I read a fascinating article this week by Doug Dawson from CCG Consulting. You can read it here – I’d encourage you to read it all. I’ll wait.
For those who were too lazy to read it, I’m not angry, but I am disappointed…
Unfortunately, for the sake of my article, I can’t help but reward your laziness by providing a super-short summary.
- Verizon has been trying to shut off 3G service for 5 years, and finally did so. Over 1M subscribers lost server as a result.
- “All of the technologies used for broadband and telecom eventually become obsolete.”
- When copper lines are turned off, fax machine won’t work as well. “It may sound uncaring, but these folks need to buy something newer that works with today’s broadband.”
I think I was struck by this article because for me, this is what makes the telecoms industry unique. Our industry is constantly introducing new technology, but due to regulation and the importance of the services we provide, we are very slow to kill off old technology.
To work in telecoms is to continually experience the challenges of painfully slow obsolescence.
- In today’s world of smart phones and high-speed internet, why would anyone scan a piece of paper, convert it to audio, and then transmit it in real-time over a voice circuit? And yet fax is still ludicrously important to the medical industry.
- The SS7 network should have died years ago, yet even a strong bipartisan desire for STIR/SHAKEN (which doesn’t work on TDM) has had almost zero impact in speeding the move to VoIP.
Part of me feels incredibly frustrated by all this – why can’t we just act decisively and announce that older technology will no longer be supported. Imagine how much more efficient we could all be if we focused only on the future!
But that approach would be uncaring to our subscribers. Telecoms is special (and highly regulated) because it’s such a critical piece of infrastructure – people rely on the communications infrastructure we provide, and so both the government and our subscribers expect us to go the extra mile (or ten) to provide services even when it’s inconvenient.
Is that frustrating at times? Absolutely. But as an engineer, it means we get to solve more complex problems – working with that tension between the new and the old. And let’s not forget that it’s a privilege to work in an industry that’s important – to do work that truly matters.