“The days when a customer had just one voice services provider are gone,” says Ken Paker, TDS VP. In the future, most people will use several providers, he says. That might mean one or two suppliers for mobile services, a different supplier for fixed-line service and others for PC-based voice sessions that might occur wtihin the context of an application such as Gmail or Facebook, for example.

That’s a possibly big change for some providers, but Paker says the days of “just one provider” are not long for this world.

Paker also says the business case for a softswitch upgrade is unlike other earlier switch transformations, where there were obvious new revenue sources to tap and greater cost savings. At least for some firms, such as TDS, which mostly runs smaller switches, there are limited cost savings.

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New services such as hosted IP telephony or SIP trunking provide upside, but the economics are not like the transition from analog to digital switches. Many are too young to remember, but many telcos at one point charged customers for “touch tone” or other capabilities.

Nor are there capacity issues that drive a transition to IP telephony, he says. That means TDS is taking a deliberate approach to replacing its legacy switches.

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