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Ask Slashdot: What Is the Future of Old Copper Pair Technology?

timothy posted about a year ago | from the and-we-liked-it dept.

Networking 347

p00kiethebear writes "My father works for a large corporation that licenses ISDN lines (among a plethora of other services) including T1 and T3 technology. Surprisingly there are still large companies that use fifty year old T1 technology to handle their voice and data use. My father's 30 year career has been almost exclusively in helpdesk / troubleshooting T1 / ISDN technology and both he and I are worried about the future. Cable modems and DSL have replaced ISDN in most cases and it's now an archaic solution reserved for voice actors, tech support-terminal workers, large companies that need voice and video conferencing, and data and private users too far from the loop for DSL or Cable. My dad is still 15 years from retirement. Is twisted copper going the way of the dodo or is it here to stay for the foreseeable future?"

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Copper? (4, Interesting)

mrmeval (662166) | about a year ago | (#43890387)

All of that wiring will be reclaimed. It's not worth as much as wiring as it is in thousands of other items. Even the copper coated steel wiring is worth more as other things. You have fiber and wireless and I don't see anything else soon.

Re:Copper? (5, Informative)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about a year ago | (#43890415)

For low-latency and lossless point-to-point across town, we couldn't find ANY ISP's connection technology that could beat the T1.

Expensive, but rock solid and quick (vs fast).

T1s still work for us (4, Informative)

zerofoo (262795) | about a year ago | (#43890837)

We use FIOS for our internet connectivity, but we still rely on MPLS over T1s to interconnect our offices and handle our VOIP traffic. VPN over the public internet simply had too much latency to be useful. It's archaic, but it works.

Re:Copper? (4, Insightful)

RulerOf (975607) | about a year ago | (#43891047)

Expensive, but rock solid and quick (vs fast).

Every time I see a statement like this, it reminds me we could really use some better single-word descriptors to disambiguate a connection that is

  • High vs. Low bandwidth
  • High vs. Low Latency
  • All possible combinations of the two

Not that we don't understand what you meant of course! I just have a feeling that "fast" or "quick" will be rather ambiguous ways to describe a network connection for a rather long time :P

Re:Copper? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43891073)

I could, rent a dark fiber from point to point. buy your own used and out of date 10BaseT Fiber transceivers for almost nothing and I have a solid 10Megabit connection From the Central office to the secondary location. and when we find some single mode 100BaseT used fiber gear for dirt cheap, we will upgrade to that.

Did you investigate what fiber was available? Terminating fiber ends is trivial nowdays.

Re:Copper? (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43891057)

You are funny.

If you think telcos will happily abandon 50+ year old wiring and gleefully pull fiber everywhere, you are living in a wierd utopian dream.

Reality is that Telcos will fight tooth and nail to spend a dime on infrastructure. Copper twisted pair will be around for another 100 years simply because of the extreme greed that american telecommunications companies enjoy. You see, replacing all that with fiber to each home will reduce profits by 25%. and we absolutely can not tolerate reduced profits in any way. American companies will kill babies for increased profits, and have done so in the past.

The only way to get away from century old copper wire is to regulate the telecommunications industry and force them at gunpoint to start pulling fiber to the home at NO COST TO THE CONSUMER. No "infrastructure recovery fee" or any other added secret fee to the customer, the CEO and the stockholders have to suck it up.

Place holder (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890391)

Place holder

Re:Place holder (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890435)

Place holder

Foolish human! Slashdot does not work that way!

Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890395)

Yes its called wireless.

Re:Yes. (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year ago | (#43890835)

Which is utterly incapable of replacing copper pair for the simple reason known as "physics".

DSL over copper (5, Insightful)

raburton (1281780) | about a year ago | (#43890405)

The question seems to use copper wire and ISDN interchangeably. In the UK the DSL you mention runs over those copper wires, so they aren't going anywhere.

Re:DSL over copper (4, Informative)

Mashiki (184564) | about a year ago | (#43890437)

Same holds true in Canada. Though they have been rolling out FTTN for the last few years, but in the end last mile is still copper.

Re:DSL over copper (5, Funny)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about a year ago | (#43890817)

Fiber to the nerd?

Re:DSL over copper (1)

TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) | about a year ago | (#43891055)

Fiber Throughout The Network.

Re:DSL over copper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890485)

Yeah I was trying to figure that bit out, isn't T1 nowadays just dsl broken up into 64kbps channels?

Re:DSL over copper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890523)

Yeah I was trying to figure that bit out, isn't T1 nowadays just dsl broken up into 64kbps channels?

Yes, but not to the customer if the customer wants to pay extra!

Re:DSL over copper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890565)

To the customer it is exactly just that, you just have a special dsl modem that gives you a pri (or bri), but the basic technology that it runs over is DSL.

Re:DSL over copper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890519)

The question seems to use copper wire and ISDN interchangeably. In the UK the DSL you mention runs over those copper wires, so they aren't going anywhere.

And FTTC (BT brand Infinity) still uses those copper pairs from the cabinet to the property.

Re:DSL over copper (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year ago | (#43890869)

Copper pair is going to be the technology of choice for "last hundred meters". Essentially what will happen is what happened to my apartment building - ISP will pull a fiberoptic cable to the basement, install a DSLAM hooked into the fiber and deliver the connection to each apartment via existing copper pair connection over VSDL2.

This is an excellent choice for end users because they each get individual internet line with low latency that isn't hit hard by neighbour "warezing" in older buildings without the need to tear up walls to install fiber to end user.

