Your simple and no-frills guide to telco industry terms



ACCC – Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
The ACCC promotes competition and fair trade in the market place to benefit consumers, businesses and the community. This body also regulates national infrastructure services. (
ACMA – Australian Communications and Media Authority
The ACMA is responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, the Internet, radio communications, and telecommunications. (
ADSL – Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line
A type of technology that connects homes or businesses to the internet through analog phone lines. This service is asymmetric, which means download and upload speeds are not equal. Based on the notion that more information flows toward the user than is sent back, downloads speeds are faster than upload speeds.
ADSL2 – Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line 2
An improved version of ADSL technology that provides faster speeds and better availability for longer distances. ADSL2 connects to the internet faster, and is less prone to signal disruptions. It also has a stand-by mode that saves more power.
ADSL2+ – Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line 2+
A type of ADSL technology that includes the reliability of ADSL2, while doubling download speeds to up to 20 Mbps and upload speeds to up to 850 Kbps.
One or more existing phone lines where calls to 13, 1300, or 1800 numbers are routed and answered. This could be any landline, mobile, and VoIP number. Aside from phones, calls to inbound numbers can also be forwarded to fax lines and live answering services.
Auto Attendant
See IVR.


A type of high-speed internet connection that is never switched off, accessible at any time, and has faster speeds than a dial-up connection. Like freeways with multiple lanes, a broadband network can transport combinations of voice, video, television, and data signals using a single connection. DSL, Cable, Fibre Optic, and Satellite technologies are some common examples.


Call Barring
A feature of inbound numbers that gives users the ability to block unwanted phone calls. Users may choose to stop receiving calls from specific phone numbers or locations outside one’s area of business to save time and eliminate unnecessary call charges.
Call Centre
A centralised office that handles all requests, transactions, or sales activities over the phone. Common examples of call centre services include live answering, customer support, and telemarketing.
Call Forwarding
A call feature that redirects calls to user-specified alternate numbers if the main line is busy, or if the call is not answered within a certain timeframe.
Call Splaying
A call feature that shares calls to a 13, 1300, or 1800 number between multiple users. Calls are distributed to each assigned line based on a pre-set ratio. This feature is commonly used to share potential leads among a sales team, or to help free up customer service representatives by distributing work evenly.
Call Waiting
A feature that plays a discreet tone to notify the user that a new caller is trying to call, while you are already on a phone call.
Caller ID
This option displays the caller’s name and number on your phone before the call is answered, whenever the information is available.
A telephone company or any other provider that sells or rents telecommunications services.
The path that voice and data information travels on within a network. This could refer to a physical medium of transmission such as a wire, or an intangible connection such as a radio channel.
CSP – Communications Service Provider
A company that provides voice, video, internet, and other telecommunications services.


DID – Direct Inward Dialing
The ability for an outside caller to call a business phone extension directly, without the need to go through a receptionist or an auto-attendant.
DSL – Digital Subscriber Line
A family of technologies that provides digital data transmission over the wires of a local telephone network. ADSL is the most commonly used and best known variety of DSL.
DSLAM – Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer
A network device that provides faster internet speeds for multiple connections on a specific telephone exchange, and extends the availability of DSL services to farther locations.
Duet Line – Phone/Fax Duet
A service that allows you to add a fax number to your existing phone line, providing separate phone and fax numbers without installing a second line.


An online fax service that lets users receive documents without the need for a fax machine. Alltel converts each fax to a PDF file, and immediately forwards it to the user’s designated e-mail address. Instant notifications are also sent for every fax received.
A type of cable that is made up of very thin strands of glass, commonly used in delivering telecommunications services. Information travels through optical fibre as pulses of light, travelling longer distances faster without losing signal quality. A good example of a fibre optic network is the NBN.
Free Call
A number that can be called at no cost to the caller. Also referred to as ‘reverse charge’ or ‘toll free’ numbers, the cost of calls are completely shouldered the by the account holder. 1800 numbers is an example of a free call number.


A device where data stops to be transported, read, or used. In the workplace, the computer you use to utilise the internet to browse web pages is considered the gateway. For wireless networks, your gateway is a modem-router that manages data traffic to determine the destination of your emails, transactions, and other online activities.


Hosted PBX
A business phone system that uses the internet to make and receive calls. Also known as cloud-based or IP phone systems, a hosted PBX service provides the same features as an analog phone system, while eliminating the need to install bulky and expensive phone equipment in your office.
Hunt Group
A method of distributing calls from one number to multiple lines within a phone system, until it is answered. The call is rotated among users in a pre-defined group until it reaches a free line, connecting the caller to an available user. If all lines in the hunt group are engaged, the caller will hear a busy tone.


Inbound Number
Widely recognised business numbers that redirect calls to existing phone services such as landlines, mobile phones, VoIP phones, fax machines, and live answering services. As a virtual service that does not require physical lines to be installed, these numbers can be used by businesses even if they move offices or switch providers. 13 numbers, 1300 numbers and 1800 numbers are examples of inbound numbers.
IP – Internet Protocol
A set of rules that determine how messages are exchanged between computers on the Internet.
IP Address
A unique number that identifies a computer or device on a network. Each IP address is made of a string of four numbers from 0 to 255, separated by periods. Similar to a postal address, it represents a specific location or destination for requests sent over the internet.
IP Telephony
See VoIP.
ISDN – Integrated Services Digital Network
A type of communications technology that delivers voice, video, and data over a single switched digital line. This technology was commonly used by businesses in the 90s and early 2000s, before the rise of DSL and cable internet services.
ISDN 2/10/20/30
A service that provides multiple digital phone lines for voice and data transmission. ISDN 2 is mainly used for businesses that need up to 8 lines, while ISDN 10/20/30 can carry up to 30 individual lines. ISDN 10/20/30 is also known as Primary Rate PRA Digital ISDN service.
ISP – Internet Service Provider
A company that provides access to the Internet. ISPs connect customers to the Internet using copper, wireless, or fibre connections.
IVR – Interactive Voice Response
Also known as Voice Prompt or Call Forwarding Menu. An IVR system gives callers the ability to direct their calls to a specific person or department by listening to a recorded menu and choosing a selection on the keypad i.e., “To speak to sales, press 1; to speak to support, press 2;” and so on


