Business Lines from the Phone Company:

Classic business phone service, also known as POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), 1FB’s (One Flat Business), 1MB’s (One Measured Business) and analog phone service.  The same service businesses have been using since phone service first existed.  Delivered over twisted copper pairs and terminated on a 66 block in the phone closet.  From there they are usually cross connected to a phone system or PBX.  Call quality is excellent.  Dependability is excellent – only phone service with its own power source; if the power goes out, you still have phone service.  Available almost everywhere.  Low cost option.  Available from incumbent providers, like CenturyLink, AT&T and Verizon business phone serviceand some competitive providers, like Integra and TelePacific.

Business Lines from the Cable Company:

Analog phone lines delivered on coaxial cable.  Cable companies advertise this as “digital” phone service but it’s analog, just like the Phone Company’s.  Call quality is excellent.  Slightly less dependable than the phone company’s service.  Available where the Cable Company’s network is located.  Low cost option.  Available from companies like Time Warner Cable.

VoIP:

Voice over Internet Protocol.  Phone lines over the internet.  Also known as SIP (Session Initiation Protocol).  Call quality is suspect – dependent on the quality of internet access and how the network and routers are set up.  Dependability is only as good as the dependability of the internet access it comes across.  Available wherever internet access is available.  Lowest cost option.  Available from incumbent providers, like CenturyLink, AT&T and Verizon and competitive companies, like Integra, XO and TW Telecom.

Hosted VoIP:

Voice over IP service that includes phone equipment.  A business is provided with end sets (phone sets) and their voice lines come across an internet connection.  Phone system “brains” are located offsite and not owned by the business, so this solution can be more affordable than purchasing a phone system.  Customer is provided with an internet portal to manage phone features like forwarding and hunting.  Call quality and dependability can be better than standard VoIP because the phone and internet service and phone equipment are integrated and managed by one service provider, but still not as good as standard phone service.  However, if something goes wrong, it really goes wrong.  Available in larger cities that offer a customer base substantial enough to support the existence of hosted providers.  Affordable for most small businesses because there is no capital expenditure related to their phone equipment.  Available from some incumbent providers, like CenturyLink.

Integrated T1:

Business lines delivered off of a T1 that also offers internet access.  Offered by the phone company and its competitors.  Call quality is excellent.  Less dependable than analog copper lines because it lacks its own power source but still very dependable.  Available almost anywhere.  Cost is higher than standard business lines or cable business lines but coming down in cost and becomes more economical as the number of lines increases.  Offered by incumbent providers like CenturyLink, AT&T and Verizon and competitive providers, like Integra, TW Telecom and XO.

PRI:

Primary Rate Interface or voice T1.  Call quality is excellent.  More versatile and better use of resources because of availability of DID’s (direct inward dialing phone numbers).  Less dependable than copper phone lines but still very dependable.  Available in more metropolitan or populated locations (large ranches and farms that have a number of phone lines usually don’t have this option because the copper at rural locations is usually older and inadequate).  Requires a phone system with a T1 card.  Cost is usually too much for a small business but becomes more economical as employee number increases.  Offered mostly by incumbent carriers, like CenturyLink, AT&T and Verizon.

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