Spark outlines upgrade to IP voice network

Spark outlines upgrade to IP voice network

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 CCN.

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 residential customers.”

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