back to article FCC: How we'll RIP 'n' REPLACE OLD phone system for new IP tech

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is talking up the potential of a looming overhaul of the nation's telephony service. Chairman Tom Wheeler said that in the coming months the FCC will begin working with telcos on trials for new systems which will see the traditional communications circuit technologies move to new IP …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

about time FCC got off the dime

ATT first asked for a rulemaking and standards two years ago. inside the telcos, the IP phone has been popping up on desktops strongly the past year plus. I was playing with a "now it's abandoned, now it's back" Centrex/IP interconnect system 6 years ago, but our company couldn't sell it because internally, business had committed to IP telephony. if ever you get a chance to get inside a central office with permission, you will probably see rack on rack on row of ESS systems turned off, with power lights on only occasional cabinets. the rest are kept for "spares in place,"

0
0

Re: about time FCC got off the dime

even better, I know of places that keep the ESS systems in place so they can say there is no room in the CO and that they can't allow other carriers to locate equipment there for unbundling services.

There's also a story I heard about a non-RBOC carrier who had a switch delivered many years ago (>10), but since the order was placed they'd started moving to a packet switched architecture and wanted to cancel the order. The manufacturer refused until the carrier said they'd take it out into the middle of a field and blow it up as a statement that circuit switched telephony was dead. The manufacturer suddenly changed their minds and took the switch back. Not entirely sure I believe that story myself, but I've heard it several times.

2
0

The US government spook agencies will be all over this to ensure that the agreed standards allow ongoing call monitoring. In fact, they'll be rubbing their hands together as it is much easier for them to accomplish in a world of all-IP.

//conspiracy mode off//

2
0
Silver badge

Time to bring back the good old

WW2 Scrambler phone?

Where the 'Up yours NSA Icon'?

1
0
M7S
Bronze badge

Will this be as successful as BT's Century 21?

As the changes I see as an end user (both domestic and business) are not quite what I understood to be what was promised, I can only hope that they have more success over the water

1
0
Bronze badge

Money for nothing and your chicks for free

This is what the telcos have been trying to get done with the FCC as their bitch. The plan is definitely to rip old copper wires out but you'll find no mention of replacement. They'd rather force everyone onto cell towers, which is highly profitable because they're easily made into a scarce resource. Do nothing and make more money - it's the telco way. Check out Verizon's "Voice Link" solution to Hurricane Sandy victims.

4
0
Anonymous Coward

IP Blah Blah Blah!

But when it goes tits up, which networks do more often than circuit switched, then the shit hits the fan!

Network off, no fakebook updates/email/etc.. but you can still make and receive calls.

And all IP voice nets have a circuit switched backup line. so whats the point?

Stop listening to the sales men!

2
0
Silver badge

"But when it goes tits up, which networks do more often than circuit switched, then the shit hits the fan!"

Which is why we _insist_ that our phone system is "traditional". When the network's down you really need the phones to work.

0
0
Bronze badge
Black Helicopters

Worrying.

Worrying.

In this day and age, methinks being connected to an antiquated Strowger-switched or crossbar exchange would be a much safer bet than the present AXE-type exchange, let alone new IP ones.

Tapping these, especially Strowger, is time consuming and difficult.

Want privacy? Well, a good way to start is to call Strowger-to-Strowger exchanges irrespective of what's in the middle (I'm told there are a few still in service and presumably they cause the NSA some angst).

1
0

Re: Worrying.

Not sure I'd say time consuming & difficult.

Strowger & Crossbar were circuit switched in the exchange & very early on, circuit trunked between exchanges so tapping would've meant getting directly to the suspect's line circuit - a physical intervention & easy but not too covert. Tapping a multicore trunk would've meant getting into every pair of the trunk as call selection of each circuit was purely by availability.

TDM on trunks has been around for a long time, even before circuit based switching was replaced by time domain switching, predominantly with microwaves, then optical trunks. Recall an El Reg story recently that described how there are no longer any microwave antenna on London's BT Tower.

So leeching traffic off a TDM trunk is quite straightforward as you have the control channel and the traffic in one, possibly, two streams (too long ago, can't recall the signalling systems used). Again, there was an alleged example of UK intelligence services intercepting microwave traffic between Rep of Ireland and UK with their own tower built in the line of sight between the telco's microwave repeaters.

An optical intercept is straightforward too, just get an appropriate device inline & you're good to go.

The cold war threat of EMP kept a backbone of Strowger in service for some time but I do suspect that's been retired by now.

1
0
Bronze badge

@Wanda Lust -- Re: Worrying.

would've meant getting directly to the suspect's line circuit - a physical intervention & easy but not too covert

Right, that's what I meant. Someone talking via Strowger in Upper Woop-Woop to the same in Lower Woop-Woop would mean the NSA would have to take extra measures. Sitting on their fat 'A's in front of a terminal Langley Virginia wouldn't be quite enough (as easy as say with Frau Merkel's phone).

What's more, the few remnant Strowger systems are also likely to be in troublesome places, moreover I'm even led to believe there's a few manually patched systems still around. Reckon they'd require extra footwork.

As you essentially point out, leeching trunks is relatively straightforward, the point I was making was general surveillance scanning might detect something, but then to zoom in on a specific circuit in a Strowger without local cooperation (a likely possibility in some 3rd world places) would be problematic.

I'm well aware of the microwave issue. Used to tap into beams not for surveillance but for maintenance. Fade margins, as high as they are in such systems, means tapping requires comparatively very little effort and doesn't disrupt circuits.

