There can be no disputing that over the past two decades the range of telecommunications services available to business has blossomed. At the same time, the cost of these services has plummeted. Whilst this is very good news for business, it also has its challenges. The complexity of the choices has grown and even one of the oldest forms of telecommunications– telephone lines – has a wide range of options available. The five major types of telephony service available are as follows:

1. The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) – traditional telephone network which delivers standard telephone lines over copper wire.

2. The Integrated Switched Digital Network (ISDN) -alternative to PSTN that can support up to 30 telephone calls on a single service. It also supports “100 number groups” on a single service, which offers a low cost way of providing individual phone numbers for extensions, fax machines etc.

3. Voice over IP (VoIP) – technology used to support voice calls over the Internet or private networks. VoIP offers the opportunity to considerably reduce costs. It can fall victim, however, to reliability and voice quality issues.

4. Voice over DSL (VoDSL) – emulates multiple standard telephone lines on a single service. Often very low cost but with limited functionality.

5. Fixed Cellular Terminals (FCT) – connects your office telephone system directly to a mobile network, which can slash call costs if you are consistently calling mobile phones.

In making the decision regarding the best telephony service choice for your business, as a minimum you should consider functionality, reliability, cost, lead time, supplier profile and your risk tolerance as well as weighing up the relative importance of each of these considerations.

When making your decision be sure to obtain a number of proposals, do some independent background research and weigh up the competing options carefully in the light of your specific needs. It’s important to remember the latest technology is not necessarily the best choice for your particular business requirements. And sometimes relatively simple technology, such as an FCT, can produce the greatest cost savings.

Richard Carter has worked in the telecommunications industry for over 30 years. His experience includes assignments with both major carriers and leading equipment suppliers, as well as being involved in projects across five continents. Today, he provides advice to Australian SME’s enabling them to make informed decisions about their telecommunication requirements. Phone: 02 9956 2999 or Email: