WASHINGTON Jan 30 U.S. wireless providers like
AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc on Thursday
received a nod from regulators to test a transition of the
telephone industry away from traditional analog networks to
The Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted in
favor of trials, in which telecommunications companies would
test switching telephone services from existing circuit-switch
technology to an alternative Internet protocol-based one to see
how the change may affect consumers.
The experiments approved by the FCC would not test the new
technology - it is already being used - and would not determine
law and policy regulating it, FCC staff said. The trials would
seek to establish, among other things, how consumers welcome the
change and how new technology performs in emergency situations,
including in remote locations.
"What we're doing here is a big deal. This is an important
moment," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. "We today invite service
providers to propose voluntary experiments for all-IP networks."
The move in part grants the application by AT&T to conduct
IP transition tests as companies that offer landline phone
services seek to ultimately replace their old copper wires with
newer technology like fiber or wireless.
"We cannot continue requiring service providers to invest in
both old networks and new networks forever," Commissioner Ajit
Pai, a Republican, said.
Some consumers, particularly in rural or hard-to-reach
areas, have complained about poor connectivity of their IP-based
services. Advocates have also expressed concerns about the
impact of the transition on consumers with disabilities.
"I think we must be mindful of the impact this transition
has on consumers -- their needs, their expectations and their
willingness to embrace network change," said Commissioner
Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat.
The trials will be voluntary, and regulators require that
the experiments "cover areas with different population densities
and demographics, different topologies, and/or different
seasonal and meteorological conditions." They also require that
no consumers be left disconnected.