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19 April 2017
| James Pearce
Spark New Zealand has announced plans to ditch its public switched telephone network (PSTN) in favour of a next generation IP-based network.
The operator said it will phase in the new voice network
over the next five years, culminating in the consolidation of
all voice services – be it landline, mobile, video or
voice over IP – on one converged network.
50% of New Zealand homes and businesses are using
alternatives to the PSTN network, according to Spark. These
include other technologies like voice over fibre, voice over
wireless, mobile voice, and messaging applications.
Spark’s last big upgrade to its PSTN network
came more than 30 years ago, and the New Zealand operator
claims moving to an IP-based network will enable richer and
better customer experiences across voice and video.
"This is a significant and essential upgrade of our oldest
network, providing us with a future- proof platform for the
latest voice technology, and allowing us to develop and deploy
new services," explained Spark COO Mark Beder.
"We’ve been talking about doing this for over a
decade now, and many other countries are also in the process of
retiring their PSTNs, so it’s great to finally be
able to get on with it here.
"The PSTN has served New Zealanders extremely well for many
decades, but it’s now nearing end of life and the
clock is ticking. Maintaining the network is becoming harder
and harder – components are no longer manufactured,
we’ve bought every second-hand part we can source
from around the world, and people with the skills to maintain
the technology are harder to find. It’s time to
make the switch."
The new IP-based network, which has been dubbed the
Converged Communications Network (CCN), will be less
infrastructure heavy, allowing Spark to do away with 1300
tonnes of equipment. Spark has already decommissioned 10 of the
283 PSTN exchanges scattered across New Zealand, with another
four due to be decommissioned shortly, and the service due to
switch in its entirety by 2020.
Spark said the CCN will work with "most customer devices" in
use today, but warned of some rare exceptions where legacy
low-speed dial up services, EFTPOS terminals, and PABX systems
may not work.
Spark has already began trailing the CCN, which will be
powered by Ericsson technology. In February, the Swedish vendor
announced it was working with Spark to build an IP multimedia
system (IMS), which will form the core technology for the
Beder says "These trials have been very successful. All the
changes take place behind the scenes and disruption to
customers has been minimal. The migration entails a small
outage of a few minutes, scheduled during off-peak times for