A POTS line (Plain Old Telephone Service) is a pair of copper wires that provides power, a ringing signal when calls come in, and connectivity to the central phone company switches. It’s also a great solution for elevator communication or alarm systems requiring a dedicated line.
As everything continues to go digital, it’s becoming more and more difficult for landline systems to stay relevant. But, even though POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) hasn’t disappeared entirely yet, it’s a good idea for businesses to look into alternatives that will better align with their current needs and future goals. But many are still wondering what are POTS lines and their importance.
In a nutshell, POTS lines are analog telephone networks that use copper wires for power and connectivity to the provider’s switching system. Historically, these calls were connected through patch panel switches—or Central Offices—that human operators operated. Each dialed digit created a series of electrical pulses, or tones that traveled over the copper lines to the exchange, where the call was then manually connected using the switchboard by an operator.
Then, once the call was completed, the dedicated circuit was disconnected, and the telephone line returned to standby, ready for another call. As time passed, this process was automated by adding network switches that listen to the dialed tones and interpret them as the location of the person or company the call was meant for. In this way, POTS phone lines have become a reliable way to communicate across long distances. However, the fact is that this technology doesn’t offer many of the advanced features business owners are now looking for in their communication systems.
Despite the advances in cloud communication systems and digital alternatives, POTS lines are still commonly used to connect to traditional business telephones. This is because they are cheaper than the digital options available, making it easier for a company to maintain an analog infrastructure.
POTS uses copper wires to transmit data to and from phone callers over long distances. The analog signals are converted to electrical impulses and transmitted through switches, which connect calls to their destination. When a call is completed, the dedicated circuit is broken, and the line can be used for other purposes, such as alarms, elevators, and emergency-use phones.
Since these analog signals don’t require an active internet connection to work, they aren’t as vulnerable to outages or service interruptions. They also offer reliable support during a power outage or natural disaster.
However, with the rise of a cellular economy, it’s easy to see how these landline systems are falling out of favor. Despite the convenience of POTS, many companies have found that using modern digital alternatives like VoIP is more cost-effective. Ultimately, the choice is up to each organization and their communication needs. A VoIP solution may be more appropriate for businesses prioritizing advanced communication features, data integration, and flexible user management.
Initiating a call with rotary or touch-tone phones meant dialing a sequence of digits that created specific electrical pulses. These pulses were transmitted as signals over copper wires connecting the phone to a local telephone exchange. Once a signal reached the exchange, human operators manually connected calls using switchboards. Each call required keeping switches open for the duration of the circuit, which added to the cost.
Analog lines are also susceptible to weather and wire damage that may go unnoticed until users try to use them, resulting in downtime and expensive repair bills. Additionally, as technology has progressed, the workforce of professionals who know how to troubleshoot POTS line issues is dwindling.
These factors contribute to a growing need for organizations to replace their old landlines with more modern alternatives. With the rise of mobile devices, cloud communication platforms, and remote work, voice calling is no longer as common as it once was. Additionally, new technologies like VoIP and wireless have lowered the costs of telephony services and offer more features that meet the needs of today’s businesses. Whether it’s to cut costs, upgrade technology for better mobility, or both, companies need a plan for transitioning from POTS line pricing.
It’s Easy to Maintain
When you call someone using a POTS line, the copper wires carry analog signals that convert into electric impulses. Those impulses are transmitted from one device to another, which transmits them across the network.
Then, the network switch listens for your tones, interprets them, and routes your call based on your location. Depending on the destination you dialed, it might send it to a local, national, or international office. This system replaced the need for human operators who used to connect callers from a central control room.
Although most people are switching to digital solutions like VoIP, some still need the reliability of traditional landlines. This includes government institutions, rural communities, and those resistant to new technology.
The good news is that many affordable options are available if you need to replace your old landlines with something more modern. But, before you do, consider implementing a telecom inventory management solution to ensure that your copper lines are not being paid for and identify areas where efficiency could be improved. This can help you save money on monthly bills by removing POTS lines that aren’t being used and finding more cost-effective alternatives.
Harper Harrison is a reporter for The Hear UP. Harper got an internship at the NPR and worked as a reporter and producer. harper has also worked as a reporter for the Medium. Harper covers health and science for The Hear UP.