This article might be lost on the younger generation, or might find its way to a museum archive, but to know where you are now, it is best to know where you have come from.
Some of us remember the home phone, plugged into the wall, on a cable that had to stretch to the bedroom or home office for a private conversation. This is an example of a pots line phone. To put it simply, a pots line phone is the old phone system that served us all well before the invention of the internet, before mobile technology, and before cloud-based telephony. Can you even imagine days that long ago?
VoIP and mobile technology have overtaken the use of the pots line phone. There have even been news stories about phasing out the pots line phone because of the popularity of mobile and cloud-based communications, but there are uses for it that are still very common today.
The pots line phone is still common in businesses, facsimile (Fax) machines and alarm lines. Where a business requires desktop phones and multiple users on the telephone at the same time, it is likely that it is supported by a pots line phone.
Banks and government buildings that require secure and stable telephony often use a pots line phone. Businesses like call centers and smaller businesses often use VoIP phone lines, because they are cheaper and easier to scale.
What is a pots line phone?
A pots line phone can also be called a PSTN line. PSTN means Public Switched Telephone Network and POTS means Plain Old Telephone Service. Even the names sound old! It is what people think of when they remember their traditional landline phone solution. When you see the phone wires overhead, or the copper wires underground, these cables support the pots line phone.
We all know that Analog phones were around before digital, and the pots line phone solution is based on analog technology, the messages and data transferred by a pots line phone travels along the copper lines at high speed to provide a stable connection. This was the common solution for all telephony before VoIP, internet and mobile communication took over.
How does it work?
A pots line phone is similar to the toy phones that you used to make as a child. Remember the games that you played speaking into a cup, and that cup attached to another cup by a piece of string? Well imagine that on a much larger scale. Obviously, we cannot have pieces of string flying all over the world, so the copper cables do the same job.
The copper cables support the pots line phone by connecting the 2 end points and transmitting data along the cables. The offices or the landlines are connected to each end of the copper wires with transfer stations in the middle to break up the journey for the pots line phone communications.
For a simpler explanation:
- A person picks up their landline handset and dials a number that they want to speak to. When the phone rings, that means that the receiving number has received the message down the copper cables of data being transferred. The voice is turned into soundwaves and the sound waves are turned into electronic signals directing the signals along the copper wires to the end user.
- These electronic signals are sent to the phone office switchboard which decode the numbers dials and the data and ensure that it is directed to the correct end user.
- There can be several junctions along the route of the transmission, depending on how far away the other person is, with each “relay station” continuing the messages and ensuring that they are going to the correct end user.
- When the signals get to the local number dialed, the handset converts the electronic signals back into soundwaves so that the 2 end users can speak to each other.
- This whole process takes just milliseconds, and the call is connected.
You might be old enough to remember the bad latency issues where one person is speaking over the other because the messages took so long to get to the other end. The pots line phone has improved over time reducing this latency problem and making the transmission must faster.
Is the pots line phone dying?
Some of the problems with the pots line phone cost, the requirement for a physical location, and the difficulties involved in scaling up or down the systems. Due to these problems, many businesses are moving away from their pots line phones to a VoIP or mobile phone solution.
The comprehensive cost implications must be considered carefully. The cost is often based on how big you are going to be in a few years’ time, and not on current usage. A pots line phone is hard to scale, and therefore setting up the phone solution for the size that you are going to reduce some of the costs. It is more expensive to add extra cables and lines in the future than have them set up at the start.
The infrastructure for a pots line phone means cables, wires, workstations, and office furniture is set up correctly from the start, and really, who knows where they will be in a few years’ time? This also has implications for rent and location. Businesses do not want to spend a lot of money on getting set up with a pots line phone and then move location in a few years and do it all again.
A pots line phone is a simple technology, imagine your home phone being able to have call divert, call forwarding, call recording, an IVR system, or call queuing. These additional features come as standard with mobile solutions and VoIP solutions but with a pots line phone, they are additional features, or sometimes simply not possible.
Further difficulties associated with a pots line phone are international calling. If your business has an international presence, or international investors or customers, a traditional phone solution is expensive and the latency issues that affect calls cause further operational complications. A pots line phone is not cost-effective or operationally superior.
