I’m 41. My Dad was really into technology and computers, so I grew up in a home where personal computers were always present. I learnt to code in BASIC on a Sinclair QL. We got dial-up internet when I was in high-school. I got my first cell phone when I was 20, and my first smart phone when I was 28. I can still recite the landline number for my parents’ house where I grew up.
So I understand the progression. Voice came first. The PSTN was built for voice. Then later we found a way to use that network for data (dial-up and then DSL), and in recent years we’ve built new networks (fiber) that were always intended for data.
But if you don’t have that history, if you are looking at the world of telecommunications today with fresh eyes, the way we do things doesn’t make any sense.
Why is voice handled differently from any other application?
Surely (you might say) the job of the telecommunications service provider is to provide access to a data network, and then the subscriber can access whatever application they want:
- Video (Netflix, YouTube)
- Chat (Slack, Messenger)
- Information (Wikipedia, the web)
- Business Communications (Teams, Zoom)
- Voice (Teams, Zoom – but with the camera turned off?)
And yet, in reality we treat voice differently.
Voice is the one application (sometimes alongside TV) that is offered directly by the local service provider. Voice is heavily regulated. Voice is billed separately. Often telcos have a huge amount of infrastructure dedicated to providing voice services.
Is this sustainable?
What will happen in the next 10 years?
- Maybe voice, the PSTN and the phone number will die, and all real-time communications will be over Zoom.
- Maybe the phone number will still survive, but all the DNs will end up being ported to Google and Apple.
- Maybe local telcos will continue to own the voice service and DNs, but will start using cloud-based voice infrastructure.
- Maybe things will largely stay the same as they are today, but with a slight increase in the use of VoIP rather than TDM connectivity.
Over the coming months I’m keen to delve deep into this question – and would love to hear your vision / prediction for the future. If you have a moment, please drop me a line right now sharing your view, and what this means for your own network over the coming decade.