Woman on Phone in Small Office

Updating your telecom system takes on new urgency following the 2016 FCC ruling. Factor in these considerations as you plan for the shift.


What to Know Before Modernizing Your Telecom System

  • Lori Demeyer
  • 5/29/2018

The old saying “out with the old and in with the new” rings especially true within the telecom industry. In July of 2016, the Federal Communications Commission approved rules that would allow AT&T, Century Link, and all other communications service providers (CSPs) to quickly update services to modern voice technologies.

As a result, businesses that are still using landlines and other older network technology are being pushed into converting their telecom systems to a more modernized structure. Some providers have already raised 2018 billing rates on older systems, nudging organizations into making the switch. Others have announced plans to pull support on old systems altogether by 2020.

The cost/benefit of a telecom upgrade for employers

Legacy network technology was introduced long before the advent of the internet. As such, this technology typically uses archaic methods of providing service. For instance, time-division multiplexing (TDM) services run over antiquated copper lines, which are typically underground.

Since TDM systems have not evolved with the advancement of technology, they are at a great disadvantage when trying to integrate with modern internet protocol (IP)-based services. The one advantage TDM is known for is its strength of uptime and the call quality. People rarely complain about dropped calls or garbled voices on a landline.

However, IP-based technology excels over TDM in its flexibility and ability to scale up or down, allowing you to purchase only what you need. IP-based service is also ideal for the growing remote workforce. It simplifies telecom management because voice and data networks converge onto a single platform, supporting the growing appeal of cloud services. Those who switch generally find cost savings and staff members who are empowered to work on their devices while on the go.

The cost/benefits of a telecom upgrade for service providers

Of course, upgrading to IP-based services also benefits the telecom providers including:

Lower maintenance costs — The parts, equipment, and general maintenance of legacy TDM networks are costly, as are the people who still understand those services.

Scarce equipment — It is becoming increasingly difficult to find the right equipment for repairs, as well as the technicians who know how to handle those repairs.

Loss of people and knowledge — The people who know and understand these systems are retiring, while the new workforce focuses on IP-based services.

Outdated features — You cannot upgrade or easily add the new features that CSPs must offer to remain competitive for the new generation of customers.

Switchover timeline

AT&T and other major carriers have already outlined when and where TDM services will no longer be available, with some reports showing a timeline to complete this transition no later than 2020.

In the meantime, telecom providers are raising rates for these services or have stopped offering renewals or upgrades should a customer need to add services or move locations. This activity is forcing clients into transitioning to an IP-based product or seek another CSP.

Planning for the migration from TDM

To avoid price increases and the risk of service outages, organizations using TDM services today should start planning the move to a modern system. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Do your due diligence — Many CSPs are offering these services, so do your due diligence to ensure you only receive the services your company needs. Get quotes from several CSPs to identify shortcomings or unnecessary components. Add-ons that may never be used are often bundled in automatically. Don’t purchase what you don’t need. (And once you are up and running, don’t just “set it and forget it” or you may pay for it.)
  2. Evaluate your current data network to ensure you can support IP-based services — In modern technology, power travels through data lines instead of copper. Some call packages may require specific bandwidth levels that may not be supported in your current data network. Make sure your system can support the bandwidth or you may find yourself dealing with garbled phone calls.
  3. Plan a timeline and build a team — It is critical to have a team dedicated to managing the transition to ensure a seamless and successful installation. Due diligence and vendor selection may take two to four months, and implementation may take six months to a year, depending on how many locations you have. Consider phasing in the changes over a number of months to avoid disruption and downtime.
  4. Start budgeting for it — We are already seeing rate increases on older systems, and traditionally, the new technology offers more services at a lower fee. For example a 3mg bonded line might be approximately $800/month (now $1,000 with higher rates). In the new system you can get about 20mg for the same price. At the same time, the resources required for the changeover may stretch your budget, so plan for unexpected hiccups.

How we can help

Completing a telecom system migration often requires more resources than expected. CLA’s telecom advisors can help you navigate through this technological transition. We can help you evaluate your current services and providers, request and analyze quotes, and determine the path based on your needs. At CLA, we promise to fully understand your goals so we can help you through this transition.