Customers Do Not Care About, Will Not Pay for 99.999% Availability

Verizon Communications says “very few” of its customers purchase battery backup features for fixed network phone service. With widespread use of cordless telephones, that also means that when local electrical power is interrupted, so is phone service.

Consumers do not seem very bothered by that state of affairs, in part because of widespread mobile phone use, and also because they long ago discovered that unless they use corded phones, they lose use of the phone service when power goes out, even if the circuit stays up.

For those of you with long memories, that is a big change. Fixed line phone service used to be required to function in the event of local power outages, with availability at the old 99.999 percent uptime standard.

These days, in practice, most communication services probably have availability of only one nine.

Devices crash and need to be rebooted with some frequency. And there are more devices to fail, with operating systems and apps that crash rather frequently. So whatever the reliability of circuits, end user experience is affected by all the devices in the delivery chain, with cascading impact on system reliability end to end.

In fact, most people assume some degree of instability, and have protocols to compensate. “I’ll call you back;” “I’ll switch to landline;” I’ll switch to another app” or I’ll reboot” are all ways of compensating for less reliability--of apps, devices, operating systems or networks.

The same applies to user expectations about app quality. Now used to mobile audio quality, VoIP audio wasn’t a shock.

Without battery backup, most devices will fail with local power outages. Few consumers seem to care, anymore. Most apps, devices and operating systems are assumed to be a little flaky. People know what to do in the case of momentary failure.

The point is that customers do not experience, do not especially mind, and will not pay for, 99.999 percent availability. “Good enough” seems to be the new standard for most products.
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