The Regulated Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) is a Thing of the Past
Consumers are abandoning land lines by the millions. Today, 41% of households are already wireless and most new home move-ins do not ever install a landline. The transition to a wireless and IP world is inevitable – so what do utilities need to do? Utilities and other critical infrastructure rely on the plain old telephone service (POTS) system to transport critical data from their remote locations so they can reliably “keep the lights on.” West Monroe has been involved in many discussions around this subject with electric utilities since early last year. We completed an industry survey last June to gauge interest in the topic and determine what the key concerns were across the country on a state by state basis. Even though West Monroe Partners and utility telecom managers knew this was coming, but there wasn’t a lot of interest in doing anything at an executive level because carrier information was vague, non-existent and non-committal.
A lot has changed in the last twelve months. Commercial land line carriers have started sending out letters with deadlines (as early as end of 2014) for termination on some of these older data solutions, such as frame relay. Without a viable and reliable solution alternative, the utility systems that rely on these circuits will literally be left in the dark.
A current West Monroe client recently received a one-week notice for disconnect on a circuit and had to escalate an emergency call – up through the ranks of the local carrier because this circuit was critical to Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) communications for a substation. This communication is critical for balancing load and distributing power across the grid. “Just upgrade to new technology,” some say. Well, it isn’t that easy due to decades of old legacy equipment that is not IP ready and can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per location to replace. Pushing system wide upgrades across a bigger utility could cost into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
However, there are solutions for encapsulating legacy protocols and transporting them over new packet based wired and wireless solutions. Your first step should be architecting now for 2015 budgets and beyond. Once the new telecom transport is built, the legacy equipment can be cut over and run out its life cycle even if it is 30+ years. The biggest benefit of bringing IP technology to the location is more bandwidth, and we know what happens when you add bandwidth to a location; people find creative ways to use it.
West Monroe’s Energy and Utilities team is dealing with this transition on a daily basis, helping utilities, large and small develop solutions to transition from the carrier analog and digital legacy circuits to IP based solutions capable of meeting the next long term life cycle of communications technologies to enable them to “keep the lights on.” For more information or to discuss an assessment of your situation, please contact Dan Belmont, director of Telecommunications at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-980-9385.