The End is Nigh for Traditional Telecom: BT Plans to Scuttle Landline Service within 10 Years

by Jeff Wiener on July 3, 2015

For several years telecom operators have struggled to compete with non-traditional over-the-top communication service providers like Apple and Facebook, as the increased migration towards internet-based services has left traditional telcos with expansive telecommunications infrastructure that no one wants or needs to use. Seeing that the end is near for traditional telecom, operators are now looking towards a complete shutdown of plain old telephone service, scuttling the old way of doing things in hopes of levelling the playing field going forward.

The first real step towards putting traditional telecom out to pasture was made this week by British telecommunications operator BT, when it officially asked British regulatory body Ofcom to loosen restrictions regarding the obligation to provide landline service. The move, The Telegraph reports, comes as part of a larger campaign that will see BT scrap plain old telephone service altogether, and migrate all customers to comparable Internet-based services by 2025.

While there’s no question that many still cling to their landline phone service, BT is urging regulators to change antiquated regulation to keep pace with the changing market; as BT’s Mark Shurmer, director of regulatory affairs, explains, allowing telcos to better compete with non-traditional communication providers, “rather than clinging on [to an obsolete technology] until the last user dies.”

According to Shurmer, the push for Ofcom to lift the obligatory regulations regarding providing landline service will serve as a “sunset clause,” giving users a decade to plan for their future communication needs. While BT has taken the first real steps towards evolving a floundering telecom industry stuck 20 years in the past, it certainly isn’t the only telco moving in this direction. We’ve already seen AT&T and CenturyLink south of the border begin the slow process of migrating their own networks from TDM to IP, BT has simply taken things one step further by pushing for the necessary deregulation to allow it to cease landline operations altogether.

The reason behind scuttling landline service is obvious, the ever-diminishing number of subscribers who still use a landline no longer generate enough revenue to offset the significant resources required to maintain a traditional telecommunications network. If telcos are going to compete with non-traditional providers like Facebook, Skype, Apple etc, they’re going to have to change the way they do business. But as you likely know, change takes money, and as BT explains, ending landline service will allow the company to redirect funds towards broadband growth.

If they haven’t already, regulators both here and abroad will soon be forced to make a decision regarding legacy TDM networks, as it seems overly cruel to force telecom operators to continue supporting this antiquated service while allowing non-traditional over-the-top service providers to, well, pretend they’re telcos without any of the same restrictions or regulations. As users of traditional telephone service continue to decline, telcos need to be able to direct their energies elsewhere, instead of being forced to wait until the very last landline user shuffles off this mortal coil.

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