Overcoming the Challenges of Replacing POTS with Cellular Connectivity

Despite widespread digital technology adoption—even for telephones—many organizations continue to rely on Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) for their most critical communications infrastructure. 

This includes security alarms, fire alarms, elevator phones, and Out-of-Band (OOB) network management, which services enterprise level networking equipment if the main internet line goes down. These are the non-negotiables; they need to work when we need them to, and they need to work every single time.

What could be more reliable than plain old copper wires?

You’ll get your answer if you think back to the days of dial-up internet, when POTS was pretty much the only game in town. Besides the screeching dial tones and glacial speeds, digital subscriber line (DSL) internet was notorious for dropped downloads, disconnects, and general unreliability.

The situation has only deteriorated. The FCC POTS mandate, FCC Forbearance Order 19-72A1, sunsets the century-old technology. Practically speaking, this means that the FCC is discontinuing oversight of existing POTS lines and that they won’t require telecom providers to service POTS.

The end result is network degradation, increased cost for POTS users as carriers that do maintain POTS lines will pass through higher expenses, and the inevitability of losing service altogether at end-of-life (EOL).

POTS lines are going away. Businesses need a replacement.

The challenges of replacing POTS

Cutting the cord” isn’t always straightforward. As we mentioned above, many critical communication systems rely on POTS. Businesses can’t risk even a small downtime window for their fire and security alarm panels, OOB management, elevator phones, etc. 

It’s easy and low stakes to switch a desk phone to voice over internet protocol (VOIP). A fire alarm system—not so much.

Many of these systems use legacy hardware that was built with POTS in mind. Add the fact that lots of these devices are in hard-to-reach locations, and we have a recipe for a real headache.

Then there’s the compliance issue. For example, NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, and ASME 17.1, the Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators, both have strict requirements for communications uptime. This adds extra pressure for the transition away from POTS to be seamless. 

Finally, there’s forces like bureaucratic inertia that prefer “doing things the way they’ve always been done” and an insistence on “not fixing it if it ain’t broken.” This is especially problematic for larger and older institutions. 

Overcoming this challenge will be less about technology and implementation and more about involving stakeholders, building a business case, and demonstrating results with gradual change and pilot programs.

Replacing POTS with cellular connectivity

There’s always going to be a need for a backup connection. Whether it’s for OOB management or critical safety communications, organizations can’t afford to go completely dark if their main internet connection goes down for any reason.

It may be rare, but it does happen. Cables get damaged. Hurricanes, lightning, and other severe weather can take out infrastructure. Cyberattacks can cause blackouts. Organizations have little control over the whims of their internet service provider (ISP).

All this is to say that businesses need more than a fiber optic hookup for their communications infrastructure.

For a long time, POTS was the go-to. However, now that POTS has been deregulated, the problems that the technology already had are only going to intensify.

Costs will continue to skyrocket. Service levels will degrade. Damages caused by incidents like hazardous weather will take even longer to fix—if they get fixed at all. 

Investing in POTS in the 2020’s and beyond is throwing good money after bad. It’s just not worth it.

That’s why businesses around the country are replacing POTS with cellular connectivity.

Here’s why:

Lower costs

Cellular is already cheaper than POTS, and that differential is only going to grow over time. As POTS lines deprecate and become harder to maintain, the associated costs will continue to rise. On the other side of the coin, the cost of cellular data continues to decline.

Most POTS use cases, such as alarm panels and fire panels, use far less data than many other technologies, like surveillance cameras, which typically rely on high data plans. This means that the cellular data costs associated with POTS replacement will be far less than continuing to invest in aging POTS lines.

Putting all of this together, wireless connectivity is much cheaper in the long run. Though it will require some capital expenditure (CAPEX) to get up and running (replacing legacy devices, etc.), the operational expenditure (OPEX) is so much lower that cellular can quickly pay for itself.


After the FCC POTS line sunset, this technology will only become more unreliable with time. Aging lines are prone to outages. Since carriers no longer have to maintain these lines, disruptions are frequent. 

Service may be discontinued altogether, leaving organizations who still depend on POTS to scramble for replacement and pay the price.

Today’s cellular networks are highly reliable, and the FCC has already moved “to improve the resiliency and reliability of mobile wireless networks before, during, and after emergencies.” That’s the exact opposite of their directive on POTS.

Businesses can gain even more peace of mind by building redundancy into their cellular communications infrastructure with multi-carrier support. If the main network goes down for any reason, devices will automatically switch to the backup network.

Easy to deploy

Cellular connectivity is a ubiquitous and mature technology, making it easy to deploy almost anywhere. Solutions like remote endpoint management simplify both the initial deployment and ongoing support.

As POTS networks degrade, it’s going to be even harder to manage the systems that rely on them. The best way to avoid this trouble altogether is by opting for cellular connectivity.

Deployment is even easier when you choose to work with a trusted partner. Datablaze will help you take control of your communications infrastructure by working closely with your team to deploy cellular solutions and alleviate your dependence on aging POTS lines.

Ready to switch from POTS to cellular connectivity? Download our free white paper now to learn how businesses use cellular connectivity to solve problems and create new opportunities. Or contact us today to speak with a solution specialist.

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