New housing will likely eventually get fiber directly to end user. But for most places, CAT3 (and in some rarer cases CAT5/5E/6 twisted copper pair for ethernet) is the wiring solution for delivering networking to each individual apartment. I used to live in an apartment building used as build for purpose student housing, and that had CAT5 ethernet installed in every room (apartments ranged from single room to three room ones). When I moved in it offered half duplex 10mbit internet directly to socket, and when I moved out it was long upgraded to 100mbit full duplex, and was directly linked to university network via an optical cable (I was the building's admin for a couple of years in the end of my tenancy).

10 Gbps copper (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890419)

You can buy 10 Gbps twisted pair copper NICs and switches right now.

You get all the benefits of copper wire: easy to mend, rugged, cheap to replace, works with a massive line of products, from tiny embedded systems to high speed data center links.

Re:10 Gbps copper (1)

headhot (137860) | about a year ago | (#43890517)

Yea, for 30ft runs.

Re:10 Gbps copper (2)

LiENUS (207736) | about a year ago | (#43890541)

Don't you mean 330 ft runs?

10GBASE-T, or IEEE 802.3an-2006, is a standard released in 2006 to provide 10 Gbit/s connections over unshielded or shielded twisted pair cables, over distances up to 100 metres (330 ft).[25] Category 6a is required to reach the full distance of 100 metres (330 ft) and category 6 will reach a distance of 55 metres (180 ft).

ok ok so for legacy installations you might only reach 180ft.

Re:10 Gbps copper (1)

geoskd (321194) | about a year ago | (#43890695)

Don't you mean 330 ft runs?

10GBASE-T, or IEEE 802.3an-2006, is a standard released in 2006 to provide 10 Gbit/s connections over unshielded or shielded twisted pair cables, over distances up to 100 metres (330 ft).[25] Category 6a is required to reach the full distance of 100 metres (330 ft) and category 6 will reach a distance of 55 metres (180 ft).

ok ok so for legacy installations you might only reach 180ft.

But what is in the ground isn't cat6. It isn't even cat 5, its cat3... You might get lucky and have a run that'll handle 10 Gbit, but more likely you'll only get 10 Mbit out of it. Still really good compared to ISDN though.

Re:10 Gbps copper (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year ago | (#43890893)

Cat3 and below is POTS network. Quite a few newer buildings have cat5, in some cases 5E.

Cat6 is rare because the cable starts to get quite expensive for the length you need to run it, and 6A is VERY rare.

Ethernet isn't really tolerant of CAT3 cabling, and it's not that speed drops - it's just that it will cease functioning completely due to noise. That's why various DSL solutions are used instead, most current being VDSL2 allowing for up to 250mbit/s.

Re:10 Gbps copper (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#43891043)

And from what my CCNA instructor said cat 6 is harder and more fiddly to terminate.

Re:10 Gbps copper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890735)

I'm pretty sure he is talking about weathered telco copper that might, MIGHT still retain some twisting, which is wholly negated by rats-nest punch blocks and insulation that can be as laughable as dry-rotted paper in some older districts, some of which is jumpered off of legacy equipment that still uses tube tech (yes, really). There's no way that stuff is getting up into the GB range without serious upgrades, at which point other, more robust technologies will likely be considered.

Re:10 Gbps copper (2)

LiENUS (207736) | about a year ago | (#43890761)

The point is its still twisted copper, twisted copper isnt going the way of the dodo

Re:10 Gbps copper (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43891093)

I run 10,000 Base T up to 300 feet without problems over Cat 6. 200 feet over el-cheapo Cat5e.

You should learn about how the stuff works.

The helpdesk is not going the way of the dodo (4, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#43890439)

No matter how easy to use some new technology is, someone will still need help with it.

As to your father, he I'm guessing he will be able to learn enough to help others with it.

No matter how little you think you know about something, there are still plenty of other who know even less.

He's thinking about this 15 years too late (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890445)

At this point, he can probably ride it out as there will still be a few hangers-on for the next decade.

20MBit (3, Informative)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year ago | (#43890459)

In germany some people ha e 20MBit DSL connections via old copper phone cables. The problem not having that throuhgput are usually interconnections, and not the twisted pairs.

Re:20MBit (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about a year ago | (#43890577)

I have 50 megabit DSL via old copper phone cables, and if my ISP swapped out my DSLAM, I'd qualify for 75 megabit when they introduce that.

Re:20MBit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890625)

And VDSL2 goes all the way to 100Mbps over copper phone lines with commonly available adapters. Future brings even faster DSL connections, which if I remember correctly have been discussed in /. before.

Re:20MBit (2, Informative)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about a year ago | (#43890667)

Your copper twisted pairs for DSL go to the closest CO (less that 600 meters/2000 feet). A T1 can span MILES

Re:20MBit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43891105)

Actually a T1 can only span about a mile, they use T1 over HDSL so that the service can span MILES (really only a little more than 2 miles)

Re:20MBit (1)

EvilIdler (21087) | about a year ago | (#43891133)

My copper at home goes for 2.5km, and I'm lucky to get 11Mbit :/ I think copper is here to stay because the ISPs don't consider it worth upgrading.

Re:20MBit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890583)

Copper isn't a problem, it's more than fast enough for communications. The single issue is ancient electronics in the cabinets. You can bring DSL up to 1gbps with the right hardware upgrades, but companies all over the world are choosing the most lng winded and expensive routes (paid for by the tax payer).

Re:20MBit (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about a year ago | (#43890863)

Given how each new DSL tech only increases bandwith (or plain works) on ever shorter distances, that 1Gbps DSL will not be useful to very many people. Hell, I can see that sort of thing used with Fiber-to-the-Building so that you can still use the old phone wiring and phone outlets, it would be last hundred meters technology not last mile.