Re EMP, if that were still a worry, perhaps there's nothing better than Strowger. As you say it's unlikely there's any of that left for that purpose. (Even if EMP protection were a requirement, I can't imagine the modern-day telecoms engineer not brought up on the stuff ever contemplating its use.)

0
0
Gold badge
Boffin

@RobHib

"Re EMP, if that were still a worry, perhaps there's nothing better than Strowger. As you say it's unlikely there's any of that left for that purpose. (Even if EMP protection were a requirement, I can't imagine the modern-day telecoms engineer not brought up on the stuff ever contemplating its use.)"

Actually the ESS computer was designed to survive WWIII.

An old James Martin book describes the hardware as using punch card sized metal sheets with magnetic "dots" for RAM and ROM functions.

And yes they were tested to survive nuclear explosions.

0
0
Bronze badge

@John Smith 19 --- Re: @RobHib

ESS computer was designed to survive WWIII

Right, I suppose there has to some planning strategy somewhere, after all there's stacks of nukes still around, it's only that we don't think about them as much as we did during the Cold War.

Not seen Martin's book and I doubt that the modern telecoms engineer would have either. That said, clearly there's many specialist engineers etc. around quite familiar with the issues. Presumably they've their finger on the pulse.

0
0
Silver badge
Happy

The Problem isn't the inter-switching connections but likely the 'last mile'

Bell Canada, some 20 years ago, cabled a fairly large sub-division in North York, Toronto with fibre optic cable. Then the Neanderthal cable company came along later and laid co-ax into each of the homes.

For around 10-15 years the Canadian telco's have been running high-capacity fibre in to new highrises and, with changes in the law, the former telephone only and cable TV only companies have been able to compete by offering all forms of communications.

The challenge will be forcing these two industries to share facilities in the 'last mile' to customers premises.

Of course, there remains the question of what terminal equipment will be used, important since telco's abandoned the home telephone 'instrument' business some decades ago.

Here in VietNam, following the defeat of the Americans in the American War in VietNam, European companies cleaned up by running fibre cable up and down the length of the country (and crossways, too) with digital switches completing the backbone. All communications is via fibre. Satellites are used to feed TV to remote areas.

Digital subscriber lines completed the system to homes in major towns but in more remote areas telephone lines remain.

Both my office in Buon Ma Thuot, as well as my wife's two hotels, located in cities with 400,00o+ souls, are fed with 200Mbyte fibre cables. Our summer house, midway between between BMT and Da Lat has 30 Mbyte InterNet - there are only 20 odd houses in the hamlet who also have similar speed service.

Interestingly, in Ho Chi Minh City, the competing communications companies have joined together - easy to do when you have a government such as ours - and my new apartment has a terminal which can supply digital landline as well as three InterNet feeds from different companies and two digital HD television signals. The service options are selected by a small matrix of selector pins.

1
1
Silver badge

No thanks, for now at least.

They've been coming around in out neighborhood asking if we'd like to "upgrade to fiber for free", but a friend did it and their phone no longer works like it used to. I forget the exact details but I think they had to start dialing the area code even for local calls and other similar nuisances. Although consolidating infrastructure is obviously good for the telcos I'm gonna need more convincing that it's any good for us consumers.

That kind of problem has nothing to do with copper vs. fiber as such, but the bigger picture is that people know exactly what to expect with a traditional landline but any replacement will be, at least initially, will have alot more uncertainty. I guess that's where the FCC comes in, but I don't have a great deal of confidence they'll be able to sort it out either.

0
0
Silver badge

Color me cynical

The issues here are very old news.

The only reason I can see that they would be promoting such a thing is that they recognize it is getting away from them. The public has started putting their own networks in to place. To me, this looks like a good old fashioned attempt to regain control.

If it was on the up and up, then they would be addressing the current IPv6 train-wreck, misused legacy bandwidth, truly insane things like SMS messages costing more than a million dollars a gigabyte, etc, etc, etc. This is a badly broken system and it got that way because the rent-seekers controlling it have put their own interests so far ahead of society's that they have crippled our infrastructure.

If we are going to do a major overhaul, why don't they at least consult with people like me who have had to navigate this mess as administrator, steering committee member, software developer, etc.

We do not need a cumbersome committee-ware solution that locks in profits for the people who stand in the way of a decent network.

We have run out of network (IPv4) addresses. People who know of a few islands of unassigned IP addresses and think that means we have not run out, are just wrong. The braniacs who came up with IPv6 stumbled very badly (proof:it has not been rolled out yet). How bad is it that we got here and hardly anybody even understands we have a problem?

I will resist the temptation to rant about specifics that drive me nuts with respect to networks, but believe me those specifics exist and the more you know about them the more irritating they become.

Can't resist: Bandwidth will never be large enough and latency will never be small enough. People capping values in standards don't really understand the problem they are trying to solve.

3
1
MMA

Um... Ok...

"The transition to broadband and IP services that has already begun is driven by consumers who are moving to the Internet and choosing to connect in ways not imagined just a decade ago,"

"Like any change it requires planning.

So, how do you plan for the next 10 years if you can't imagine?

1
0
Bronze badge
Windows

Yet again---shiny new tech is a step backward

The bottom line is circuit vs. packet switching. In a circuit, you have exclusive (modulo the NSA)-: access to the full bandwidth so long as you're connected. Result: 5x5 reception on both ends. Packet switching makes your access to bandwith a stochastic function. Result: jitter, dropouts, &c. Telephony was making clear progress from the 1880s to maybe the 1980s, and it's been steadily downhill since.

And don't get me started on cell phones---like radiotelephony in the forties. All I want is a way to hear and be heard clearly.

I'm obviously well into old farthood, hence the icon.

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums