As telecommunications has moved fromproprietary to open, standards-basedsystems, advanced voice solutions havegrown richer and more cost effective. Severalbasic telephony concepts are critical toworking with these solutions: call control,media processing, in-band and out-of-bandsignaling, and local, dedicated first-partycontrol versus shared, network-based third-party control. Once these concepts areunderstood, today’s modular, converged, andincreasingly Web-centric communicationstechnologies become easier to understand.
Open Telephony Solutions
Open telephony solutions emerged with theintroduction of commercially-availablecomputer telephony technology in themid-1980s, but the predominance ofexpensive, closed proprietary systems, whichwere used to handle functions such as voiceprocessing and computer-based fax, heldback their wide adoption.Today open, standards-based telephonytechnologies are widely available and arerapidly becoming converged and Web-centric.
How Is Telephony Used?
Basic telephony concepts are the foundationfor all advanced voice processing solutions.Here are just a few examples of suchsolutions today:
Self-service interactive voice response (IVR)systems
Application media servers
Voice over IP (VoIP)
Why Progress Was Rapid
Several factors combined to simplify opentelephony systems significantly and acceleratetheir deployment:
International standards for interconnectingtelephone and computer systems weredefined, such as the Computer-SupportedTelephony Application (CSTA) from theEuropean Computer ManufacturersAssociation (ECMA) for linking computers totelephone systems.
Application programming interface (API)specifications, which provide a set ofsoftware calls and routines that can be usedby an application to access communicationsservices, became widely accepted.
Voice processing technologies continued toadd advanced features and increased portdensity at attractive prices.
The deregulation of public networksencouraged new and innovative service andequipment providers to enter the marketsegment.Today a new group of developers arebeginning to build voice applications using aWeb application infrastructure with standards-based interface languages such as VoiceXMLand SALT. A basic knowledge of howtelephony works allows these developers toleverage their current skills to createconverged voice and data applications aseasily as they create data applications for thePC and Internet.In addition, microprocessor technologycontinues to advance to the point whereprocessing no longer has to be performed onspecialized silicon but can take place on thehost processor of an off-the-shelf computer.This host-based media processing technologypromises to significantly reduce the total costof ownership of telephony equipment.
Public and private telephone systemsprovidereal-time information pathsbetween two ormore parties. The wireline public system isgenerally referred to as the PSTN (PublicSwitched Telephone Network) and privatesystems are created with PBX (Private BrancheXchange) or KTS (Key Telephone System)switching technologies.Traditionally,these public and privateinformation paths havetaken the form of voiceconnections,originally through hardwiredanalogcircuitry but later through an increas-inglybroad range of technologies suchasradio transmission, digital signalencoding,Telephony Fundamentals: An Introduction to Basic Telephony Concepts