3 actions for IT leaders facing a legacy telecom service shut down

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Telecom carriers are sunsetting copper line legacy services like POTS (plain old telephone service), TDM (time-division multiplexing) and some MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) around the world at an increasing rate. While many phone lines can be disconnected easily, for reliant applications, lines can be harder to replace and take a lot more planning, not to mention the potential financial burden for users who may need to migrate or adopt new services.

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Danellie Young is a Senior Director, Analyst in Gartner Research.

This can naturally cause panic for IT leaders, presenting service impacts for organizations that have not prepared and price hikes as providers get closer to their decommissioning milestones.

It is inevitable that these services come full circle and eventually come to an end. However, what is more crucial is timing, as well as the provider’s communication strategy and how the incumbent provider cares in the process of discontinuing the service.

As a result, IT leaders must undertake three actions that proactively plan for replacement services, avoid business disruption and ensure optimal services, pricing and contracting terms.

1. Complete an inventory audit

When service technologies are being discontinued, some providers are giving sufficient notice to their customers. Other providers are more abrupt - in either fully discontinuing or no longer allowing customers to expand POTS, TDM and even some MPLS services, such as increasing the purchased quantity.

Replacement services naturally come with higher costs - with new hardware/equipment and more electrical power capacity, and limited time, users are often forced to use the incumbent provider versus soliciting bids. And what’s more, if data networking circuits require reconfiguration, one-time costs will be incurred. Mitigate this by proactively approaching providers for service decommissioning milestone dates, replacement service options and early exit routes.

Many providers are dramatically raising prices and lengthening the service-level target for time to repair, as well as new multi-year term renewal rates, to address higher equipment costs. In the past two years, Gartner has reviewed many proposals from telecom service providers with rates that have increased by over 500%. In addition, legacy services have also been seeing decreasing service levels, including delayed install intervals, delayed repairs by providers or the elimination of SLAs altogether. If the incumbent provider offers good stability and support and has a replacement service, consider the incumbent a strong contender for retention.

If a competing vendor has a similar service for an offered price 20% or more below the incumbent provider, then the competing vendor should be pursued.

In sum, perform a full inventory of copper line services by collating contracts, creating a control list, applying a lead, and getting a roadmap on all services from suppliers.

2. Assess the market

Regulators are allowing providers of analogue POTS and digital time division multiplexing to offer legacy services for existing customers. Providers will, in most cases, offer alternatives to these legacy services, along with a migration path.

Many of these services are connected via legacy or specialty hardware, which can easily be overlooked and assumed to last forever. In assessing which services need to be addressed, determine potential equipment impacts to provide full technical scope, installation lead time and cost of the replacement solution.

If resorting to the incumbent provider for replacement options, prepare an RFP to effectively solicit quotes for replacement services, including managed services - taking into consideration the strategic direction and roadmap of the potential provider and mandate project management as part of the transition. Allocate one to four months for the competitive bid and RFP process, if possible, as it will greatly improve the odds for competitive pricing and more choice. Additionally, consider an aggregator where possible to utilize older services as they are likely to keep longer.

Broadening the search beyond the incumbent provider may provide alternatives or services that may be new to you. If your organization has insufficient time to prepare an RFP, consider the incumbent for only one year.

3. Use research to inform your decision-making

The time you must react to a shutdown depends entirely on the service type, the provider and the amount of time the provider allows on their service discontinuation notice. Some are more aggressive in turning down legacy services; some are mandating contract terms that stipulate rules for service discontinuation or allow for price fluctuations with specified days of notice.

In addition, solicit consultancies for comprehensive research to determine options related to voice and data network services.

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Danellie Young is a Senior Director, Analyst in Gartner Research that serves infrastructure and communication services leaders with primary research responsibility for services sourcing and vendor management.