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 How Long Distance Works

Basic information on how local and long distance phone companies work - call waiting, call forwarding, call transfer and conferencing, caller id, and voicemail.

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      Local  Central Office

      Somewhere near to you is your local phone company's "central  office", or "wire center".  All of the telephone lines  (wires) in your home or office connect directly to this office.  The  central office contains a "switch" - this is a term which refers  to the devices which route, or switch, telephone traffic from one destination  to another.
      The central office is the gateway to the public telephone network.  It  provides connection to telephones, dial tone, ringing, and connection to long  distance carriers.  Features such as call waiting, call forwarding, call  transfer and conferencing, caller id, and voicemail may also be available  at the local phone company's central office.


      Local  Telephone Calls

      Local telephone calls within a municipal area are often completed  within a single central office;  that is, if the call is destined for  a telephone which is served by the same central office that serves the calling  telephone, the central office simply switches the call from the incoming line  to the destination line as defined by the called number.  The central  office does this by analyzing the dialed numbers.
      A local telephone call in a large metropolitan area will often be completed  by two central offices.  If the number called is not served by the called  central office, but is served by another local central office (almost always  operated by the same local telephone company) the call is routed over trunks  (lines between switches) to the appropriate central office, as defined by  the called number.  The destination central office again analyzes the  called number, and switches the call to the appropriate phone line.


      Switched  Long Distance

      When you make a long distance phone call, your  local central office again analyzes the number you have dialed.  If the  dialed number is inside of your LATA - the geographical  area in which your local telephone company is legally permitted to carry long  distance toll calls, it again directs the call to another local central office,  often operated by the same local phone company, which completes the call.
      Billing records for this call are kept by the originating  central office, and will appear on your next local phone company's bill.

      If the dialed long distance phone call is destined  outside of your LATA, your local central office queries its database of PIC  (Primary Interexchange Carrier - simply means primary long distance company)  codes, to see which long distance phone company you have selected for the line making  the call.  It then switches the call to lines connected directly  to the long distance phone company's nearest switch, or POP (point-of-presence).   The long distance company switch again analyzes the dialed number, and routes  the call across the long distance network to the POP nearest to the called  number.  That POP in turn routes the call back to the local central office  nearest the destination telephone, and the local central office completes  the call.
      Billing records for this call are kept by the originating long distance company POP.  Billing will appear in a separate bill from  your long distance company, or may appear as a portion of your local phone  company's bill, but in that case will be denoted as a bill from another company.


      Dedicated Long Distance

      The switched long distance phone calling described  above is so named because the originating phone call must be switched from the local central office to the long distance carrier's POP.  Dedicated  long distance does not require this switching.  Instead, the customer  has installed a dedicated circuit between the customer's premises and the  long distance phone carrier's POP.  The dedicated circuit is typically called  a "T1", which provides 24 channels for long distance calls.   Just think of a T1 as 24 phone lines in one.

      The local phone company is not involved in switching  the call to the dedicated long distance carrier.  Normally, the customer's  telephone system switches the call to the dedicated line at the customer's  facility.  The customer will enjoy significantly lower per minute toll  charges from the long distance company for dedicated service, but must pay  a monthly fee (typically $300 and up) for the dedicated lines, and must, in  general, sign a term contract for long distance service.  There is also  special equipment required at the customers site to connect to the dedicated  service.  In general, dedicated service is used only by customers who  routinely use 20,000 - 30,000 minutes per month of long distance service.


      Questions? Call 1-800-600-9174
      or mail to Phone Bill Busters
      "Phone Bill Busters" - Nashville, TN