Telecom Terms 101: POTS, Demarc, T-1, VoIP, Oh My!

phone system termsPOTS, Demarc, T-1, VoIP. Sound like a foreign language? Often times, when dealing with telecom technicians or phone system salespeople you may hear these terms and abbreviations and may wonder, “okay, what does that mean?!” Here’s a quick look:

POTS stands for: Plain Old Telephone Service. This describes the most basic residential and small business connection to telephone networks. POTS lines typically have low bandwidth and no mobility capabilities but are often the most reliable type of telephone line making then well suited for alarms and emergency lines.

Copper Cable
A copper cable has a copper core that carries information as an electrical signal. It’s the most common type of telecom cabling. Copper can carry analog signals or digital signals.

Fiber Cable
Fiber cables or fiber optic cables are often known as “light pipes”. The information is carried digitally by light. Some organizations prefer fiber cabling to copper cabling because it can offer more bandwidth. Fiber only carries digital or VoIP signals.

Analog Phone
An analog phone is the original type of phone. These phones have limited capability and are usually found in public areas of a business or used in elevators or other emergency applications. An analog phone can only use an analog signal; digital or VoIP signals may be converted to analog on the system.

Digital Phone
A digital phone converts the sound into a digital signal which gets decoded on the other end. These phones expand the capability of the typical office desk phone. A digital phone can only use a digital signal; analog or VoIP signals may be converted to digital on the system.

VoIP Phone
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. This type of phone uses a computer network or digital network for communication. Calls sent over a private network have a high degree of voice quality. Calls may be sent over the public Internet, but are subject to poor voice quality and dropped calls. (see QoS) A VoIP phone can only use a VoIP signal; digital signals or analog signals may be converted to VoIP on the system.

An Integrated Access Device is used to convert one type of phone signal to another. IADs can be stand alone devices but are usually imbedded in other switching equipment.

Quality of Service is used over a VoIP network to ensure that the voice traffic has priority on the network, assuring high quality. QoS is lost or not available over a public Internet connection, causing poor voice quality and dropped calls. QoS is often used on a private or closed network to assure the highest quality of voice communications.

A T-1 is a digital signal that carries up to 28 voice lines, up to 48 VoIP lines, or up to 1.5 Mb of  bandwidth. Many mid-sized businesses use a T-1 line to lower per line voice costs,  to connect to the Internet, or to connect remote sites using a private network.

Integrated Circuit
An integrated circuit is a T-1 that has the capability of carrying both voice and data services. A dynamic integrated circuit adjusts the amount of data bandwidth based on the bandwidth needed for active phone calls.

Patch Panel
A patch panel is used to organize and simplify the wiring for a phone system or computer network. All of the jacks in the walls are labeled and a cable is run from the wall jack to the corresponding labeled jack on the patch panel. The patch panel is then connected to the phone system or other network elements. By organizing wiring with a patch panel, moving extensions and equipment in the office is much more efficient

The demarc, otherwise known as demarcation point, is the point where the telephone company’s wiring ends and the wiring inside your facility that connects to your phone system begins.

A Private Branch eXchange is basically a privately own telephone system. It allows multiple phones to be centrally connected to a main line. A PBX is required for basic office phone functions such as transferring calls, setting up voicemail, using auto attendants, etc.

Control Unit
A Control Unit is another name for a PBX. A control unit is basically a computer that manages all of the actions performed in the phone system.

Typically Power Over Ethernet is used to provide power for VoIP phones, avoiding the need to plug the phones into an electric outlet. The POE switch sends both power and data through Ethernet cables. Primarily used for VoIP phone systems, POE is also typically used to power wireless access points, and IP based surveillance equipment.

Born and raised on a horse farm in Marion, IA, Kenyon got her B.A. in English Literature from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. She returned to the area after graduating in 2011, and interned at several different marketing agencies prior to coming on as Marketing Coordinator for Tektivity. In her free time, Kenyon enjoys riding horses, studying ballet, and being with family.

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