Also called a fixed line, main line, or land phone. Refers to a telephone line that transmits voice services through a physical connection such as copper wires.
Live Answering
A service where an off-site Australian operator answers calls on behalf of a business. All calls are answered in the business name, and messages are taken along with the caller’s information. Each message is immediately forwarded via SMS and email to the user. Businesses may use this service as an overflow, after-hours, weekend, or holiday answering service.
Local Exchange
A facility that contains a set of equipment that connects telephone lines. These contain switches that route calls among subscribers and to other exchanges. Many telcos show the location of their exchanges on their web sites.


Message bank
A virtual answering machine where callers are given the option to leave a recorded message whenever your phone is busy or goes unanswered. Messages can be retrieved by dialing a particular number to listen to all recordings.
Short for modulator-demodulator, a modem acts as a bridge between all devices in your network and the Internet. A modem encodes digital information so it can be sent from your computer, and travel over telephone or cable lines. As it reaches its destination, the receiving modem converts the signal back to digital format for the computer to read.


NBN – National Broadband Network
A high speed communications network currently being built in Australia. This project will provide the infrastructure for providers to deliver better internet and phone services. With its completion, all analog communications services on the old network will be switched off.


Optical Fibre
See Fibre.


PBX – Private Branch Exchange
A private telephone network used within a particular business or office. A PBX system allows users in an organisation to communicate using internal lines, while sharing a number of external phone lines for outside calls.
POP – Point of Presence
An access point, location, or facility that helps devices connect and establish an Internet connection. Internet service providers have a number of POPs around the world that enable users to have local access.
Moving your telecommunications services from one carrier to another.
POTS – Plain Old Telephone Service
An analog telephone service delivered over a system of copper networks. This is the most basic and common voice-grade service in the world.
The process of preparing a network to deliver new services to users.
PSTN – Public Switched Telephone Network
An international telephone network that originally designed to carry analog voice data. The public switched telephone network is made up of a collection of public exchanges and telephones connected by copper lines.


QoS – Quality of Service
The capability of a network to provide a service that meets a certain level of quality. This performance indicator provides a guarantee to customers in advance. QoS sorts out your internet traffic and gives priority to programs that need a constant stream of data.


A device that re-transmits and amplifies analog, digital, electrical, or light-based signals signals; extending its reach farther than the original signal. Repeaters are commonly used to expand network coverage.
A device that analyses data packets and determines its destination. A router controls data traffic, forwarding data packets within the network or transferring it to another network by reading the address information.
A feature of inbound numbers that determines which of your existing phone lines ring when a caller dials your 13, 1300, or 1800 number. Routing schemes are highly customisable based on time and day, location of the caller, and your availability.


SIM – Subscriber Identity Module
A portable chip that contains service information in mobile phones. A SIM card is needed to connect a mobile phone to a carrier’s mobile network.
SIP – Session Initiation Protocol
SIP is a protocol for signaling that enables voice, video and multimedia communication sessions. SIP is commonly applied in internet telephony.
SIP Trunking
A service that applies SIP to an existing PBX, allowing it to make and receive calls using the internet. SIP Trunking is an effective way to streamline communications, eliminating the need to pay line rental for every phone in a business.
A 13, 1300, or 1800 inbound number that spells a word or contains a pattern that makes it easy to remember. Smartnumbers are available from the government through
SMS – Short Messaging Service
A service for sending messages of up to 160 characters to mobile phones.
The customer of a telecommunications company.
A network device that creates a path for sending data to its next destination that no other traffic can enter. A switch is a simpler and faster mechanism than a router, but its communications are limited to the same network.


TCP/IP – Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol
The basic communication language of the internet. This acts as a basic set of rules that governs how all computers connect to the internet.
Telco – Telephone Company
Your local telephone service provider.
TIO – Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
A free and independent alternative dispute resolution scheme for small business and residential consumers in Australia with unresolved complaints about their telephone or Internet services.(
Toll Free Services
A communications service where the caller pays nothing, while the recipient of the call pays for the cost of the service. An 1800 number is an example of a toll free service.
A link that connects switching centers in a communications system. Traditional trunks are composed of multiple wires and cables. In SIP Trunking, a trunk is a high-capacity link that can carry multiple signals at once over the Internet


UPS – Uninterruptible Power Supply
A power supply that supports your computers and phone system for a short time when the primary power source is lost. A UPS also helps provide protection from power surges.


Value Added Services
In telecommunications, these are all services that go beyond basic voice calls and fax services.
Virtual Office Services
Business solutions that do not require new hardware and installation, delivered at low costs. These services provide a business with all of the benefits and professional appearance of a large company, for a price that a startup can afford. These include Live Answering, Inbound Numbers, Virtual Business Addresses, and Fax2Email.
Virtual Receptionist
A virtual service that allows you to receive voicemail messages without the need for an answering machine. Messages are received at a central server, converted to a WAV file, and sent as an attachment to your designated email address.
VoIP – Voice over IP
Also called IP, internet, or broadband telephony. This technology enables the transmission of voice, video, and other forms of communications over the internet. Business phone systems that use VoIP deliver the same features as analog phone systems. But because everything is delivered over the internet, it offers more flexibility and higher reliability at a lower cost.