Worried about employability? (4, Insightful)

EvilJoker (192907) | about a year ago | (#43890463)

If you're worried about your skills becoming obsolete, then GET NEW SKILLS! This isn't that hard. Anyone in a technology field should not expect to use the same skill set for 30 (!) years, let alone 45.

Granted, this far along in the process may experience a bit of a renaissance (much like COBOL programmers), but if job security is a concern, it's time for some new education/training.

Re:Worried about employability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890569)

Probably hard to swallow for some, but someone that has been on technical support for 30 years probably doesn't have the capacity to learn anything new, so sad.

Re:Worried about employability? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43890645)

If you're worried about your skills becoming obsolete, then GET NEW SKILLS! This isn't that hard. Anyone in a technology field should not expect to use the same skill set for 30 (!) years, let alone 45.

Granted, this far along in the process may experience a bit of a renaissance (much like COBOL programmers), but if job security is a concern, it's time for some new education/training.

The major issue is usually not the 'get new skills' part per se; but the 'then get hired by people who could also just hire Joe 22-year-old whose first skills are your new skills, and who won't cost our insurance plan as much and is probably willing to start for less'.

Re:Worried about employability? (2)

Firethorn (177587) | about a year ago | (#43891095)

Well, odds are he's already working for a telephone company that also offers DSL, Fiber, etc...

If he learns the (relatively) new technology, he should spin it as '30+ years of tech support experience, including DSL, Fiber, ISDN, T1, etc...'

While there are substantial differences between the technologies, they still have much in common that he should be able to leverage. Not to mention the 30 years experience calming down irate business customers.

The final Link (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890471)

Here in the UK, we have FTTC. Fibre To The Cabinet. BT has cabinets all over the place. These little green boxes are where the cable from the Exchange gets split out and then laid either underground or overhead to the customer.
There is very little incentive (read financial) to actually lay FTTH (Fibre to the Home). That is simply due to the cost.
I have FTTC. The bit from the Cabinet to my home is Copper Wire.
I get 80mbits down/20mbits up for $30 a month (250Gb download limit between 08:00-23:59)

If you change your focus to that end of the network I am sure that there will be plenty of work for the immediate future but honestly, you should bet up to speed on the new technologies involved in the industry.
Don't go the way of the Dinosaur. Adapt or die.

Re:The final Link (5, Funny)

NEDHead (1651195) | about a year ago | (#43890923)

The dinosaurs adapted - they grew wings and trained humans to build them houses and bags of high quality food.

Last mile access (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890477)

There will be need for last mile access in different ways, ISDN will be replaces by alot of different technologies xDSL, 3G/4G, WiFi, WiMAX and more.

And there will still be need for experienced support techs.
xDSL is just another way to speed up the copper wires, there is alot of fault findning that needs to be done since it is run on the same physical copper. i know some guys that work full time just to find problems with the access lines. Where the 2nd line support gives up.
3G/4G has other problems, WiFi and WiMAX is the same.

Be open for new things, nothing is eternal...

ATT is forcing users onto Uverse (3)

MpVpRb (1423381) | about a year ago | (#43890493)

ATT is forcing DSL users to switch to Uverse fiber-to-the-box with short copper to the home.

I got a tour of a central office a while ago. Entire floors were empty as the old copper infrastructure was removed

They called it "mining" the old copper

The technicians say that no money is being spent to upgrade the copper infrastructure that remains. It will continue to decay until it fails

Yes, copper will survive into the future, but there will be less of it, and the quality will be worse

Re:ATT is forcing users onto Uverse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890601)

I've toured a few AT&T facilities. Some of them were still all copper for voice and DSL, and still had whole empty floors. It's because the equipment became smaller, not always because copper is going away. At the facilities I went to, some of the empty space had been filled by internet routing equipment, stuff they never planned for in the 60's (when the facilities were built) and there were STILL empty floors.

Re:ATT is forcing users onto Uverse (3, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43890681)

Yes, copper will survive into the future, but there will be less of it, and the quality will be worse

Depending on how much less, and how much legacy customers are willing to pay, this could actually be convenient for an experienced support tech, of course...

Infrastructure decay should open up a vast supply of weird and ghastly problems with connections over those lines. The main question is whether there are enough high-rolling legacy customers(and/or enough institutional inertia) that there will still be demand for people to keep the remaining copper customers on life support, or whether the across-the-board solution to copper problems will be "This upgrade is Exciting and Mandatory"...

Re:ATT is forcing users onto Uverse (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890711)

The reason they are forcing everyone onto Uverse and ripping out the legacy copper is because they must provide competitive access to the copper.

They do not have to provide it on fiber. So they are excluding competition by switching everyone to fiber.

It's just another dirty trick from Ma Bell. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...

Re:ATT is forcing users onto Uverse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890775)

I wish they would force me onto Uverse, since all I can get from them now is 768k DSL at home. They upgraded some of the houses on my street to a VRAD between here and the CO, but since nobody was in my house when they did that, they didn't bother with it - and of course only sized the VRAD for the exact number of subscribers they were upgrading, and left ZERO room for growth.

Short story, AT&T superiors have told me that unless the federal government comes up with a lot more free money for them, I will never, EVER get anything better than what I have now.

