Do you still need PSTN?

Why old technologies are bad for security? Because they aren’t flexible enough. Almost everyone is using Internet banking and takes SSL encryption of the session for granted. But most banks also offer telephone banking, where you manage your account using telephone line. Usually you put your account number (or its equivalent), PIN and then you can transfer money etc. Phone line wiretapping is a trivial thing – I’ve done that back in school. Phone banking is inherently insecure in that regard.

Now, a business story. Telstra is Australia’s almost-monopoly telco. Think of AT&T not broken up, or Ukrtelecom. In early 2006, Telstra’s then-new CEO Sol Trujillo was worried about something:

PSTN decline had accelerated slightly faster than expected.

Later that year, he was more optimistic:

The shift in revenue from traditional higher margin products and services to new and emerging products and services with lower margins has continued. However, we are tackling this hard and have slowed the PSTN decline by integrating services, bundling initiatives and customer winback programs.

And most recently Mr. Trujillo sounds upbeat:

We have slowed the PSTN decline.

Apparently, PSTN decline is a ongoing thing, and Telstra is trying to slow it – successfully, according to Mr. Trujillo. I wonder if the intention is to stop customer migration to new technologies and eventually start growing PSTN customer base.

This is exactly what I don’t need. All the goodness of new telecoms aside. When new technologies become secure, legacy technologies are targeted by criminals. Enable strong authentication for Internet banking – and check fraud will grow (and yes, we don’t need the whole check payments thing today). Besides, many people are concerned about govenments eavesdropping on the citizens’ phone calls – but your neighbor can do same, because technology allows them to.

Meanwhile, I cannot get rid of my PSTN service. And there are people who don’t want me to.

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