All About POTS: What is POTS and How Does it Work?

In the past, commercial and residential customers relied on Plain Old Telephone Service or POTS. This system used copper wires to carry analog conversations. This system began in the 1800s and offered more complexity and better service than Alexander Graham Bell’s rudimentary telephone methods. 

Updating POTS lines

Business owners have turned to digital technologies as a POTS line replacement for their businesses, but some are returning to the reliability of POTS, especially when power outages occur. But what is POTS, and why is this the case with businesses today?

How did POTS begin

When phone service began, the original callers relied on local post offices to connect their phone calls. The POTS acronym was first used for the Post Office Telephone Service, but after service connectivity moved to other businesses, the acronym became Plain Old Telephone Service. Some users call analog phone service the Public Switched Telephone Network or PSTN.

As businesses investigate the best phone services, they look at how new technologies can use analog services and the plethora of copper wires around the world. Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) use some of the wires from analog services for digital data messages. 

How do POTS work?

Old-fashioned phone service requires several steps that involve connecting a dedicated circuit with copper wires to two points to send a message. The connection requires several switches for local, national, or international calls. In the past, people adjusted the controls with a switchboard. Eventually, computers replaced people. 

POTS lines turn sound waves into electrical analog signals that travel over copper wires and through switches. The speaker’s words become analog signals, then return to sound waves in the listener’s headset. The sound waves and signals move back and forth between speaker and listener as the roles switch in a conversation. 

Problems with POTS

Unfortunately, copper wires pick up static and noise. As the signals move across the lines, the providers must amplify them so the receiver can hear the sound waves. These problems don’t exist with digital phone calls. 

POTS terminology

People talking about POTS phones use a set of common terms. When they aren’t using the phone, it is on the hook or idle, referring to the handset sitting on the cradle of the telephone unit. When users pick up the handset, they should hear a dial tone. 

If the phone is engaged in a call, it is off the hook. Sometimes, phones can be off the hook when they aren’t in use, but they also aren’t on the cradle.

When the phone rings when a caller tries to get to a receiver, the noise they hear is the ringback. The person receiving the call hears the ring of the phone unit, and the person making the call hears a similar sound in their handset. 

Wrap up

POTS relied on analog messages between point A and point B. As innovators perfected the transistor, they paved the way for digital networks that made phone lines move signals in compact packets that maintained call quality. Good quality calls need more than copper wires and switches.

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