AT&T propose PSTN phase out

AT&T propose PSTN phase out

A guest post from Brian Williamson of Plum Consulting.

The June 2008 report by Plum Consulting and the BSG set out a “Framework for evaluating the value of next generation broadband”. One of the six recommendations of the report was that,

“Realising the full value of next generation broadband depends on the extent of transformation of other markets. In considering the private and wider value of next generation broadband, and potential regulatory and public policy barriers to next generation broadband, other platforms and markets should be considered including spectrum, broadcasting, mobile and copper networks.

In particular, the costs and benefits of copper network retirement alongside fibre rollout, and the policy and regulatory environment required, should be considered.”

Both next generation mobile (LTE) and fibre will ultimately displace copper, yet obligations and expectations in relation to universality of voice (and potentially broadband), competition based on local loop unbundling and emergency calls over a powered network are currently structured around the legacy copper network. Uncoupling this dependency will not only ultimately be necessary, but clarifying the position early could see relatively more resources invested in next generation broadband relative to legacy circuit switched networks.

In the US the need to address this issue now has some prominence with market analysts questioning the ongoing viability of a copper network based business model, see for example the New York Times on 8 May 2009 “Will the phone industry need a bailout too?” On 21 December 2009 AT&T submitted a comment to the FCC proposing a transition from the legacy circuit-based network to broadband and comparing the transition to analogue TV switch off.

AT&T propose that the FCC set a deadline for phase-out. In contrast, both the European Commission and the UK government in relation to Digital Britain have so far failed to address this issue. Is it time to rethink our priorities?

Plum Consulting and BSG report: Framework for evaluating the value of next generation broadband

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