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From Analog to Digital
Easing the transition
The advent of new technologies or innovative processes
al ways pu sh t h e edg e s of P rog re ss. The Sto n e Ag e
p rov i d e d i m p rove d t o o l s ; t h e B ro n z e Ag e a d d e d
unprecedented strength, and the Iron Age fostered
unparalleled advancements in material sciences. All of
these compounded and, ultimately, led up to the First
Industrial Revolution. The world has since witnessed
the Second, Third and now a Fourth Industrial Revolution.
At the heart of this advancement is the near-obsessive
commitment to new digital technologies.
(also known as the IP Transition), analog Public Switched
Telephone Network (PSTN) are being phased out and
replaced by IP networks to obtain improved signal quality,
increased speeds, longer lifecycles and reduced overall
maintenance. A portion of this IP Transition is focused on
assets such as fax machines, monitoring equipment and
phones that still rely on analog networks despite the
carrier’s migration to digital networks.
What is Analog vs Digital?
The First Industrial Revolution, largely driven by water- and
The introduction of wireless and/or cellular technology
steam-power, resulted in the mechanization of production—
in the 1990s has steadily replaced analog phone lines
the act of producing materials and goods. The speed and
t o t h e p o i n t t h a t , a c c o rd i n g t o H a r va rd B u s i n e s s
accuracy with which companies were able to make products
Review, as few as 20% of homes use analog lines today.
had an almost atomic effect on the world. Those who were
As a result, in 2014 the FCC began asking carriers to
unable to keep up were quickly swallowed by the changing
submit research proposals. The goal was to test and
technological tide. The Second Industrial Revolution
find effective ways to help migrate customers away
displaced water- and steam-powered machines with
f ro m a n a l o g n e t wo r k s . I n J u l y, t h e F C C m a d e a n
electric power and, combined with division of labor, gave
announcement allowing network operators to shift
rise to a new era of mass production. Companies that
away from legacy networks to IP-based services
were unable to make the shift were pushed to
more quickly and efficiently than before. Legacy
the side. Following the same pattern, the Third
copper line networks, according to a 2013
Industrial Revolution did the same thing
re p o r t re l e a s e d by B e l l L a bs , a re pois ed
As few
when it took automated production
to s u n s e t i n 2 02 5 . P rev i o u s regu lat ion s
as 20% of
to the next level via electronic and
m a d e t h e t ra n s i t i o n c u m b e r s o m e a n d
informational technologies.
d i ffi c u l t f o r t h e n e t wo r k o p e ra t o r s t o
homes use
make the switch, which may have negatively
Much of the world is currently witnessing
analog lines
impacted customers in terms of pricing,
the Fourth Industrial Revolution, otherwise
signal strength and availability. Under the
known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Like
guidelines, operators can have their
Harvard Business
those b efore it , t h is revol ut i on ha s t he
applications automatically granted as long
pote ntial to b oost g l ob a l i ncom e l eve l s,
as they can provide comparable network
increase productivity and improve quality of life
performance metrics, ensure access to 911 services
across the globe. However, unlike the revolutions
and confirm that their services are compatible with
that preceded it, the IoT is characterized not by any select
home security systems, medical devices, credit card
technology, but by a technological synthesis of digital,
readers and fax machines.
physical and biological systems. Understandably, this
new set of systems is putting increasing demands on
Just as each revolution improved or evolved the technology
legacy communication networks and sparking the need for
o f p rev i o u s i t e ra t i o n s , t h e I P Tra n s i t i o n h a s b e e n
new Internet protocol (IP) networks. In tandem with IoT
replacing legacy analog phone lines in favor of digital lines.
In the past, analog phone lines have ruled over the
communications sector due to the role played by phone
Although implementing any type of new service or process
co mpan ies in dat a t ra nsm i ssi on. Ana l og l i n e s , a l s o
comes with a price tag, the price of passivity is much steeper
referred to as “Plain Old Telephone Service” (POTS),
than moving forward with new technology. For instance,
transmit information by modulating continuous signals
analog communication data lines, according to James Brehm
(i.e. voice and video). Analog lines support a multitude
& Associates, already cost between 4 and 10 times more to
of devices and machines, including standard home
run than cellular lines— and are expected to double in price
phones, fax machines and modems, and are typically
in the near future.
found in hospitals, pharmacies, homes and small offices.
