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Digium, Google and the end of the phone network

One network, digitized, instead of two networks, one digital and one analog, makes all kinds of economic sense.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

One thing we can say for certain about the coming decade.

The phone network is going away. Everything is going digital.

This is already taking place. Cell networks are all-digital, because you can cram more calls into less spectrum by digitizing and compressing them.

Millions of people like me are dumping their phone lines and taking numbers with us. We save money, it's more convenient, and it's a more efficient use of the resource. Large enterprises have also transferred their phone service to digital networks. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) saves money.

Now the revolution is hitting the small and medium-sized business community, the last holdouts against digitization. Open source is helping.

Digium calls its program Extreme Phone Makeover. Using open source Asterisk, productized as the Switchvox Unified Communications system and Polycom phones, Digium promises to give you a 21st century communication system, in order to demonstrate what this can mean for everyone else.

What it means is better service at lower cost. By running calls over the Internet rather than through a dedicated phone line long distance charges go away. Instead of using an entire line you're using a portion of shared digital capacity on that line. You now have the bandwidth to do other things, like conferencing and database look-ups.

One network, digitized, instead of two networks, one digital and one analog, makes all kinds of economic sense.

It makes sense for everyone. ADSL runs at "just" 1.5 Mbps mainly because it's taking up just a portion of your phone line. The rest is still analog, so you can talk on the phone while your kid is downloading The Daily Show in the next room.

If that copper were all-digital you could have more bandwidth. DSL would run faster, and it would be effective over longer distances.

By lighting some of its dark fiber and seeking applications, Google is accelerating this important trend. Increase demand for faster digital services while reducing demand for analog services and phone companies are bound to respond.

Voice is a low-bandwidth service. Text is an even lower-bandwidth service. The time is long past for moving these services onto digital networks and clearing out space for better broadband.

Digium and Google are doing the phone companies a favor by showing them the way forward. Disruptive is good.

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