Say farewell to copper-based telecommunications. Those legacy copper lines that brought telephone and Internet to households and businesses over the last century are riding into the sunset, thanks to an FCC order that came into effect on August 2 allowing carriers to stop maintaining the aging infrastructure and discontinue analog services.
If that doesn’t make you sit up and take notice, either a) you don’t realize your company still relies on copper-based phone and fax, or b) your company already made the switch to digital communications services. This article is for the “a’s” out there, because your organization needs to act immediately to prepare for the transition.
Here’s what you need to know about the decision, its impact and the path forward.
Where has all the Copper Gone?
Back in the day, copper was regarded as a largely reliable, sturdy and adaptable way to deliver communications services to most business and consumer situations – even in rural settings. Yet over time, the vast network of lines and switches became enormously expensive to maintain. One researcher estimated telecom companies could spend as much as $13.5 billion per year over a six-year span to maintain the aging network. And that doesn’t count the dearth of parts or technicians required to do the maintenance.
Meanwhile, as emerging cellular and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology have become dominant among telecom consumers, the FCC agreed that carriers can begin a three-year phase out of their copper-based services starting August 2. Many have already begun notifying customers, leaving them little time to find viable alternatives. In fact, carriers need only give customers a 30- to 60-day notice before disconnecting them from their copper services. It’s vital for companies to start assessing now which services they will need to transition, and which alternative technologies will best suit their needs.
Who Will Miss Copper Most?
Many companies have been gravitating away from copper-based channels for years and embracing more cost-effective options like VoIP or Fax over Internet Protocol (FoIP). But perhaps you haven't jumped on the digital bandwagon yet and are still relying on traditional technologies like POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) or PRI (Primary Rate Interfaces), when it comes to faxing or phone service. Often there are good reasons for that hesitancy. Here are two use cases to illustrate:
Analog faxing remains critical to hospitals because, for decades, it was a reliable and HIPAA-compliant method for transmitting private documents like patient referrals, records or orders. Equipment and maintenance was affordable (an important factor for healthcare institutions), and every fax machine could transmit to every other fax machine, so there was no need to deal with incompatible electronic medical records systems. Another plus: analog fax was relatively inexpensive until carriers started raising prices to push customers away from copper.
The financial sector has remained loyal to faxing because it has a legal and moral interest in maintaining the security of documents involving mortgages, securities, credit, taxes and licenses, among others. Also, credit card machines communicate with banks and card companies using phone lines. With data breaches becoming increasingly common, these companies must continue to transmit information on secure lines of communications.
Long-established Micro SMBs
Small businesses who have been around for decades (think of your local dental office or local restaurant) are often tied to their original phone numbers and communication workflows. Making a switch to IP comes with the misconception that there will be changes to their current processes, modifications to their infrastructure or additional costs. In reality, with the right service provider, such modernization should mean better service and cost savings.
Now that analog-based faxing and voice are no longer a viable long-term option, these types of organizations must determine the best path to secure, reliable and affordable transfer of information. And they need to do it quickly to avoid business disruption.
Four Solutions to Help you Pivot Overnight
Whether your company is large or small, handling 10 faxes and calls a day or 100, you can tap into cloud-based phone and fax services that offer the benefits of analog, without the disadvantages (plus some useful features copper products could never offer):
Solution 1: Virtual Fax
Best for: Businesses faxing via email, portal or API
Commonly referred to as e-mail fax, Virtual Fax allows users to send and receive faxes via email, an API or through a web portal on their computer or mobile device. With Virtual Fax, the service provider hosts and manages fax servers in the cloud to provide the solution. Connectivity can be secured using SMTP over TLS for email or HTTPS for portal and API access. It’s convenient if workers need work-from-anywhere capabilities, allowing them to receive and respond to faxes right from their computer or smartphone. It’s popular among small businesses with low volume requirements, however, Virtual Fax is also used by larger organizations with a distributed workforce or requirements to integrate with back-office systems.
Solution 2: Real-Time T.38 Fax
Best for: Businesses with in-house fax servers or fax machines
Real-time T.38 fax transmits documents on IP phone lines specially conditioned for IP fax, also known as T.38 SIP trunks, so the data goes directly from sender to recipient, without any intermediary stops. Organizations who need to comply with privacy requirements will opt for real-time T.38 fax as it allows them to house their own fax servers, thus resulting in better control and management of their operations. Fax traffic can also be encrypted, which establishes a secure, robust faxing environment that is hardened against hacks in accordance to the security and regulatory compliance requirements organizations adopt.
It’s the best option for organizations like hospitals or banks that must comply with regulations like HIPAA or SOX. Other organizations require it because of their need to support walk-up faxing. Many organizations, both large and small, still make use of fax machines or Multi-Function Devices (MFDs) to fax hardcopy documents. In these cases, a phone line is the only solution, and T.38 SIP Trunks provide a phone line over IP that can achieve equal or better delivery success rates than legacy analog lines.
Solution 3: SIP Trunks for Voice
Best for: Organizations with multi-line phone systems (PBXs) requiring voice or video capability
For organizations transitioning to IP-based phone systems managed in-house, SIP trunks are a fitting solution. While it’s a common and preferred approach to modernizing in-house managed communication technology, some organizations opt to simply replace the analog lines with SIP Trunks and use an adapter or gateway to IP-enable their legacy PBX.
SIP Trunks connect phone systems for voice and video calls using SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). A SIP trunk is a group of lines that carry calls and data over the Internet. SIP trunks are connected to the company’s PBX, which bypasses having to buy T1 trunks from the same phone carriers phasing out your copper service. In addition to savings, SIP Trunks have many advantages, including modern features, excellent call quality and the ability to quickly scale up or down depending on the number of channels needed.
Solution 4: Cloud Business Phone
Best for: Small businesses seeking a cost-effective solution for voice, texting and faxing
Most small businesses want to focus on their business and free themselves from having to host and manage a communication infrastructure. The right Cloud Business Phone solution will allow them to do just that while providing them with savings, as well as advanced features and capabilities. When you ditch your copper-based business phone for a cloud-based solution, you not only get a highly reliable and affordable solution, you gain the ability to text with your customers.
A consumer survey found that more than 80% of consumers want the ability to text with their favorite brands and businesses, and 76% say they’d be more likely to frequent small businesses that offer texting. A virtual voice, texting and faxing service gives you the flexibility to communicate with customers, as well as send and receive data, in the manner they prefer, right through an app on your computer or mobile device.
The transition to digital telecommunications is urgent for companies still relying on analog, and it can seem overwhelming to understand which type of system gives you the most bang for your buck. Start by talking with experts about your company’s requirements and collecting recommendations. It will quickly become clear which type of product is best, and which partner will provide the fast onboarding and excellent customer service you need.
To find out more about Cloudli’s Virtual Fax, Real-Time T.38 fax, SIP trunks and cloud business phone services, fill out a form and one of our fax or voice specialists will get back to you right away.