The remaining analog customers largely consist of
The majority of those costs have to do with maintenance.
older residents in rural areas. Digital lines, which are
According to Larry Downes, Internet industry analyst and
m o re promin en t in l a rg e r corp orate offices ,
project director of The Georgetown Center for
break the signals into bits of data
Business and Public Policy, nearly 50% of wireline
ex p re s s e d i n b i n a r y c o d e . D e s p i t e
expenses went towards maintenance in 2013.
analog lines being part of the “Old
Current operating expenses for IP networks
Guard” communication technologies,
can be as much as 90% less than operating
d i g i t a l t ra n s m i s s i o n h o l d s s t ro n g
costs for POTS lines. Copper lines also
advantages, such as improved line
have shorter lifecycles when compared
and end users will
quality and increased data capacity.
to fiber lines and are more expensive to
migrate from POTS
install and or replace.
Analog circuits require amplifiers
towards IP & wireless
which add distortion and noise to
the signal, resulting in transmission
Another challenge to the analog-toerrors. In comparison, digital amplifiers
over the next
digital migration arises from the enormous
regenerate signals, exactly and eliminate
scale on which it’s occurring. It’s occurring
cumulative errors. With digital amplifiers,
a global scale and both urban and rural
incoming signals are sampled, their value
are affected. Residents and businesses
determined, and a new signal is generated
in rural areas still heavily rely on traditional copper
from the bit value—whereas analog signals
networks and phone lines in order to conduct business
amplify both the noise and the data values. In addition
go about their daily lives as wireless coverage may be
to noise-related interruptions, analog line signals also
As analog networks phase out, broadband
have limited data capacity. Since digital lines transform
and wireless networks are filling in to improve coverage.
the signal into binary code, this allows for more data to
Rural customers still need a reliable communication lifeline.
be transmitted. Because of this, Internet-based and
wireless technologies have now been embraced as the
Back-up Battery Requirements
best option to handle the exploding level of demand
As carriers continue to sunset POTS lines, there have
for voice, video and data transmission.
been concerns surrounding failover systems for certain
equipment that must remain connected at all times,
The Pain of Progress
including access to 911 and other emergency services.
Looking back, the confusion, struggles and challenges
Traditional analog networks provide a level of security
associated with the transition from the old to the new can
that digital lines sometimes cannot currently provide
get glossed over in favor of the positives. With the Fourth
during emergencies. The FCC encourages network
Industrial Revolution (the first three consisting of the
providers to inform businesses on ways to back-up
construction of railroads across the U.S., the introduction
their assets. This is primarily resolved through back-up
of the telegraph and the Internet, respectively) we are
b atte r i e s o r g e n e rato r s th at c a n sw itc h on du rin g
reminded of the difficulties in moving to a new paradigm.
emergency situations and or outages. However, some
And because adopting new technologies can be difficult,
of these back-up batteries need to have a wireline
many forego their window of opportunity and wait too long
connection. In order to smooth over the transition for
to join the march towards progress. Technical disruptions
users, the FCC requires all consumer applications shifting
are best leveraged by the forward-thinking and adaptable
from analog to digital lines to be able to provide access
—and the IP Transition is no exception.
to emergency services at all times.
Similar to the 2G cellular network sunset, where cellular
Overcoming the Bias of Obsolescence
customers needed to migrate off of 2G technology and
onto faster networks, the IP Transition is a series of
The FCC’s recent push for the IP Transition to be completed
advancements where packets of IP-based communications
by 2025 is most likely a generous valuation of the expected
replace traditional analog signals. Both businesses and
timeline. The analog-to-digital migration has begun and
end users will migrate from POTS towards IP and wireless
there are several opportunities for businesses to make
communications over the next decade. Some of the
a graceful transition to wireless communications using
challenges included in this transition are migration
analog-to-wireless converters, which can be obtained from
expense, coverage, back-up battery requirements, and
trusted hardware providers like MultiTech.
overcoming the bias of obsolescence.