Re:ATT is forcing users onto Uverse (1)

pepsikid (2226416) | about a year ago | (#43891011)

Bad news; chances are, they moved your wire pair to the same box your uverse neighbors run through anyway. Your connection is crummy because they make it so. See if you can verify the configuration of your modem at 192.168.0.1. If you're getting 50% or less of what your tier is supposed to provide, they will have to fix it. And they can throttle it transparently by "misconfiguring" upstream equipment. Happened to us once a year. Level II has to "fix" that since the lines will "check out ok".

Re:ATT is forcing users onto Uverse (1)

pepsikid (2226416) | about a year ago | (#43890993)

This is true. We were told we couldn't get higher speeds than "Pro 3Mbps" because we had "legacy DSL". Our speeds sucked even though we were only 4000' from the nearest central office. One tech we had out here told us that really, we were wired into the DSLAM 1500' away just like the uverse in the area. So, we were getting a miserable 2.5Mbps while only 1500' away from where our wires joined the fiber just because we wouldn't "upgrade" to a different brand of service.

Re:ATT is forcing users onto Uverse (1)

buybuydandavis (644487) | about a year ago | (#43891067)

More support work for Dad!

go to a dsl installer course.. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43890497)

twisted copper isn't going anywhere anytime soon. you just can't fit as much in the air.

Re:go to a dsl installer course.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890749)

Theoretically you could, but it's not like copper technology is at a stand-still. Copper signaling algorithms continue to advance almost as fast as wireless and fiber. People just think copper is dead because they only hear about wireless this or fiber that.

"Old" technology never goes away, or even stops evolving, it just falls into the background and becomes less interesting to the popular media.

New Job: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890499)

Repeat after me:

"Welcome to Walmart."

Sorry.

Copper's got some HUGE advantages over fiber (5, Insightful)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | about a year ago | (#43890503)

1. Its already there, pretty much everywhere.
2. Only one end needs to have power for it to work. (This is the "911 works even when the power is out" issue)
3. You don't need multi-thousand dollar tools to splice it or terminate it.
4. You don't need multi-hundred dollar equipment to connect to it.

Re:Copper's got some HUGE advantages over fiber (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890529)

And you forgot, number 5!
5. Works in the dark!

Re:Copper's got some HUGE advantages over fiber (4, Insightful)

Guspaz (556486) | about a year ago | (#43890609)

1. is not true in some places. Bell Aliant's territory (most of eastern Canada) is now primarily fiber, with very little copper left. They decided to replace their entire network, and then went and did it.
2. is partially true, but battery backups (frequently included in the install) keep things running for hours, making this much less of a problem than people think. Also, during extended power outages, the battery backups at your telco's CO only lasts so long, and they only have so many generators to recharge them with, so this problem affects copper too.
3. is misleading because fiber is cheaper to deploy on the whole, the cost of individual pieces of equipment is irrelevant when the overall process is cheaper.
4. is untrue, you can find GPON ONTs for $65 or less.

Re:Copper's got some HUGE advantages over fiber (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#43890767)

> 1. Its already there, pretty much everywhere.

...except that (a) most of what's already there was laid back when nobody had even conceived of sending data over copper, leaving a terrible snarl that gives a TDR fits, and (b) it's starting to get really old. The hot setup is to rip it all out and relay it in a more data-friendly fashion. But if you're going to do that, it makes more sense to lay fiber instead.

learn HTML (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890511)

it's time.

Re:learn HTML (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890527)

it would be soooo awesome if Indian call centers were based on twisted pair and their help desks had to keep calling your dad's helpdesk. check mate, outsourcing.

Re:learn HTML (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#43890789)

...actually, I'm surprised his dad's job hasn't already been outsourced to India. There's no helpdesk that can't be made better by adding a 13 hour time difference and nearly insurmountable communications problems. Or so it seems.

Cable != ISDN / T1 / T3 (4, Insightful)

gravis777 (123605) | about a year ago | (#43890531)

ISDN, T1 and T3 lines are dedicated, whereas cable is shared. ISDN, T1 and T3 lines are also synchronous connections. Even in business-class cable and DSL connections, I rarely see synchronous speeds (doesn't mean they don't exist, just means that they seem to be rare). In the larger cities, I see major companies going to Fiber connections, but in smaller cities and towns, T1 and T3s are still the way to go.

Our company still has ISDN lines as backups when the fiber fails.

At least in the States, where you have a lot of smaller towns and rural areas with sometiimes hundreds of miles between them and the largest hub, I see copper pair staying around for a while yet.

Re:Cable != ISDN / T1 / T3 (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about a year ago | (#43890859)

The lack of synchronous plans on DSL and cable are business decisions, not technical ones.

Re:Cable != ISDN / T1 / T3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43891031)

Even in business-class cable and DSL connections, I rarely see synchronous speeds

I'm fairly sure you mean "symmetric", not "synchronous".

Re:Cable != ISDN / T1 / T3 (3, Insightful)

mwissel (869864) | about a year ago | (#43891053)

Even in business-class cable and DSL connections, I rarely see synchronous speeds (doesn't mean they don't exist, just means that they seem to be rare).

By any chance you meant to write symmetric instead of synchronous? As in, upstream and downstream bandwidth are the same?

If so, then you need to find the right ISP. You could always order S(symmetric)DSL connections, but they are usually much more expensive than ADSL in both monthly fees and modems, thus they are rare. Most end users either don't need the upsteam provided by SDSL for the given cost or realize this through other technologies because they need even more than DSL's capabilities.

However, it's (at least in my area) not the lack of availability but the lousy cost-performance-ratio that drives customers away from Symmetric DSL.

