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AT&T Switches to IP Networks – Implications for VoIP

Updated on November 13, 2012
Will AT&T's Decision Lead to Cheaper Calls?
Will AT&T's Decision Lead to Cheaper Calls?

Death of Legacy Systems

We learned a few days ago that AT&T has finally decided to replace its network of copper lines with IP-based infrastructure. This move will take place over a period of time and will cost upwards of $14 billion to implement. It's clear that AT&T has finally seen where the future is headed and has decided to meet at on its own terms rather than be forced to do so later on. For customers at least nothing will change in the near future. People will continue to use their land lines as they have been doing so for decades using the telephone numbers that have permeated our culture.

However, this switch could herald a new era of free communications. To understand the implications of this for VoIP, we have to look at the current status of VoIP calls and the involvement of the FCC. Currently there is no way to directly connect two separate VoIP networks using telephone numbers alone. This is because we can't tell just by looking at it whether a specific number has a VoIP system sitting behind it, and if so what the SIP URI is. As of now, if an AT&T customer wants to talk to a Verizon one, the two telecommunication giants have agreements in place allowing each other's traffic to pass to and from their networks. This cooperation is what enables all of us to talk to each other even if you're using different service providers.

With AT&T and Verizon both shifting to IP-based networks, new negotiations and contracts have to be forged analogous to the old ones – but this time with IP traffic instead.

Will This Lockout Smaller VoIP Players?

Since AT&T and Verizon are also telecom carriers, when customers dial a number they are able to know who the recipient is. If that person is on a Verizon IP-based network, the communications agreement between the two carriers can allow the call to be completed entirely over the Internet with no charges at all. This is clearly a symbiotic relationship between the two.

But what about smaller SIP providers? Will they have the same access to the networks of the telecom giants? We don't know for certain. A great deal will depend on how Verizon and AT&T and the other large networks decide to implement the system. The common theme tying all of this together is the telephone number. Without that, VoIP will use SIP URIs instead and there's nothing that the telecom carriers can do about it. But as long as individuals continue to punch in sequences of digits, telecommunication companies will still hold all the power.

It's clear then that they have a vested interest in keeping the system going since they will be able to charge interconnection fees. While it is certainly possible to get along just fine without these numbers, they have been so deeply ingrained into us that it may be difficult to let go. Only the future will tell us where this will end up and whether we will ever truly be able to avoid VoIP costs with telecommunication systems based on SIP URIs. There are many VoIP Boston phone services who can provide you with hosted PBX communications. Contact one to find out how you can get started.

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