I’m a big believer in VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony services.
The home line is provided by Vonage. The business line by MagicJack, and my mischief line via Skype.
But here’s one of those things about VoIP that you cannot deny. It knocks down barriers.
When I first signed up for Vonage it was the U.S. and Canada. Then it jumped to six countries. Now it’s jumped to 60 countries spanning the entire globe and every continent. I mean, if I want I can call China, Japan, Saipan or Guam and not ring up any extra charges I can do so. Or I can call Italy, France, Germany, Spain and more without ringing a toll either.
But it goes without saying, VoIP is what you would term a disruptive technology. It piggy backed on a ubiquitous net connection and took over the last mile of telephone services. I know for example that in my area just the competition from Cox and VoIP has knocked Verizon down to a little less than a 40% market here in RI. No wonder Verizon went bonkers stringing fiber.
But when Ma Bell still had a monopoly one of her prime goals was to reduce costs in order to increase profits. As a result they developed a completely digital toll switching network that decreased the cost of maintenance, traffic management, etc. The computer could figure out alternate routing faster than a human could. That was the AT&T 4ESS (Doh, 4A was an electromechanical switch) toll switch.
Just for comparison, here’s the first concentrator/distribution network for the Morris, NJ Electronic Switch test.
But it wasn’t just the switching that became less expensive.
Policy had something to do with that in in the mid 1950’s Bell started rolling out Direct Distance Dialing (DDD). This allowed bell to reduce the amount of operator staff required to handle calls. They also improved the Traffic Service and Position System (TSPS) too, meaning fewer operators could handle more services.
But the real cost reducer was data circuits. Telephones use trunks and they come in various types such as analog and digital. At first a DS1 had to be provided on two pairs of wires and amplifiers were necessary every so many hundreds of feet. Most people don’t realize it but order DS1 now and it’s delivered via HDSL. Fewer amps, less specialized circuits.
And there was the fiber explosion. Back between the late 1980’s and now they pretty much laid tons of multi-strand fiber optic cables from coast to coast and under the oceans too.
For a point of comparison a 2,500 pair cable was very thick, about the diameter of a 45RMP record. Now a single fiber can carry hundreds of calls and it doesn’t cost nearly as much as it used to because the fiber uses solid state components that don’t burn out after a short lifespan.
Not to mention the proliferation of satellite systems. There are a number of carriers that have orbiting platforms though even the necessity of that has pretty much been relegated to TV remotes.
And it’s going to keep getting more interesting. For example, I found an application from my iPod Touch called Fring. Fring lets you connect to a VoIP provider like Skype for example. Apple has tacitly acknowledged this by turning on Bluetooth on the Touch. So I can get a Bluetooth headset, or earphones for that matter and use them with my iPod Touch.
And wherever there’s Wi-Fi, I can call to my hearts content. And there is a shitload of Wi-Fi in my city.