End of an era, KPN stops its last internet dial-in number

When the internet used to make noises…

For some, it is a childhood memory; for others, it is unimaginable... the sound of a modem dialing in to the internet. After almost 30 years, KPN will discontinue its last dial-in number. As of October 1, 2021, it will no longer be possible to dial in through the analog phone line. With the advent of DSL and fiber, the old dial-in number has become obsolete for connecting to the internet.

In the 1990s, the classic telephone line was the first and only way to connect to the worldwide web, the internet. Users would dial a number via the modem to establish an internet connection. With the advent of broadband internet (ADSL) in 1999, internet users had an alternative to dialing in. From the early 2000s, broadband internet increasingly became the norm. By 2010, the number of customers still using the old dial-in connection had dwindled to zero. This is why KPN announced earlier that it would begin phasing out ISDN. And soon this will also be the case with ISDN30, the communications technology behind the old internet dial-in number. The handful of users who still use the dial-in number will be or have been informed of this and will, where needed, be assisted in connecting to the internet by other means.

Listen to the handshake

Many people will still remember the distinctive dial-in sound, known as the handshake. This is the series of beeps transmitted between the customer’s modem and the provider’s modem bank through which the connection was established. When the provider ‘takes’ the call, the receiving end uses the beeps to find out which modem is attempting to connect.

Every user who went online occupied a physical line, so it was perfectly normal to have to wait half an hour before connecting to the internet. You were literally on hold. At the peak, KPN had tens of thousands of separate telephone lines, each with a modem, to give customers the best possible internet access.

Kilobits per second
KPN and especially XS4ALL made the internet publicly accessible by means of these dial-in numbers. Because XS4ALL was based in Amsterdam, you had to dial in with a number that had the 020 area code. In those days, calls within the region were cheaper than outside, which meant that it was expensive for users in Groningen to dial in via Amsterdam every time. At a certain point, regional dial-in numbers were introduced so that the costs of dialing in could be kept down. Since the advent of broadband internet, the duration of use of internet traffic is no longer relevant and the price is linked to the user’s subscription speed. In those early days, the speed of analog dial-in connections was up to 56 Kilobits per second (Kbit/s). This was—often to the frustration of users—very slow and it could take up to a minute to load a web page; uploading was even slower.

Thanks to KPN’s fiber network, speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbit/s) are now offered in both upload and download speeds. Dutch households can now work, play games, stream, and receive calls at the same time, albeit without the quirky modem handshake. Who could have predicted this when dial-in numbers first appeared?