POTS lines: How they work and modern alternatives

The essential guide to POTS

The official birthday of the internet was January 1, 1983, and the world’s first smartphone was released in 1994. Since then, we’ve come a long way, building upon traditional phone systems to create the modern phone networks we know and love today.

But those old phone systems have been showing their age for a while now, and newer, more powerful, and flexible alternatives exist.

This post defines POTS (plain old telephone service) and explains how it’s kept our world connected since the late 1800s. By the end, you’ll be able to make the best decision for your business phone system by choosing a modern business phone alternative to POTS lines.

What is a POTS line?

POTS is an acronym used to describe the analog telephone service the US has used for over 100 years. Better known as “plain old telephone service”. It makes use of copper twisted pair wires to connect homes and businesses to central control rooms.

As technology advanced, features like call waiting, voicemail, and caller ID were integrated into the POTS system. Modems and fax machines also used POTS lines to convey digital information. This analog telephone system is still the basis for most of our modern telecommunications.

How do POTS lines work?

When you make a call through POTS, the system establishes a connection between point A (where you are) and point B (where your intended call recipient is). Because the POTS lines system is completely analog, it uses copper wires to connect between the two locations.

Once you’ve placed your call, the audio is converted from sound waves into electrical analog signals. These signals are carried by the copper wires to the receiver’s end. Then, they’re changed back into sound waves so that the receiver can understand you.

One of the downsides of copper lines is that they can create noise interference. The signals they transmit also grow weaker with distance, meaning that amplification may be necessary to deliver the signals from caller to receiver.

What is the best alternative to POTS lines?

The best alternative to POTS is VoIP. But it’s not the only alternative, so let’s explore some other options.

One alternative is an integrated services digital network (ISDN), which transmits digital signals through analog lines. Digital subscriber lines (DSLs) are another option. DSL makes use of existing copper lines and multiple transmission frequencies to simultaneously send analog voice audio and digital information.

However, a DSL connection may require a filter to prevent digital “leaks,” and both solutions need physical wires connecting them to service.

Enter Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems. Rather than converting sound waves into electrical analog signals like POTS lines do, your VoIP works by converting sound waves into digital signals. These signals are transmitted via the Internet rather than traditional telephone lines.

VoIP systems offer expanded user features, along with flexibility that simply isn’t possible with analog lines. VoIP allows you to place and receive calls from any internet-enabled device. You can also tap into an LTE data connection if you experience power outages or poor connections.

Why choose a VoIP service provider?


The rising costs of POTS line maintenance and service mean that the technology will soon become cost prohibitive. The POTS pricing model is also outdated, with users having to pay extra for setup and each additional feature.

Better call quality

Because VoIP lines make use of your broadband internet connection rather than copper wires, you won’t have to worry about a decline in call quality. If you’re switching from a POTS legacy system, you should expect clearer audio, as long as your internet service is up to the task.

Expanded features

Apart from better call quality, you’ll enjoy access to features that simply aren’t compatible with POTS lines, like Do Not Disturb mode, texting, and shared phone numbers. You can also forward calls to and from any device, minimizing missed calls and simplifying your life. Some VoIP providers even offer third-party integrations, so you can connect your phone system with business operations and customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Easy setup and maintenance

Every business needs an efficient system to communicate internally and with clients. POTS service can be difficult to install and maintain since it requires physical wires running to your place of business. That also makes it incompatible with remote work.

Increased flexibility

Not all organizations make use of handsets and wired phone lines. Today, the expansion of remote work and international business means that you need a business phone system that offers flexibility. A VoIP service allows you to conduct business from anywhere, without being shackled to your desk.

With a modern unified communications system, you can say goodbye to the restrictions of desk phones and hello to the superior capabilities of VoIP telephony.

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About Plow Networks

Plow Networks is a leading IT services provider, connecting businesses to technology since 2012. With deep expertise in network, cloud, and end user support services, we partner with clients to leverage technology in ways that simplify operations and fuel growth. Plow Networks is based in Brentwood, Tennessee.


Plow Networks
(615) 224-8735

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