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Is the Analog Phone Still Relevant?

November 24, 2017

Analog telephone sets have supported businesses for decades. POTS (plain old telephone service) phones use standard copper wire, are reliable, are known for good voice quality, and have the basic features that are found in a typical home phone. They may also be used to transfer calls between extensions, but their features beyond that are limited. Because of their simplicity, analog phones are relatively inexpensive to purchase. However, even though analog phones use less-modular hardware, can be expensive to support, configure, and upgrade, there are still many applications in the market for their use, even in the world of voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Examples of analog phone applications include:

Hotels and Motels – Most hotels and motels worldwide are heavily invested in older Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) PBX systems connected to hundreds of analog telephone sets in guest rooms and administration areas. These PBX (private branch exchange) systems are often older, costly to maintain, and lacking in features, but it is costly for hotels to switch over to more modern, cost-effective VoIP systems. Challenges include the cost of upgrading hundreds of inexpensive analog sets to more expensive IP phones and also the cost of upgrading voice-grade cable to more expensive data-grade cabling in order to support the new phones. There are ways to integrate VoIP PBX equipment with the existing analog phones and wiring in a hybrid model, which is considerably more cost-effective than a total forklift upgrade. This shows that analog telephones still have an important place in the hotel/motel industry.

Hospitals and Nursing Homes – This industry benefits from the low-cost endpoints that are in hundreds of rooms in a residential medical facility. Analog phones are easy to connect and remove and are most likely in place already. Changing them out would require a huge investment in newer, more complicated endpoints. In these facilities, simplicity for the end use is very important.

Educational Campuses – Some schools and universities still provide room phones for students that are connected to the campus switchboard. This adds a level of security as compared to using a personal cell phone when issues arise.

Lobbies/Break Rooms – One major advantage of an analog telephone station is the cost. Compared to IP telephone sets, analog phones are much less expensive. This can mean great savings when considering cheaper telephones for common areas like lobbies, employee break rooms, and waiting rooms. Analog phones are also often cheaper to install in areas that are not used often, like maintenance closets, warehouses, and remote field offices.

Fax Machines and Alarm Systems – An analog fax or alarm system can connect to a VoIP system via an analog gateway or adapters. Analog phone systems can connect to VoIP trunks via multi-port ATA adapters. Selecting the right adapter can be a challenge, as the number and types of ports are dependent on the requirements of your VoIP provider, and a professional will likely be needed to install it. But for companies with existing analog equipment, there is still a clear need for analog connectivity, at least for now.

Conferencing Endpoints, Point-of-Sale Devices, and Credit Card Readers – Analog telephones are not the only devices that can be connected to an analog station port. Other common analog devices include desktop and tabletop conferencing phones, point-of-sale devices, and credit card terminals. When one of these devices is needed, companies should make sure that an analog station port is available on their phone system.

Modems – In the PSTN (public switched telephone network) world, the network provides a constant delay for any particular call. The speed at which data enter the network is always the same as the speed at which they leave and modems require this. In an IP network, jitter is a fact of life. It can be kept to a modest level, through the use of the QoS (quality of service) features available in a lot of IP equipment, but only if the network is controlled from end to end. If a VoIP network works only across a LAN or a QoS-managed WAN link, there might be a near guarantee of zero packet loss and fairly low jitter. Modems need a continuous audio path. If there is packet loss, the consequences are severe. As a result, other methods of using modems may be required in order to avoid complications; analog connectivity is one way to do this.

Elevator and Emergency Phones – Although there are many ways to provision elevator and emergency phones, the least expensive and most secure is the use of an analog phone. When the phone is accessed, Caller ID information is immediately transmitted to an emergency center. Gateways, software, and other additional equipment are often required to provide this service through VoIP PBX service.

Power Failure Transfer (PFT) and TTY – The technology for PFT and TTY devices has improved over time, but these analog devices provide an inexpensive way of communicating, especially when power is lost. Since they use the telecommunications grid for power, local power is not necessary in order to use them during an outage.

Technology changes rapidly in the telephony industry and will continue to do so. Eventually, analog endpoints and services will evolve to work over IP or will be eliminated completely. Fax may be replaced by using a scanner, email, dropbox, or other digital document transmission. Since credit card transactions, alarm lines, and emergency phones, such as elevator phones, are all dependent on analog connections, they will need to convert to an IP connection. Credit card machines will need to be replaced with ones that communicate over the Internet. For now, analog endpoints will continue to thrive, but resellers should be on the lookout for alternate methods of providing these services and prepare their businesses to make the change.

Does your business continue to sell analog endpoints? What are your thoughts on the future of analog devices?