Circuit switching is (almost) dead (2)

supersat (639745) | about a year ago | (#43890535)

It seems pretty clear to me that circuit switched networks will be phased out in the next 10 years. AT&T has petitioned the FCC to transition to an all-IP network by 2018. At that point, you might have virtual circuit-switched connections, but with none of the advantages of real circuit-switched networks or the cost savings of IP. Existing copper lines were never intended to carry much bandwidth, so while they're still used for last-mile access in many cases (e.g. DSL), going forward it seems like coax or fiber are going to be the only competitive technologies. I believe some telcos are already replacing twisted pair bundles damaged by Hurricane Sandy with fiber.

Re:Circuit switching is (almost) dead (2)

wd5m (2938693) | about a year ago | (#43890685)

I tend to agree. This Week In Radio Tech (TWiRT), an audio podcast for radio/TV nerds, provided some interesting commentary from the a broadcast engineer perspective. See episode 164. [thisweekinradiotech.com] To quote their introduction...

How did we get to this point where the end of ISDN is worrying broadcast engineers? Was ISDN that good? Is IP-audio that scary? Can we master the packets and get IP connections to work reliably and robustly for us as broadcasters? The answer is – mostly yes.

Re:Circuit switching is (almost) dead (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#43890795)

It seems pretty clear to me that circuit switched networks will be phased out in the next 10 years.

They're coming back. They're just called "software defined networks" now. Look at what OpenFlow really does. [openflow.org]

Re:Circuit switching is (almost) dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890813)

In my neighborhood, the local phone company has stopped maintaining the copper wires. Telephone service got very noisy whenever it rained. I finally switched to fiber and now everything works great. Just south of here, where the infrastructure was destroyed by Sandy, the local company is not rebuilding. Since most of the homes are only used in the summer, they are supplying service via cell home systems. I worked for the Telephone Company for 32 years (in Research). Nobody wants copper since they have to share it with the competition. So far the FCC is not requiring that fiber be shared. I would tell your father to take classes and retrain if he wants to continue to work. I have retrained multiple times during my career with good results.

ISDN PRI, Channelized DS1/DS3 not going anywhere (3, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#43890545)

As for helpdesk support... support isn't going anywhere. Although I feel like it's a fruitless pursuit to spend your entire career in. If you're 15 years away from retirement, I would seriously be looking for opportunities for education and advancement, to a more managerial position, where you could have more impact, and maybe get a higher inome for a better retirement.

As you mentioned.... people too far for DSL.

Aside from clear channel DS3; which I don't think is even an argument, that those are going anywhere -- businesses still buy those. And the capacity and assurance that the bandwidth will be available is much higher than DSL.

As you didn't mention... businesses that need something more reliable than DSL, and a SLA from their telecommunications provider. DSL is typically best-effort by the ILEC; sometimes taking 48 to 72 hours to repair. ISDN services are less fragile, and typically have a tigher SLA for diagnosis and repair -- and hey the insult required to break ISDN are essentially drastic situations like stray voltage on the line, cut or short-circuit.

DSL reception can be totally broken, or the speed suddenly greatly diminished, by a huge variety of minor insults to the copper, where electrical continuity isn't lost.

The performance you will get from a T1 link by contrast, is pretty much a certain thing, barring severe damage to the copper.

Businesses requiring POTS applications; believe it or not, VoIP doesn't work for just anything, and still might not be preferred even if it's cheaper; the reliability and security characteristics of POTS may be preferred.

For example: IT security departments like POTS, because VoIP is so vulnerable, and easy to record, intercept, and forge calls, in case of network intrusion.

Various applications work better with POTS, such as fax machines and alarm systems. In large sites, there is likely to be some need, and maybe enough need that a PRI or channelized T1 is required for 24 phone lines.

Existing services where T1/T3 is already in place are unlikely to be changed; where they are filling the need. Not every business wants to tempt fate by switching kinds of service if there is no need to it --- for the forseeable future, there is no massive exodus for DSL.

DS3 signalling isn't going anywhere either; it's the way of muxing a bunch of T1s or SLA guaranteed customer circuits for circuit protection and mapping across the transport network infrastructure. A bunch of DS0s become DS1s; a bunch of DS1s become DS3s; a bunch of DS3s become OC-xxx; a bunch of those so-called obsolete T1s form the backbone of a telco transport network.

Re:ISDN PRI, Channelized DS1/DS3 not going anywher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890581)

a bunch of those so-called obsolete T1s form the backbone of a telco transport network.

And that stuff is still used as the backhauls for cellular -- and that is going to be around for a very long time. Many people in their 30's still use their cell phones for voice calls. The PSTN still needs to move those calls around. Everybody is talking about moving to an IMS core for the cellular network; but this change will take decades to complete.

Re:ISDN PRI, Channelized DS1/DS3 not going anywher (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890623)

Agreed. I've done some asterisk based installs for small companies, and I always tell them VoIP is great inside your network, that you control, but analog or PRI POTS is where it's at for upstream. Unless you want your phone to be as 'reliable' as your internet. In some cases it can make sense, like a satellite office. But once you get to 12-15 lines, a PRI tends to be price competitive anyhow.

Re:ISDN PRI, Channelized DS1/DS3 not going anywher (1)

geoskd (321194) | about a year ago | (#43890791)

Agreed. I've done some asterisk based installs for small companies, and I always tell them VoIP is great inside your network, that you control, but analog or PRI POTS is where it's at for upstream. Unless you want your phone to be as 'reliable' as your internet. In some cases it can make sense, like a satellite office. But once you get to 12-15 lines, a PRI tends to be price competitive anyhow.

