What are the differences between PSTN and VoIP?

voip vs pstn phone system

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PSTN, VoIP, PBX, or SIP—the world of communication is filled with acronyms and technical terms. All these begin with PSTN (public switched telephone network), the foundation of traditional landline communication, which connects worldwide through a network of switches, cables and exchanges.

However, as technology advances, newer terms like VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) are reshaping communication by using the Internet to transmit voice data in the form of digital packets. While PSTN offers reliability and universal reach, VoIP provides scalability, flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

Every business and individual is increasingly transitioning to digital platforms, which highlights the need to grasp the distinctions between PSTN and VoIP. Read the article to understand the key differences and empower yourself to choose the most suitable option for connecting and thriving in the digital age.

What are the differences between VoIP and PSTN?

Feature PSTN VoIP
Infrastructure Depends on physical lines and circuit-switched networks. Operates over existing internet infrastructure, utilising packet-switching technology.
Cost Potentially more expensive for long-distance calls. Offers cost-effective pricing models with lower rates for domestic and international calls.
Scalability Limited scalability due to reliance on physical infrastructure. Highly scalable, easily adapts to changing business needs.
Reliability Renowned for reliability and uptime, offers consistent voice quality even in power outage. Susceptible to internet connectivity issues and quality fluctuations.
Features Offers basic telephony functionalities with limited additional features. Boasts a wide array of features such as call forwarding, voicemail-to-email, auto-attendant, etc.
Maintenance Expensive to maintain and expand, requires physical upkeep. Cost-effective maintenance, updates can be performed remotely.
Call Quality Ensures consistent voice quality even in adverse conditions. Quality may vary depending on internet connection strength.
Integration Limited integration with other business applications. Seamlessly integrates with various business tools and software.
Mobility Limited mobility, tied to physical phone lines. Offers greater mobility, accessible from any internet-connected device.

Let’s explore more thoroughly now.

What is PSTN, and how does it work?

The PSTN, or Public Switched Telephone Network, also known as Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) is a collective term referring to the interconnected telephone systems worldwide, managed by various national, regional, or local telecommunications providers. It comprises telephone lines, fibre optic cables, microwave transmission links, cellular networks, communication satellites and underground copper wires to connect circuit-switching telephone networks globally.

These components are interconnected through various switching centres, including central offices, network tandems and international gateways. Users can communicate seamlessly through these facilities.

This analog phone system functions by users initiating calls, which generate electrical signals transmitted through telephone lines or cellular networks. These signals travel through various switching points until they reach the recipient’s local exchange.

Is PSTN still in use?

Yes, PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) is still in use, although its usage is gradually declining. While many businesses still rely on this traditional phone line, an increasing number are making the switch to modern VoIP technology.

Advantages of PSTN

  1. Reliability: PSTN has a long-established infrastructure, making it highly reliable for voice communication.
  2. Wide Coverage: PSTN networks typically have broad coverage, reaching even remote areas where internet connectivity might be limited.
  3. Emergency Services: PSTN lines are often prioritised for emergency calls, ensuring timely assistance during emergencies.
  4. Voice Quality: PSTN offers consistent and high-quality voice transmission compared to some internet-based alternatives.
  5. Compatibility: PSTN systems are compatible with traditional landline phones, making them accessible to users who prefer familiar technology.

Limitations of PSTN

  1. Limited Features: Traditional PSTN services may lack advanced features commonly found in internet-based communication systems, such as video calling, file sharing and instant messaging.
  2. Cost: Long-distance and international calls over PSTN can be expensive compared to internet-based alternatives, particularly for international communication.
  3. Infrastructure Maintenance: Maintaining the ageing PSTN infrastructure can be costly for service providers, and maintenance issues may lead to service disruptions.
  4. Lack of Flexibility: PSTN systems typically require physical connections, limiting mobility and flexibility compared to wireless and internet-based communication options.
  5. Slow Innovation: Due to the established nature of PSTN technology, innovation and updates may be slower compared to newer communication technologies, potentially leading to outdated services and features.

