Drawbacks to the PSTN

Although the PSTN is effective and does a good job at what it was built to do (that is, switch voice calls), many business drivers are striving to change it to a new network, whereby voice is an application on top of a data network. This is happening for several reasons:

• Data has overtaken voice as the primary traffic on many networks built for voice.

Data is now running on top of networks that were built to carry voice efficiently. Data has different characteristics, however, such as a variable use of bandwidth and a need for higher bandwidth.

Soon, voice networks will run on top of networks built with a data-centric approach. Traffic will then be differentiated based upon application instead of physical circuits. New technologies (such as Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, and Optical Networking) will be used to deploy the high-speed networks that needed to carry all this additional data.

• The PSTN cannot create and deploy features quickly enough.

With increased competition due to deregulation in many telecommunica-tions markets, LECs are looking for ways to keep their existing clientele. The primary method of keeping customers is by enticing them through new services and applications.

The PSTN is built on an infrastructure whereby only the vendors of the equipment develop the applications for that equipment. This means you have one-stop shopping for all your needs. It is very difficult for one company to meet all the needs of a customer. A more open infrastructure, by which many vendors can provide applications, enables more creative solutions and applications to be developed. It is also not possible with the current architecture to enable many vendors to write new applications for the PSTN. Imagine where the world would be today if vendors, such as Microsoft, did not want other vendors to write applications for its software.

• Data/Voice/Video (D/V/V) cannot converge on the PSTN as currently built.

With only an analog line to most homes, you cannot have data access (Internet access), phone access, and video access across one 56-kbps modem. High-speed broadband access, such as digital subscriber line (DSL), cable, or wireless, is needed to enable this convergence. After the last bandwidth issues are resolved, the convergence can happen to the home. In the backbone of the PSTN, the convergence has already started.

• The architecture built for voice is not flexible enough to carry data.

Because the bearer channels (B channels and T1 circuits), call-control (SS7 and Q.931), and service logic (applications) are tightly bound in one closed platform, it is not possible to make minor changes that might improve audio quality.

It is also important to note that circuit-switched calls require a permanent 64-kbps dedicated circuit between the two telephones. Whether the caller or the person called is talking, the 64-kbps connection cannot be used by any other party. This means that the telephone company cannot use this bandwidth for any other purpose and must bill the parties for consuming its resources.

Data networking, on the other hand, has the capability to use bandwidth only when it is required. This difference, although seemingly small, is a major benefit of packet-based voice networking.

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