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
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
Rutberg's Rejeev Chand gets FCC's Clbyburn plus Google Fiber and DISH execs to play the true-false game, with interesting results.
New open source group provides substantial industry insight at MWC -- here's hoping they keep up the effort to keep non-members informed.
In the wake of major breaches, enterprises are working harder to get compliance, but not hard enough to stay that way.
Even the best specialized routers can't keep pace with the 100,000-plus % increase in mobile data traffic, Donovan tells MWC.
Response to FCC head Tom Wheeler's expected re-regulation of broadband access lines was predictable, but also maybe irrelevant.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Networks of the future will rely on "white box" switches and servers rather than proprietary hardware and that's going to alter the shape of the communications industry. Who says so? John Chambers.
LRTV Custom TV
The Benefits of HyperScale Clouds for NFV

3|27|15   |   01:50   |   (0) comments


Hyperscale cloud has been developed by the Internet giants to support the creation and delivery of software-based services at blistering speeds, and at the lowest possible cost. The original ETSI NFV vision was to adopt hyperscale cloud architecture and practices. This vision has become somewhat obscured along the way, due to misunderstandings about the hyperscale ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
eLTE Rapid Meets the Need for Speed

3|26|15   |   4:45   |   (0) comments


Designed especially for emergency and dedicated ad hoc local mobile communications coverage, Huawei's eLTE Rapid solution can deliver trunked voice, video and data coverage for multiple users over a 6km range and be set up in just 15 minutes, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
On Videos: Challenges & Opportunities

3|26|15   |   5:56   |   (0) comments


Most everything is now connected. And along with 4K and 4G technologies, everyone could be creating and broadcasting video contents. Users are expecting better video experience with any screen, anywhere and anytime. Operators will meet new challenges, but also see some big opportunities.
LRTV Custom TV
JDSU: Delivering Dynamic Networks for a Personalized Experience

3|26|15   |   5:59   |   (0) comments


Light Reading speaks to JDSU at Mobile World Congress 2015 about new solutions in the areas of HetNets, VoLTE, backhaul, virtualization, big data analytics, and real-time intelligence.
LRTV Custom TV
Smarter Service Chaining & New Ways to Benefit From Qosmos Technology

3|25|15   |   03:11   |   (0) comments


David Le Goff, director of strategic and product marketing at Qosmos, explains how the company has added application awareness to subscriber information to make service chaining more efficient and reduce costs for networking and infrastructure. In addition, Qosmos technology, which has been delivered as C libraries, is now also available as a virtual machine, ...
Between the CEOs
Qosmos CEO: The Changing Face of DPI

3|24|15   |   13:53   |   (0) comments


LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures. Also, how the comms market is becoming more like the automotive industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
FC Schalke Scores With Its Agile Stadium

3|24|15   |   6:23   |   (0) comments


Top German soccer club FC Schalke 04 has deployed a new, agile WiFi network from Huawei in its Veltins-Arena stadium and is reaping the benefits in terms of customer satisfaction and business opportunities, explains marketing chief Alexander Jobst.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Insights on Mobile Video

3|24|15   |   7:51   |   (0) comments


More people than ever are now watching videos on smartphones. Seventy percent of mobile traffic will be video traffic until 2018. In this video, Huawei's exports give their insights on mobile video in terms of business model, network planning and 4G network construction.
LRTV Documentaries
The Rise of Industry 4.0

3|24|15   |   02:26   |   (9) comments


Are you ready for the fourth industrial revolution? It's a big deal for influential operators such as Deutsche Telekom.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Getting Connected With eLTE

3|23|15   |   06:04   |   (0) comments


Trunked radio communications have entered the 4G LTE world, and with Huawei's eLTE solution, can now deliver a full range of data and video services as well as push-to-talk voice, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Funkwerk’s on Track With Huawei

3|19|15   |   3:23   |   (0) comments


GSM-R technology specialist Funkwerk and Huawei have forged a partnership that is benefiting both parties, notes Funkwerk's Gottfried Winter.
LRTV Documentaries
How EANTC Tested Cisco's Virtualization Solutions

3|18|15   |   5:49   |   (0) comments


Carsten Rossenhövel, managing director of independent test lab EANTC, tells Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the innovative approach his team had to take when validating Cisco's service provider virtualization and cloud solutions.
Upcoming Live Events
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 5, 2015, Hyatt McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
AT&T Woos SMBs With Small-Scale WiFi
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 3/26/2015
The Rise of Industry 4.0
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 3/24/2015
Google Hires Wall Street's Most Influential Woman as CFO
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 3/24/2015
Average US Broadband Speeds No Great Shakes
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 3/25/2015
Just Don't Say IBM Is 'Relaunching' Networking Business
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 3/26/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures.
Chattanooga’s EPB publicly owned utility comms company has become a poster child for how to enable a local economy using next-gen networking technology. Steve Saunders, Founder of Light Reading, sits down with Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB, to learn how EPB is bringing big time tech to small town America.
Cats with Phones
Interspecies Phone Love Click Here
"No, you hang up."
"No, YOU hang up."
Latest Comment