Telephony Common Questions, Part
By Todd Ogasawara
I know how to use a telephone, so what kinds of questions should I ask about telephony?
If you're like most people, you probably don't think about your telephone and telephone service too much unless something goes wrong. Telephone service in the U.S. is over a hundred years old in some places. What's there to think about? You pick up a handset, push a couple of buttons, and talk to a person or get a busy signal. But computer telephony brings up all sorts of new questions, including the ones answered below.
How is telephony pronounced?
Telephony is pronounced teh-le'-fuh-ny. You often hear it mispronounced as tele-phoney.
What is Computer Telephony (CT)?
CT is pretty much what it sounds like: The melding of computers and telephone systems. The range of CT topics range from inexpensive desktop solutions for your personal computer to multimillion dollar telephone company systems.
Who uses CT?
You have probably used a CT system many times without realizing it! If you've ever called a business and heard a multi-choice recorded message like, "If you wish to speak to customer service, press 1. If you wish to speak to technical support, press 2," then you have used a CT system. If you've called a bank and used an automated system to check your bank balance, then you have used a CT system. CT technology is used in nearly every facet of business and personal communications today.
Can I try CT technology without spending a lot of money?
If you bought your desktop personal computer in the last two years, you may already have everything you need to get started. PCs often are sold with devices called voice modems. These devices can work with voices on the telephone as well as with data and fax. Check the documentation that came with your system to learn whether you have a voice modem. Single-line voice modems sell for $150 to $300 and can serve as sophisticated answering machines, speakerphones, or phone number databases with autodialing. There are also simpler devices for less than $100 that let you use telephone company services like three-way calling, call screening, and caller-ID without having to remember any touchtone keystrokes.
Do I need to notify my telephone company when I use CT technology?
No, not in the sense that you need their permission to attach a CT device or system to the telephone lines. You may need to contact your telephone company, however, if you want to use features like caller-ID (having the telephone number of the person calling you delivered between the first and second rings) or forward-on-busy (having a call to you automatically rerouted somewhere else, like to your voice mail, if your telephone line is busy). And, you certainly need to discuss your needs with your telephone company if you are installing a mission-critical business phone system for your home office or small business.
More recently you may have heard of a new kind of telephony based on the packet switching technology that the Internet is built on. You may have heard the term Internet Telephony or IP Telephony or Voice over IP (VoIP) or Voice over Network (VON). For our purposes we can consider these terms synonymous (although there are some subtle differences). The purpose of this primer is to explain the basic concepts and types of Internet Telephony.
PC to Telephone
Is That All There is to
Join us in the Telephony Forum Newsgroups to further discuss IP Telephony in its various forms. And, check out the information below to learn even more about this amazing technology.
IP Telephony Alphabet