FCC moves toward IP transition of phone networks

The commission approves trial runs for converting copper networks to IP

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has voted to allow telecom carriers to run trials with Internet Protocol networks replacing traditional, copper-based telephone systems.

The FCC's unanimous vote Thursday will allow carriers to experiment with providing voice service using IP, delivered over coaxial cable, fiber or wireless networks, with the eventual goal of retiring copper-based facilities. The FCC's action comes in response to an AT&T request from late 2012 to begin testing a transition to IP networks.

The tests will be focused on the impact of the transition on telephone customers, on emergency services and other issues, said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. The trials will look for potential problems such as service interruptions on electricity-dependent IP networks, the FCC said.

The test won't be a technology trial, Wheeler said. "We know how to build IP networks."

Carriers have asked the FCC to approve the retirement of the copper-based networks, because customers are leaving traditional telephone systems in droves, in favor of voice over IP and mobile services. Carriers have argued that it's expensive to maintain the old copper networks and invest in high-speed broadband networks.

"We cannot continue to require service providers to invest in both old networks and new networks forever," said Commissioner Ajit Pai. "Every dollar that is spent maintaining the networks of yesterday is a dollar that cannot be invested in the networks of tomorrow."

Still, commissioners said they want to make sure consumers are protected and competition maintained as the telecom industry moves to eliminate copper networks. The transition brings a "risk of unintended consequences," said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

As part of the IP trials, the commission also approved targeted experiments and research focused on bringing faster broadband to rural areas, on using IP technologies to help people with disabilities and on the effect of the transition on telephone numbering assignments.

AT&T praised the FCC for moving forward with the IP transition tests. The decision is "important and profound," Jim Cicconi, the company's senior vice president for external and legislative affairs, wrote in a blog post. "All Americans should applaud the FCC's action, because all Americans, and generations yet unborn, will benefit from it."

The transition will help broadband providers build out their networks to all U.S. residents, Cicconi wrote.

Also on Thursday, the commissioners heard an update on a timeline for auctions of spectrum now held by U.S. television stations. The FCC plans to vote on a report and order setting up the so-called incentive auctions early this year, with the auctions still targeted for mid-2015.

The incentive auctions would allow TV stations to give up spectrum in exchange for part of the proceeds the spectrum sells for in the auction. Mobile broadband providers see the TV band as some of the best spectrum for delivering long-range, high-speed mobile service.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags telecommunicationJim Cicconiat&tregulationTom WheelerU.S. Federal Communications CommissionmobilegovernmentMignon ClyburnAjit Pai4g

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?