Before you start extolling the virtues of POTS, keep in mind that everything is not always flowers and sunshine. We have 20 line POTS to the building I'm in, and the up-time is atrocious. The patchboard alone is a nightmare no one wants to touch. We had an old PBX go bad last year, and managed to blottobox all the digital phones on the phone network. cost us $10,000 to replace all the damaged equipment. On top of that, we regularly suffer multi-hour outages from our upstream provider, and they refuse to fix the problem. No one else around us does POTS anymore, its all VOIP, and someone sold the VIPs at our company that VOIP is the devil and we will have no end of up-time failures... So now, we are stuck with POTS with horrible customer service and 2 full days worth of unplanned outage every year, and no one wants to pay the expense of upgrading anything. We should have made the transition to full VOIP when we had to cough up the money anyway.

Around here, if you want a five 9s guarantee, your only option is VOIP.

Re:ISDN PRI, Channelized DS1/DS3 not going anywher (1)

Vrtigo1 (1303147) | about a year ago | (#43890659)

DS3 signalling isn't going anywhere either; it's the way of muxing a bunch of T1s or SLA guaranteed customer circuits for circuit protection and mapping across the transport network infrastructure. A bunch of DS0s become DS1s; a bunch of DS1s become DS3s; a bunch of DS3s become OC-xxx; a bunch of those so-called obsolete T1s form the backbone of a telco transport network.

I won't claim to be intimately aware of telco operations, but it's my understanding that more and more telcos are ditching channelized copper on the backbone and migrating toward IP based solutions over fiber because they're easier to work with. If copper will still be here in 15 or 20 years I don't see it in the backbone, I see it as the last mile.

Re:ISDN PRI, Channelized DS1/DS3 not going anywher (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#43890693)

I won't claim to be intimately aware of telco operations, but it's my understanding that more and more telcos are ditching channelized copper on the backbone

Telcos are usually using channelized fiber on the backbone.

IP based protocols don't provide reliable delivery and circuit protection switching. For the forseeable future, only VoIP providers are switching voice to IP at the backbone, and providers that sell circuits to customers are not.

Re:ISDN PRI, Channelized DS1/DS3 not going anywher (1)

D1G1T (1136467) | about a year ago | (#43890783)

As for helpdesk support... support isn't going anywhere.

I agree with you except for this. Unless his dad is working from India, I'm amazed he's still got a helpdesk job. Time to move on or up.

Re:ISDN PRI, Channelized DS1/DS3 not going anywher (1)

mysidia (191772) | about a year ago | (#43891061)

Unless his dad is working from India, I'm amazed he's still got a helpdesk job. Time to move on or up.

As long as he's advanced helpdesk Level 3 or higher, and he's not in the first line Level 1 or Level 2 support job; I don't think he has much to worry about from India.

The engineering outsourcing fad is just about over, if not over.

Go ask Dell about how well that worked for them in the long run, farming out all their work to overseas companies -- by outsourcing everything, they outsourced their competitive edge, and then their suppliers started working for the competition - enabling the competition in various countries to provide essentially the same equipment as Dell, for a lower price: in other words, outsourcing came to bite them, because they effectively exported the core of their business, directly resulting in them bleeding sales...

Anyways, while outsourcing customer service and low-level support works well -- a call center operator can just read from a script.

It doesn't work so well, for helpdesk, beyond low-level jobs, when you need advanced level troubleshooting, such as helpdesk logging into service provider routers and other highly security-sensitive network infrastructure to do some diagnostics, and not following a script.

It doesn't work so well, when a specific understanding of the customer's network design is required to troubleshoot the issue.

It doesn't work so well when you lose customers because they are fed up talking to "engineers" with accents they cannot understand.

It doesn't work so well when the person taking the call needs to physically touch something, to provide the service the customer expects.

Or when the helpdesk person needs to coordinate with a field technician for diagnosis.

Tell your dad to quietly take some classes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890561)

in SAN and/or cloud. And if he gets a chance to land a job supporting one of those, take it. It's much easier to land a job when you're already employed.

The future isn't so dark.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890575)

Having been in IT (Networking) for over 20 years, I think your Father's position itself is safe - PROVIDED that he can adapt to the new technologies coming up to replace the existing ones. Tx/DSy/OC-x systems will be around for a long time yet. Its not always about bandwidth even though there is an undeniable need for more. T1s/E1s (and greater) for example have technology through the smart jack that enable enhanced diagnostics that DSL doesn't/can't provide. This includes TDR capability for cable cuts, etc.Again; provided your Dad's learning grows with the technology, I think he can be safe through retirement.

92Mbps on VDSL2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890599)

Full disclosure: I work for a smallish LEC in rural America. I don't think there is much hope for ISDN outside specialized applications, T1s and a couple large Centrex deployments is the only thing we've got using it anymore. There is plenty of life left in DSL technologies - we've got fiber to the neighborhood and copper to the house using Calix gear, I'm getting 92Mbps at my house (shared between IPTV and Internet), works great. In places where the loop length is too long we're using ADSL, sometimes bonded and getting ~40Mbps to reasonable distances. Sure we're plowing fiber in with every new drop but the existing copper has plenty of years left in it.

how to get new related skills (1)

Win Hill (1594463) | about a year ago | (#43890607)

Your father would like to stay in his industry, which means learning the new scene of cable modems, routers and access points, and etc., that the ISPs are providing now. But he might have trouble quickly getting a similar job working for one of these companies, because they'll suspect his outdated skill set. So he may have trouble learning customer service for these new technologies on the job. I suggest he sign up for one or more of these services at home, and start by delving into the innards of the equipment supplied. For example, Verizon FiOS creates a cable signal from their big wall-mounted interface box, and sends that to a cable modem. In my case they provided a third-party box from ActionTec; a combination cable-modem, router and wi-fi access point. This product has a detailed manual available on the web, and they provide all the information, so you can manage it yourself and change settings, etc. (In fact, their software is GPL open source!) So he can learn by experimenting, and update the experience and knowledge parts of his resume accordingly. Hah, he might be able to get consulting jobs helping companies change over to the new approach.

