a cynical time, and people no longer trust operators, as they once trusted the Bell System.  This stuff is complex, and consumer attention spans are short.  There has to be a way to communicate the concept that FTTH availability is better than POTS, and not have it come off as self-serving corporate blah-blah. 

We just got an email from our FTTH provider about "Power outages & inclement weather".  I'd sure like to have a friendly chat with whoever wrote that. 
brooks7
50%
50%
brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/20/2014 | 3:02:42 PM
Re: 8 hours
Roger. Will send something tonight or tomorrow. seven
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
8/20/2014 | 2:54:13 PM
Re: 8 hours
Might need that - this looks like an issue that bears examination. 
brooks7
50%
50%
brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/20/2014 | 2:39:24 PM
Re: 8 hours
Carol, Power is inserted at the point of POTS line termination. In a CLASS 5 switch it's the line bay. On a Digital Loop Carrier it's the POTS line card. Same place ringing is inserted on the line (okay ring relays in one case and SLICS in the other). Let me know if you ever want to a tutorial about the details here. seven
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
8/20/2014 | 1:57:18 PM
Re: 8 hours
Seven, 

Nope, I can't see any RFPs on TDM switching. So all of that is of a piece - no TDM switches, no line-powering? Pardon my ignorance on this stuff, it's just not something I've had to deal with much as a journalist. 

 

 
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
8/20/2014 | 1:56:08 PM
Re: 8 hours
Phil,

Right now, my flood control system is the only thing with a serious power backup. But we're looking at generators that could keep essential equipment going and I'm think that means the refrigerator and our Internet service. 
brooks7
50%
50%
brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/20/2014 | 1:53:56 PM
Re: 8 hours
Carol, I think the bigger issue is that the equipment to do POTS at the large telcos is really old. You can't buy spares for 5ESS or DMS100 systems anymore. Litespan is gone. I know that AT&T has had to do some juggling to keep switches in production. I can not imagine an RFP to do anything like new TDM voice equipment. Can you? seven
Phil_Britt
50%
50%
Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/20/2014 | 1:52:20 PM
Re: 8 hours
I'm surprised that Comcast didn't try to sell you some type of upgrade to fix the problem. 

There are some interesting posts on "Funny or Die" about Comcast customer service, and how Comcast concentrate's on upselling during calls, though other cable companies (including the one I have) aren't much better in that vein.

Eventually we may all need small generators for backup power, especially in the Midwest. But they are expensive and an adequate generator today likely won't provide enough power in the future. 
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
8/20/2014 | 1:17:48 PM
Re: 8 hours
I think you are right - some cable VoIP plans have four-hour batteries. I've been fighting with Comcast over the fact our battery backup service doesn't work and their response has been, "Don't you have a cellphone?"

What's interesting here is the way the industry and consumers moved away from what was once a staple of the wireline world and now we see it coming back. 

The elderly needed wireline service as much 10 years ago as they do now, but that wasn't a topic of discussion. 
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
More Blogs from Rewired
When even social service benefits require online access, 365 Data Centers is helping one Bay Area agency keep its clients connected.
Eight weeks in to getting gigabit Internet service over fiber-to-the-home, I still can't answer that question.
Some folks say they'll never forgo six-nines reliability and 50 millisecond restoration standards, but there are definite signs Web 2.0 approaches are taking hold.
After almost three decades of writing about fiber-to-the-home, I'm finally getting it and I'm going for the whole gig.
Alliance with Deloitte creates one-stop shop of cyberattack mitigation by adding governance, risk management and compliance consulting.
From The Founder
Against the odds, Huawei is growing its telecoms networking equipment business in the US -- that should be ringing some alarm bells for domestic vendors.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
Between the CEOs
Metaswitch's New CEO Martin Lund Discusses His Role

9|2|15   |   11:27   |   (1) comment


Technology industry veteran Martin Lund joins Metaswitch Networks this week as the company's new CEO. In this interview, Lund discusses his new role and the industry's progress with Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders. Lund believes that the industry disruption caused by SDN and NFV is creating opportunities for companies like Metaswitch – network software providers ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Nominum on Leveraging the Power of DNS to Deliver Superior Subscriber Experiences