POTS vs Mobile
Mobile phones have access to all the apps necessary for long-distance calling, often minutes are free or inclusive and connection simply depends on radio towers, which are everywhere. Whilst many old businesses or institutions are loyal to a pots line phone, they are archaic and have expensive communications.
VoIP and Mobile communications are growing in popularity whereas pots line phone solutions are dying out. Mobile is able to handle omnichannel communications, such as SMS, email, text message, and apps for connecting people.
If you like the theory of evolution, there is a natural order to communications. First came pots line phone, then came VoIP, then the mobile phone boom has taken over, it begs the question of what is next, but to look forwards, we must understand the past.
Connectivity of pots line phone compared to a mobile phone
A pots line phone requires copper cables, wires in the house, a plug port to attach the phone, and a physical location. If your pots line phone is used for business you also require hardware and control rooms, people to operate the phones, and the rent, car parking, and commuting to get there to use the phones.
Connecting a pots line phone takes time, effort, and a lot of money, whereas connecting a mobile phone is removing it from the box, charging it, and turning it on. If you work from home, or from a field, you can operate your business from your mobile device. If there is mobile reception, in your office, why do you need a pots line phone as well as a mobile phone? A mobile phone solution could be used from anywhere but when a pots line phone rings, someone must be at the desk to answer it.
Connectivity: Mobile Wins
When buying and setting up your pots line phone you must plan carefully. Knowing how many people will be operating the phone in 5 years’ time so that you have enough copper wire, plug sockets and handsets to operate your business, is hard. You must rent a building, or buy the building, and know that your investment in the pots line phone is going to be worth it in years to come. If you exceed expectations, more wires and plug sockets are required, or you must move buildings and start all over again!
Scaling with mobile means simply buying a new handset. If you allow your staff to use their own device and download your chosen app, conXhub for example, you have landline cellular connection, and you can scale with the touch of a few buttons. Scaling costs are minimal, scaling efforts are nothing and can be completed very quickly. There is no need for hardware, headsets, additional desk space or expanding your office, you scale by adding more people and putting a mobile phone in their hand.
Scaling: Winner is Mobile
A pots line phone is expensive to install, costs money to manage and if things go wrong, bringing out a technician can take days. Calls are expensive and billed per minute, and international calls, or cross-country calls and calls to mobile add further expense. Expanding means adding more hardware and more technical staff to manage the phone solution, there are no subscriptions because you are tied into using a pots line phone by the initial cost and setup.
Adding additional features to a pots line phone adds further cost, and could involve investing in more hardware to support it. A pots line phone is an expensive piece of kit for any business, so most businesses look to VoIP or mobile solutions.
A mobile phone costs a monthly fee, often paid for by the staff, since it is their personal mobile phone, but they can be purchased on contract, or an App like conXhub can be added for as little as £4 a month per person. Using free minutes to call, or data plans to text, call, send emails, and communicate with customers and colleagues all done for a very low cost and no additional hardware needed.
When a pots line phone needs upgrading hiring a technician, upgrading the hardware, and improving the wires takes time and money, upgrading a mobile means charging it and clicking on an upgrade button. It is done in minutes, whereas upgrading a pots line phone can take days.
Mobile solutions come with IVRs, call waiting, queuing, and recording as standard, whereas a pots line phone must be adapted to meet these needs, and costs more money to add on extra features. Again, this takes time, whereas, with your mobile solution, it is completed in seconds, often via text message.
Cost: Winner is Mobile
Do you want a pots line phone or a new mobile phone?
If you are looking at your telephony solutions for your business, and your business wants to expand, be profitable, and have fewer costs, and fewer risks involved in communication breakdowns, there is only one solution to consider. Having a mobile phone solution in the palm of your employee’s hands means they can work from anywhere, and the costs are minimal. You have all the features that you need, plus the ability to scale up, down, or expand internationally. Even people in a rainforest can operate a mobile phone, imagine running a copper cable to the middle of nowhere! Mobile technology is the future, a pots line phone has its place in history, and has its uses for limited institutions, but everything a pots line phone can do, a mobile phone can do better, faster, and cheaper.