TELECOMS PROVIDERS in the US have been given a green light to explore the idea of replacing traditional telephone communications with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted a limited licence for telecomes companies to explore the consequences of a world where telephone numbers are replaced by IP addresses, with no traditional switched telephone circuits to fall back on.
Reuters reports that the VoIP trials will be conducted on a voluntary basis with a view to exploring public reaction and assessing the needs of vulnerable groups such as the disabled and rural populations with limited internet connectivity.
"What we're doing here is a big deal. This is an important moment," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "We today invite service providers to propose voluntary experiments for all-IP networks."
The ultimate ambition will be to eliminate the dual maintenance of both copper wire and fibre optic networks, which would yield huge cost saving, especially across the vast unpopulated areas in parts of the US.
AT&T and Verizon have both announced that they will be taking part in the trials, which will also be expected to demonstrate that there will be adequate provision for emergency service if the change is made in the future.
The trials will not be regulated by the FCC and are expected to be done in a discreet manner to minimise impact on the existing public phone and data networks, however the trial findings will be reported back to the FCC to help shape its future policy on the matter. µ