9|2|15   |   07:13   |   (0) comments


Nominum CEO Gary Messiana talks about the challenges service providers face in competing for a much more sophisticated customer, a customer that has heightened expectations for more personalized and compelling digital experiences. Providers are focusing their efforts on delivering higher value subscriber services, retaining their existing customers and increasing ...
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Jeff Miller, ActiveVideo

8|28|15   |   19:05   |   (0) comments


Jeff Miller, President and CEO of ActiveVideo, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the impact of virtualization on the TV and video distribution market.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Vodafone: Mobile Money Is About Customer Trust

8|27|15   |   06.36   |   (0) comments


Light Reading spoke with Vodafone's Ian Ravenscroft about the unique responsibilities and opportunities facing operators handling customers' financial transactions over the network.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Palo Alto Networks on Expanding in the Carrier/Service Provider Market

8|26|15   |   07:54   |   (0) comments


Alfred Lee from Palo Alto Networks tells Steve Saunders about their new chassis-based system, the PA-7080, and how it can benefit service providers compared to legacy firewalls.
LRTV Custom TV
Global Services Forum Preview

8|25|15   |   02:36   |   (0) comments


Light Reading's CEO and Founder Steve Saunders talks about Huawei's upcoming Global Services Forum with the help of Heavy Reading's Patrick Donegan and Teresa Mastrangelo.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Infoblox on DNS Threat Index

8|19|15   |   04:39   |   (0) comments


Dilip Pillaipakam from Infoblox talks to Steve Saunders about his company's core network services.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Ihab Tarazi, Equinix

8|14|15   |   20:18   |   (1) comment


Equinix CTO Ihab Tarazi talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the dramatic changes in the data center, cloud and interconnect markets and discusses the impact of SDN and NFV in the coming years.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
The Netformx Ecosystem

8|14|15   |   09:39   |   (1) comment


Ittai Bareket, CEO of Netformx, talks with Steve Saunders about the Netformx Ecosystem, which employs cutting-edge prescriptive analytics to help solution providers maximize profits.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Versa Networks on Leveraging VNFs

8|12|15   |   07:37   |   (0) comments


Kumar Mehta, founder and CEO of stealth mode startup Versa Networks, talks with Steve Saunders about how providers can best leverage virtualized network functions (VNFs).
LRTV Custom TV
Transforming the Network Through OPNFV

8|5|15   |   7:09   |   (0) comments


Sandra Rivera, VP Data Center Group; GM Network Platforms Group, Intel Corporation, on OPNFV Arno and how the industry is coming together to accelerate the deployment of NFV and transform the network.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei ONS Product Demo

8|3|15   |   6:01   |   (0) comments


Huawei shows at Open Networking Summit 2015 in Santa Clara how its SDN and NFV solutions embrace openness.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 16, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 16, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
November 17, 2015, Santa Clara, California
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Cisco's cloud and virtualization portfolio can increase business agility and innovation by building a more flexible network architecture.
Hot Topics
T-Mobile CEO Plays Data Traffic Cop
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 8/31/2015
CEO Chat With Bill Gates
Steve Saunders, CEO and founder, Light Reading, 8/31/2015
Time to Monetize Cable WiFi
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 8/31/2015
New Apple TV: More $$, Not Content – Report
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 8/31/2015
Ex-AlcaLu Boss Tasked With Bolstering Altice
Iain Morris, News Editor, 9/1/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
September 16, 2015
Wi-Fi First or Second?
September 22, 2015
Media Begins With “Me”
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Technology industry veteran Martin Lund joins Metaswitch Networks this week as the company's new CEO. In this interview, Lund discusses his new role and the industry's progress with Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders. Lund believes that the industry disruption caused by SDN and NFV is creating opportunities for companies like Metaswitch – network software providers with the agility to embrace new technologies quickly and the ability to deliver on substantial projects for global network operators.
The scene: Last Saturday, lunchtime, the interior of a shi-shi-foo-foo eatery in Manhattan's SoHo district.
Cats with Phones
Tastes Like Fish Click Here
Please hold while I lick the phone.