Market musings

A Breakdown of Terms for Business Phone System Shoppers

by Sasha Viasasha
March 2, 2018

Have you noticed that the Telecom industry seems to love acronyms? From PBX to VoIP to DDIs, it can be time-consuming to look up all these unfamiliar letter combinations when all you need is a platform to make and take some phone calls. The good news is that there are only a few key terms that you need to understand to make a good decision about which phone system is right for your business. 

4 types of phone systems

PSTN aka POTS – When you just plug a handset into a wall socket, you are using a public switched telephone network (PSTN). This is often referred to as plain old telephone service (POTS) to distinguish it from the feature-rich phone services that businesses normally demand, that typically include conferencing, transfers, 3-way calling, voicemail, etc.

PBX or PABX – Nearly a century ago, long before computers entered the business world, the private branch exchange (PBX) or private automatic branch exchange (PABX) connected businesses to the world. For example, Auckland’s first PABX went into operation in 1925. Originally, the professional PBX mostly just allowed companies to route calls internally, but features have proliferated and systems have grown far more sophisticated over the decades.

VoIP – The internet changed everything about how messages get from their origin point to their destination. Instead transmitting signals along a direct connection, internet protocols break up message data into packets, which are scattered and randomized, taking many routes along countless nodes from one point to another. The pathway that this swarm of message packets take is generated on the fly every time. Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone systems have massively cut business communication costs since in the 1990s.

Virtual PBX and mobile VoIP – After the smartphone revolution of 2010, virtual phone systems began to condense all the most useful business features of PBX systems and VoIP platforms into cloud-based applications deployed across smartphone networks. The massive on-premise servers of PBX and the massively complex desk phones of VoIP systems became legacy hardware.

On voice quality

HD Voice – Also known as “wideband audio,” extends the range of both pitch and volume that are transmitted to improve the clarity of the signal. Traditional phone audio was stuck in narrowband. People can hear a much wider range of pitches from deep to high and volumes from soft to loud. While people with normal hearing can pick up frequencies between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz (20 kHz), the human voice usually falls in the range from 80 Hz on the low end to 14 kHz on the very high end. Traditional, narrowband phones were limited to audio in the range from 300 Hz to 3.4 kHz. HD Voice extends that range down to 50 Hz on the low end and up to 7 kHz on the top end. Next generation audio built on top of HD Voice, such as Enhanced Voice Services (EVS), extends the upper range all the way to the 20 kHz maximum.

VoLTE – The way mobile carriers are able to achieve HD Voice is with tech called voice over long term evolution (VoLTE), running on 4th generation (4G) or higher wireless tech. VoLTE was built for interoperability and to adapt to changing technology. Currently, VoLTE data packets have the capacity to carry 3X the amount of information over 3G, which is still the VoIP standard in many parts of the world. The standardized packets of VoLTE improves sound quality by eliminating the step of converting data among various formats which can lead to information loss in the packets.

QoS – The quality of service (QoS) of every phone call impacts the customer perception of the brand. Professional phone systems should guarantee stability of service, availability of service, minimized delays, adequate user information, etc. They should be reliable, easily scalable, simple to maintain and always on. Poor QoS results in packet loss, low throughput, random voice distortion, latency, out-of-order sound deliver and intermittent jitter. 

Communications essentials

SIP phone trunking – The arrival of the web greatly expanded the definition of a “phone call.” Suddenly, you didn’t need to use your voice, you didn’t need to use words and you didn’t even need a phone anymore. A phone call from your desktop or laptop could involve a text, a data file transfer, an instant message, a streaming video or metadata like presence info. All of these new forms of communication (and more to come in the near future) can be managed concurrently, which is what session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking was designed to do. SIP uses VoIP to send messages from origin points or a PBX system to the PSTN and from there on to the endpoint, replacing the more expensive primary rate interface (PRI) as the preferred channel. 

Asynchronous communication – Text, messaging apps, chat windows, email, collaboration hubs, Q&A sites, etc. This refers to any platform where you send a message and the other users decide when to answer. In contrast, synchronous communication lines include phone calls, video conferencing and interactive live events. Asynchronous is better for detailed answers, quick yes/no queries and anything that requires research. Synchronous is better for answering customer concerns and collaborating on problem-solving.

DDIs – Direct dial in (DDIs) numbers or direct inward dials (DIDs) improve the customer experience by allowing prospects and customers to directly reach specific teams or individuals. Assigning a local DDI number encourages prospects to pick up the phone more often. Many times employees without a DDI use their own private numbers to contact customers. Not only is this process a greater security risk for the employee, the customer data and notes of these calls are often lost to the company. Virtual phone systems that mask employee numbers with local DDIs are safer and keep all the data in-house so anyone can see the customer history and resolve issues as soon as possible.

A simpler phone system for a mobile world

The scalability engine for global startups

Terms and technology change rapidly, but one principle stays the same. Simpler systems deliver greater value. Features tend to attract the attention of shoppers, but usability becomes a top concern after purchase.

Spoke Phone was built specifically to help small businesses make and answer more phone calls.. You don't have to invest thousands of dollars just to get a professional phone system. Today, agile companies need the liquidity and flexibility of a phone system that prioritizes OpEx over CapEx.

You can secure all the most important features of a on-premise PBX or a hosted VoIP provider, without spending all of your development funds. Spoke Phone gives you the option to add a host of local numbers anywhere in the world, the freedom to transfer calls to team members, and the data to find out who called when and whether anyone on your team followed up. Your AI assistant will be able to answer the phone when you can't and respond to the caller in their own language or dialect. 

You'll sound like an enterprise long before you are ready to scale up into one. Add or delete team members in an instant. While they are part of your company, you'll always have an up-to-date contact at your fingers.

You'll also save the massive costs of hiring a IT team to install and maintain your phones. Download the app onto your mobile  and set it up in a matter of minutes. With Spoke Phone, your operation will be ready for the 100% mobile future of work. 

See how it all works by arranging your own interactive demo. Spoke is the smart virtual phone system for growing companies in the mobile global world.

Selecting and Implementing a Business Phone System