What is VoIP and how does it work?

VoIP, or Voice Over Internet Protocol, is an alternative to traditional phones that use the Internet to transmit voice data packets. It converts analog voice signals into digital packets and sends them over an IP network. This flexible infrastructure allows VoIP to leverage existing Internet connections, eliminating the need for separate telephone lines. There are several functions that contribute to implementing VoIP communication, such as:

  • Network and Transport: Ensures that messages get from one place to another reliably, even if the internet connection isn’t perfect.
  • Session Management: Sets up and manages calls so you can chat with others.
  • Signalling: Helps us find people, start calls and control things like muting or transferring calls.
  • Media Description: This section decides what kind of content we’re sending (like audio or video) and how to send it over the Internet.
  • Media Transmission: Involves transferring the actual media, such as audio, video, text messages and files, during the call.
  • Quality of Service: Provides feedback on our call quality and helps ensure smooth operation.
  • Security: Keeps our calls private and secure, making sure only the right people can join in.

All these functions work together to make and receive calls easy, safe and clear.

Advantages of VoIP

  1. Cost-Effective: VoIP often offers lower costs for local and international calls compared to traditional phone services, especially for long-distance communication.
  2. Flexibility and Mobility: Allows VoIP users to make calls from anywhere with internet access, enabling mobility and flexibility in communication.
  3. Rich Features: VoIP services typically offer a range of advanced features, such as video conferencing, call forwarding, voicemail-to-email transcription and more, which enhance productivity and communication efficiency.
  4. Integration: VoIP can easily integrate with other digital communication tools and platforms, such as email and CRM systems, streamlining communication workflows.
  5. Scalability: VoIP systems can easily scale up or down to accommodate changing business needs without requiring significant infrastructure changes.

Limitations of VoIP

  1. Dependence on the Internet: VoIP quality and reliability are dependent on the stability and bandwidth of the Internet connection, making it susceptible to disruptions during network congestion or outages.
  2. Latency and Jitter: VoIP calls can suffer from latency (delays in voice transmission) and jitter (variations in packet arrival times), which can affect call quality, especially in networks with inconsistent performance.
  3. Security Concerns: VoIP phone systems can be vulnerable to various security threats such as hacking, eavesdropping and denial-of-service attacks, necessitating robust security measures to protect sensitive communications.
  4. Limited Availability in Remote Areas: In remote or rural areas with limited internet infrastructure, accessing reliable VoIP services can be challenging, limiting communication options for residents and businesses in these areas.
  5. Compatibility Issues: VoIP technology encounters compatibility issues with certain hardware devices or legacy systems, requiring additional investments or workarounds to ensure seamless integration.

Making the Choice: PSTN vs VoIP

The choice between PSTN and VoIP is based on a number of considerations, including organisational needs, budget limits and long-term goals. While PSTN has unmatched reliability and universal reach, VoIP offers scalability, cost-effectiveness and feature-rich solutions.

VoIP is the ideal option for businesses looking to modernise their communication infrastructure and unlock new prospects for cooperation and efficiency. Its adaptability, low cost and advanced features establish it as a cornerstone of digital communication transition.

However, for industries where dependability is crucial, such as emergency services and key infrastructure, PSTN remains a reliable solution.

Wrapping Up!

The communication landscape is a fast-paced one, with new features and solutions constantly emerging. Choosing the right business phone system can feel overwhelming, considering the multitude of factors involved. While advanced technology like VoIP offers enticing possibilities for businesses of all sizes, its dependence on internet stability can raise concerns about reliability. This might lead you to stick with the familiar reliability of traditional PSTN lines.

The key to staying ahead lies in remaining adaptable. By understanding the fundamental differences between PSTN and VoIP, you can make informed decisions that align with your business specific needs, empowering you to leverage the strengths of each technology.

Confused about choosing the right business phone system? Let our experts guide you through the options and recommend the perfect phone network for you. Reach out to us today.

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