Theft? (1)

Lost Penguin (636359) | about a year ago | (#43890611)

People steal it, soon they may even remove it off the poles.

HELLO?

Wrong question (1)

mvar (1386987) | about a year ago | (#43890631)

First of all you should ask if ISDN and T1 are "going the way of the dodo", not copper. DSL runs over copper too so copper is and will be relevant in the foreseeable future. Although it certainly depends on where you live, most businesses that migrate from ISDN/T1/E1 services go to DSL or FO. With DSL you have adsl,vdsl,shdsl,vdsl bonding, anything that can do EFM anyway, so copper isn't going anywhere anytime soon. For some end users that are too far for DSL, there are 3G routers and other wireless solutions. ISDN will eventually die but again that's what they say for FAX for so many years, so nobody knows for sure. And really, your dad should know better, the industry he is in changes rapidly and only those who can adapt to these changes survive.

PRI? (4, Informative)

Vrtigo1 (1303147) | about a year ago | (#43890635)

You seem to be focused on BRI ISDN which is what is used by those you referenced (TV remotes, voice actors, etc). It is an extremely low bandwidth connection (128 Kbps) but "it works" and is probably not going away anytime soon. PRI is probably much more prevalent. PRI is what I would consider the T1 of ISDN. It is commonly used for enterprise PBX systems, and I definitely don't see it going away anytime soon. The only other realistic option I see at present is SIP, but even then unless it's delivered over fiber SIP services are still probably going to come in over some kind of copper medium (be it T1, etc). Some companies are moving to fiber, but there is usually considerably more cost associated with bringing fiber to the premises as compared to copper which likely is already on premise.

My company has fiber on premise for IP, but we still have PRIs from the LEC for our voice service. Any time you bring voice in over an IP transport (as in SIP), you have to make sure the IP network has proper QoS, etc whereas PRI "just works". PRI is usually more expensive, but not overly so. When we replaced our PBX a few years ago we considered SIP, but when we presented the various options to the powers that be, they chose to stick with PRI because it has a proven track record whereas SIP was just gaining traction in the market.

I think in 15 years you will definitely see fiber steal a large market share of those customers that are currently using copper, but I think there will still be plenty of copper around.

He's Doomed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890639)

He should have taken some time to learn some additional skills in the last 30 years.

I'm not sure why you're worried about the future, though. Did you spend all of your young adulthood preparing to also support copper pair technology?

The question is about relevance of PDH/ISDN (5, Informative)

Zarhan (415465) | about a year ago | (#43890643)

Like someone else commented, the poster uses terms "Copper" and "ISDN" interchangeably. However, with the inclusion of terms like T1/T3, it's clearly about "what can an old telco-guy do in this newfangled IP-based world with 15 years before retirement". Copper here is a misnomer, a lot of stuff can happen over copper (DSLs being the most obvious example).

I have some familiarity in just how dead the technology is. We have a big customer who just placed a big order for Cisco's PVDM digital modems [cisco.com] . Why "big", if the tech is dying? Well, that stuff is going to end-of-sale after this summer and they have lot of legacy systems around the globe that dial in (machine-to-machine stuff, and not easily upgradeable everywhere at once). They are moving to IP-based systems but cannot really do that fast enough. Anyway, one of the biggest vendors of network equipment just decided that they aren't going to sell modems that can talk directly to E1/T1 line (analog 2-port models are still in the selection though). I don't know that anyone else is selling such stuff either (Alcatel maybe?). That technology had it's day, but it's long gone.

There might of course be places where, due to signaling constraints, you need to run a E1/T1, but it doesn't really use any of the features. You just run PPP over that link and be done with it - no one cares about the intricasies of Q.931 framing or setting up calls for such links. Even in telephony, it will continue to have some uses, for example many PBX systems still only provide E1/T1 uplink - even if it's going to be used just to connect couple of feet to the SIP gateway right at the next rack.

Frankly, your father has two choices: Either
  a) Get entrenched into some niche that really can keep on going with ISDN-based technologies for the next 15 years - you know, maintain job security by being the "only one left who understands this piece of legacy junk that we cannot migrate away from fast". Frankly, I find such positions hard to imagine - sure, maybe if he was retiring in this decade, it could work, but hardly in the 2020's.
  or
  b) Join the IP world. Frankly, I would think that with a reasonable effort he could still become an expert in VoIP - you still need skills like provisioning (for QoS), codecs (even the G.711a/mu-law is relevant), and so on. Lot of the concepts in SIP are still based on the good old stuff from telco days. You just need to wrap your head around the concept that instead of TDM sending each frame at exactly right intervals, you get packets that might occasionally get lost or routed wrongly or arrive out-of-order...And frankly, you also don't need to care anymore about stuff like SPID's or TEIs. Which I would think of a relief.

Never underestimate the power of a twisted pair (1)

AvailableNickname (2627169) | about a year ago | (#43890691)

Tens of thousands, perhaps millions of homes are already wired with it, all that cable... just sitting in the walls waiting for something to happen to it... F'rinstance, in my house we had a little project a few years back. We uprooted the phone jacks in all the rooms and replaced them with stereo jacks. Now every room in the house is wired to our computer in the living room, through several separate ports. Anybody can ssh in from anywhere in the house and play music directly to their room. Good, high quality music with no latency or buffer lag over the wifi.