MultiTech Makes the
Analog-to-Digital Transition Easy
A transition doesn’t have to require a complete redesign
of expensive assets in the field. Analog-to-wireless converters
allow the asset to continue operating in the field as
The nature of revolutions is to be disruptive, breaking
before, but change the communication technology to a
down the Old in favor of building up the New. You need
cellular transmission, instead of a point to point analog
to follow industry leaders that have weathered
transmission. MultiTech offers a unique analog-to-digital
multiple revolutions within the communications space
converter which can reduce your communication costs.
to make this transition a smooth one. MultiTech
The MultiConnect® AW analog to wireless converter
relies on a 45-year industry track record of
allows the field equipment to continuing working
excellence in Machine-to-Machine (M2M)
efficiently and effectively within a cellular
Communications and IoT. MultiTech
environment. Customers are not only able to
continues to deepen its experience
keep their assets in-field and operational,
offers safe
in both analog and cellular techbut they can also save money on lower
nologies, and also leads in providing
passage to
ongoing operational communication costs.
Low Power Wide Area Network
Ultimately, the AW converter is a stepping
those seeking
( L P WA N ™ ) e q u i p m e n t . M u l t i Te c h
stone which allows customers to keep
o ff e r s a broad line of Industrial IoT
to transition
th e i r a s s e t s i n t h e fi e l d l o n g e r, w h i l e
(IIoT) connectivity hardware, in both
to a full cellular platform.
towards the
boxed an d emb edd e d form fa c tors.
These include routers, modems, gateways
Use Cases
and mod u les. R e l y i n g o n i t s d e e p l y
The magnitude on which this IP Transition is happening
t e n u r e d t e a m o f engineers, MultiTech offers
has an impact at both the home and business level.
safe passage to those seeking to transition towards
However, the MultiTech Analog to Wireless converters can be
the New, and has successfully helped many companies
utilized as a transition product in the analog to digital
cycl e th rou g h differe nt te c hnol og i c a l revo l u ti o n s
migration. Some of the use cases include end users, medical
many times over.
devices, telecommunications and monitoring equipment.
Devices & Data with
Analog Modems
Traditional Analog
Configuration Sunsetting
Insight + Action + Control
Financial /
(Public Switched Telephone Network)
Financial /
MultiConnect® AW
Wireless Data
End users are also affected by their telecomm and broadband providers. Broadband telecommunications and cable
The healthcare industry is being affected by the IP Transition.
providers have been offering bundled services for customers.
One of the obstacles blocking healthcare institutions from
These bundles include cable, phone, Internet and security
transitioning to using digital devices is the cost-prohibitive
services rolled up into one bill and through one broadband
nature of medical equipment redesign. The healthcare
network. This provides convenience to the customers and
industry is highly regulated and the approval cycles are long.
reduces cost overall for the carriers. However, then
Many home medical monitoring devices
customers are reliant on a single IP network and
co nti nue to t ran sm i t d at a on P OTS
subject to network congestion and other
lines. As POTS lines becomes harder to
issues. Generally a back-up battery system
procure and rise in cost, and transmission
is needed to ensure 911 services are available
quality suffers, offering an analog to cellular
during an outage.
co nverter makes se nse. It a l l ows t he
cost between 4 and
medical equipment to stay in the home
Moving Forward
but moves the data transmission off
10 times more to run
History has proven that innovation
POTS lines and onto to a cellular data
than cellular lines, and
will overturn the status quo and force
network for transmission.
the world to reassess its processes.
are expected to double
While the sun may set on one technology,
in price within the
End users
another will rise. Businesses can rest
near future.
Daily life is increasingly lived online and
assured that companies like MultiTech
James Brehm &
businesses have taken notice and begun to
remain steady throughout the innovation
respond accordingly. For example: some
and continue to provide dedicated service
apartment complexes have begun requiring
and quality to clients. Technological challenges
residents to pay for rent and/or utilities through a
will continue to be solved by MultiTech engineers
company website. However, that doesn’t mean that analog
as they have proven many times over. By selecting a
line services aren’t still needed in the home. Traditional
trusted partner like MultiTech, one with a decades-long
analog dial up landlines are still used in some homes
track record and an extensive portfolio of successful
throughout the U.S., primarily in rural areas and among
technology migration programs, companies can get a
older users. Analog lines are also used in Point Of Sale
deeper understanding of what is occurring and how to
(POS) terminals and kiosks, such as ATMs, gas pumps, and
best solve these challenges until this revolution is like
in-home security systems.
those before it, just a thing of the past.
1. “PSTN Industry Analysis and Service Provider Strategies: Synopsis” Acatel-Lucent.
2013-04. Retrieved 2016-08-01.
2. Downes, Larry
“The End of the Wired Telephone Network is Coming...But Not Soon Enough” Forbes.
10-30-2013. Retrieved 2016-08-01.
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