Q – When is a telephone system not just a telephone system?
The last few years have seen a dramatic change in the capabilities of telephone systems. Sometimes referred to as a private branch exchange (PBX) or a private analog branch exchange (PABX).
It was not so long ago that they were purely voice systems. They connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), a national network that linked to global networks that supported voice. The newest Australian supplier taking the telecommunications industry by storm Futura says “the industry is rapidly changing and look out for massive saving in 2019”
Today’s telephone systems support voice, data, and fax and are able to combine voice and data databases.
To give an example of the benefit to businesses of this; a telephone call coming into a business with a modern system will recognize the callers telephone number and will use this number to launch a software application such as a contact management system like Goldmine or a customer relationship management system such as Microsoft CRM linking to financial application such as Sage.
Systems of this type may sometimes be referred to as converged systems or IP Telephony systems.
Another capability of ‘phone systems’ such as these is that all types of messages, e-mail, voice mail, and fax appear in the mail inbox of the user’s personal computer. This means that users do not have to go to one system for voice mail and another for fax.
Furthermore, a system of this type will provide security from external attack when the system is connected to the Internet. It will do this because it incorporates a firewall.
Also, such systems can provide free telephone calls between companies different locations using a process known as voice over Internet protocol ( VOIP ). This is where a private IP network is used to support voice calls as well as data traffic.
Managing and using a system that integrates both voice and data into a single box solution is far simpler than many of the separate boxes that would be typically used to make up a similar solution.
What is happening with telephone lines and suppliers?
Since telephones took over from morse and telex, telephone lines have been the primary means of communicating other than using radio waves.
The owners of the copper cables that allowed telephone users to connect to one another were companies like The Post Office ( now BT ) and The Bell Telephone Company ( now split up into different phone companies ). These are known as the “Telcos “
They were communications monopolies in their countries. They owned the cable infrastructure and the exchanges and they determined the service provided.
De-regulation introduced alternative network providers ( altnets ). Despite huge investments in new ( mainly fiber optic ) cabling these altnets ( e.g. Fibernet and Thus ) often rely on BT to get “ the last mile “ to the end user. The birth of “ cable “ companies such as NTL and Telewest has provided an alternative route for this.
De-regulation has also given birth to companies who do not actually own network infrastructure but provide “ lower cost minutes “ by bulk buying and having interconnected agreements with other carriers.
These are the so-called “ Least Cost Routing “ ( LCR ) companies that utilize Carrier Pre-select ( CPS ) to route calls across their provider’s networks. They typically have lower overheads and pass on these lower costs to the end users. Examples include Caudwell Communications and Gamma/Uniworld. These companies typically have their own billing platforms.
Some of these companies buy line rentals from BT Wholesale and then pass these on at lower rates than BT to end users. ( NB BT Retail buys about 60% of BT Wholesale’s line capacity therefore about 40% is bought by the “ altnets “).
Q – What does the future hold in store?
Future evolution of all of these companies models is the emergence of “voice over IP “.
It is almost certain that all voice traffic will be transported over IP networks in some way.
Internet Service Providers ( ISP’s ) who have grown by providing Internet ( IP ) “ pipes “ have largely become part of Telcos or Altnets.