You ask about several seperate things. (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about a year ago | (#43890709)

I think twisted copper as a system of long distance wiring will gradually become less common but won't go away completely for years. Some telcos will likely phase it out quicker than others.

I think Traditional twisted pair telco interfaces (pots, ISDN BRI, ISDN PRI, inband T1 etc) will remain available for those who want to buy them regardless of the physical plant the teclo is using. However I also think such services will likely be priced higher than comparable services delivered by more modern technologies and as such buisnesses will gradually move away from them just as most buisnesses have already moved from ISDN BRI to DSL. IIRC the telcos already use adaptor boxes to run T1 down a single pair rather than the traditional two pairs and also use adaptor boxes to run T3 over fiber because of the very low distance limits of T3 over copper so I can't imagine it would be a big deal for them to do a converter box for T1 over fiber.

I think Twisted pair as an in-building wiring technique is likely to stay around for the foreseeable future because over short distances the ease of termination and low cost of end hardware outweighs the cost of the copper. However I think that phone signals over said twisted pair will increasingly be VOIP over ethernet rather than analog voice or traditional digital voice systems. Again some companies will likely move slower than others.

Technology and what you do with it (2)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | about a year ago | (#43890727)

My employers' primary business has, until recently, been based on T1. We are now migrating to VoIP.

The customer experience is improved (if they notice the change at all), we're opening up new paths for future development, and we're getting away from obsolete legacy hardware that is no longer manufactured or supported. We're also saving the company oodles of money. What the telcos want for T1 these days just isn't pretty.

I'm 51, BTW. Old dogs can indeed learn new tricks.

...laura

Rural America has nothing to fear... (4, Interesting)

bloggerhater (2439270) | about a year ago | (#43890731)

I'm an engineer with one of the largest communications companies in the U.S.. It will be a long time before we see reliable high speed saturation in the more rural regions... mostly because of the prohibitive cost of deployment. OP's dad may need to move or telecommute at some point...but his skill set will be needed for some time to come.

What is this DSL of which you speak? (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#43890741)

Do people still use DSL? In my area the choices are cable or fiber to the house. It seems like, if you were going to worry about DSL taking over for ISDN, you'd be doing that in the late nineties.

I suppose some big corporations still use ISDN for the same reason some companies still use 3179 terminals. A large initial investment in what has become stale technology, and it's just easier to continue to piece together what they have than to swap it out for a modern technology. That said, it seems like there should be a significant price advantage to switching to something from, you know, this century.

I'd recommend your dad train up on modern technology. Learning keeps you young, and let's face it, 15 years is a long time in computer tech. That's enough time to have a whole 'nother career. Sorry he won't have an opportunity to coast the rest of the way to retirement, but thems the breaks. (Speaking as someone who will be 56 in just a few days.)

Re:What is this DSL of which you speak? (1)

amorsen (7485) | about a year ago | (#43890947)

What is wrong with DSL? It is unshared last-mile (well, more like last-100m these days) unlike cable, and it is already in the ground unlike fiber. The shared nature of cable means that it is difficult for regulators to get rid of the monopoly of the cable company. In contrast, the copper for DSL could until recently be wired directly to whichever competitor DSLAM the customer chose, although with DSLAMs in the cabinets this is becoming less feasible.

The effective bandwidth provided by cable and fiber to each subscriber is similar, but a cable network with very small loops will obviously beat DSL over long wires and vice versa. Both technologies currently top out around 100Mbps downstream in practice.

In Denmark it is cable that is dying, not DSL. In England there is no clear winner yet but the market is rather dysfunctional due to insufficient (and wrong) regulation.

Don't worry about the future... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890763)

Don't worry about the future in technology, the governments of the world have doomed the economies and currencies of their country through fiat spending to buy votes. It is just a matter of a short time before you job vanishes.

Worried about the future? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43890815)

If being worried about the future because of copper used in cables then you have no problems to worry about.

Seriously, grow up or get a life man. Worried about the future because of copper? I don't even know what to say about that.

As a hosted VoIP engineer (1)

Guillaume le Btard (1773300) | about a year ago | (#43890881)

I am happy to have the copper that I can connect my DSL lines to for my VoIP customers. It's not going anywhere for the forseable future for the smaller customers. And that is not even considering the BRI and PRI lines for the small medium sized customers with their dedicated PBXs.

ISDN is great! (3, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#43890883)

ISDN voice is great. No lag beyond speed of light lag. No jitter. No dropouts. No analog noise. True full duplex. End to end digital. It's telephony perfected. Switzerland has residential ISDN, and when I get calls from Switzerland, they're so clear.

Far, far better than cellular or VoIP. I'm really tired of voice cell conversations with a full second of lag in them. Sometimes there's so much lag the echo suppressors can't cope.

Why are we putting up with crap voice quality on telephones?

Re:ISDN is great! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#43891035)

Why are we putting up with crap voice quality on telephones?

You make calls with your phone?

Re:ISDN is great! (2)

mwissel (869864) | about a year ago | (#43891129)

Because nobody wants to pay for the quality so much sought after.

By the way, G.722 wideband calls are the best thing I ever heard on my phone when there is no transcoding in between. We have the infrastructure in our company, it's a treat for the ears ;-).

Naturally, int'l calls with least cost routing and numerous transit providers in between can never lead into good voice quality with VoIP.

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