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The ultimate guide to telecoms jargon: 5 terms you need to know in 2018

Do you know your PBX from your VPL’s? FTTC from a LLU? The world of telecommunications can be complicated. With numerous products, services and solutions available to businesses, it can be tough to understand what is available in a fast-changing market. Throw a load of technical terminology and jargon into the mix and the job of getting to grips with telecommunications becomes almost impossible.

As a buyer, it’s more important than ever that you have the inside track on emerging trends and the terms you need to know about in 2018.

› PBX & Hosted

What you need to know: PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange. It’s a private telephone network, used by a company or organisation to make calls and control how they flow into the building. Traditionally a PBX would be held in a rack or on the wall at the company’s premises and then is connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network (more commonly known as the PSTN) via ISDN lines. This allows calls from outside to reach the PBX and onwards to the right person or team. Many PBXs are now IP-enabled, which allows businesses to replace expensive ISDN lines with next generation technology, SIP trunking (see 2.). More often than not, it is down to the company themselves to manage and maintain the PBX, which can be costly.

Hosted telephony, on the other hand, is cloud based. This really just means that the brain of the system resides in a datacentre off site and the only hardware the company needs in its offices is the handsets themselves. Calls are then made using a data connection – which could be a broadband line, ethernet or similar – removing the requirement for ISDN altogether. Because of this, the addition, removal and repair of services is a simple, quick and pain-free process. There are many benefits available to businesses considering hosted and any organisation with a growth agenda would be wise to talk to their comms provider about it.

Check this out: The Buyer’s Guide to Hosted Phone Systems


What you need to know: If you have made an investment in a PBX in the last five years then there’s a good chance it’s enabled for SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunking. Most companies still have ISDN in place to carry voice traffic from the PSTN to their PBX and vice-versa, but ISDN as a technology is fast becoming outdated. It is by its nature inflexible, expensive and difficult to work with. Indeed many experts predict the demise of ISDN by 2020, and BT has announced it will turn its ISDN network off in 2025. The long-term replacement for ISDN is SIP trunking.

SIP connects voice traffic from and to a national network, either via broadband, ethernet or a private circuit. SIP trunking is a high quality, resilient and, perhaps most importantly, significantly cheaper alternative to ISDN.

Check this out: What is SIP trunking and how will it benefit your business?

› QoS

What you need to know: Many businesses take broadband and data services from one provider and voice from another. If you are using SIP trunking or a hosted phone system for your business communications then the consequence of this is not just double the administration, double the bills and double the hassle. You might also find that you have voice quality issues too. This is because your calls are routing across the open internet.

However, if your data and voice provider are the same then it’s possible for your provider to tag those voice calls and give them priority over other traffic. This is called Quality of Service (QoS).

The network will protect those calls and they’ll never touch the public internet. The result is higher quality calls and improved customer service delivery.

Be aware though, not all providers have the capability to do this so make sure you ask the question.

› Ethernet

What you need to know: Many of you will be familiar with the term ‘ethernet’ and will think of the cables that you use at work or at home to connect devices to a network. In data terms however, the proposition is slightly different. Ethernet is a dedicated data line that gives your business access to the internet. It’s the best way to guarantee reliability and speed of connection. Unlike broadband, ethernet comes with service level agreements and guaranteed speeds and uptime.


What you need to know: FTTC stands for Fibre to the Cabinet. It’s a super-fast connection that businesses looking to prioritise speed over reliability and voice quality can consider. It also has the added benefit of being available for a price that is more akin to standard broadband.

FTTC does have a slight drawback, however. It is, at present, primarily a residential or domestic service. So some businesses (particularly those on trading or office estates) may be unable to take advantage.

Check this out: Why FTTC Ethernet is the answer for SMEs


Fixed Mobile Convergence has been talked about for some time now but only in recent years true convergence become a reality. The idea of FMC is where both fixed line networks and mobile networks become a single converged platform. This applied to voice, video and data.

Most businesses buy fixed services from one provider and mobile services from another provider. Some integration has been possible by forwarding calls or installing apps on mobile devices which enable them to use data to place a call which routes out on the companies PBX. This however is not true convergence.

To achieve true convergence a supplier need to own both a fixed and a mobile network and link the two. Only then are calls seamlessly managed across both fixed and mobile devices. There is no need to install and run an app on the mobile device and users need only have one number and one voicemail. Calls can be recorded and reported on a single platform.

2018 promises to be a time of great opportunity for businesses looking to get the most out of their telecommunications. But knowing what is being sold and the right solution for you is key to success in a constantly evolving telecommunications marketplace.