The Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) is a development of the plain ordinary
telephone system (POTS) that enables it to carry data and other traffic as well as voice
calls. Instead of using a continuously changing analogue voltage on the line between the
network and your house, it uses pulses having one of a few discrete voltage levels to
encode a series of digits. This is known as "pulse code modulation" (PCM). It is the
original "digital subscriber loop" (DSL) technology.
Two simultaneous phone calls can be made (or more on primary rate), using the same
pair of wires that your POTS telephone used to connect to. This is achieved by
interleaving the data for each call, a technique called "time division multiplexing"
(TDM). The phone company doesn't have to dig up the road to change to ISDN and
effectively give you a second line.
Calls can be connected much more quickly - typically within one second over ISDN,
compared with 20 seconds or more over POTS. This is especially important when
connecting a home computer to an office network ("wide area networking") or
validating credit card transactions, for example.
Data can be sent faster (64,000 bits per second in each direction) and more reliably, so
data calls can be shorter and therefore cheaper. You don't need a modem to exchange
data between computers, although you will probably need a cheaper "terminal adapter"
(TA) or ISDN card instead. There is no modem "training" time to wait for (and perhaps
pay for) after the call connects.
Noise, distortion, echoes and crosstalk become inaudible, because the telephone no
longer has to measure an exact analogue value, it only has to decide which of a few
discrete voltages is present at any particular instant. In most countries, the "trunk"
network between telephone exchanges has already been converted to digital
technology, for this reason. ISDN just extends it the "last mile" to your home.
The digits can represent any data, including faxes, files, web pages, sound, pictures and
ordinary voice calls. This is the meaning of "integrated services".
ISDN may not be available in your area, because it is expensive to upgrade a telephone
exchange to support it. A "network termination unit" (NTU) may also have to be
installed at the user end (not necessary in North America), and any "loading coils"
removed from the line. Also, it won't work if you live more than about 5 km from your
local telephone exchange, which affects around 10% of users, depending on location.
ISDN lines typically cost at least twice as much to install and rent as POTS lines.
That's fair enough if you want to be able to make two simultaneous calls, but makes it
expensive if you only need one line.
In order to make fast data calls, both ends must have digital connections. Most internet
service providers (ISPs) already support this. Voice calls can be made from ISDN
terminals to ordinary POTS phones without problems.
Long-distance ISDN data calls may be considerably more expensive than voice calls
because they can't be compressed. ISDN data calls may also be charged by time in
places where POTS calls are not normally timed. Voice calls over ISDN typically cost
the same as over POTS, however.
Supplementary services such as "caller display", "ring back when free" and "charge
advice" work differently (usually better) than on POTS lines, but are not always
available and may cost extra.
ISDN terminals often need a local power supply, which can be a problem in
emergencies. POTS phones normally take their power from the line.
COMMUNICATE WITH THEISDN NETWORK VIA AN NT1. THIS IS TYPICALLY NEEDED WHERE
THE DEVICE USES A NON-POLAR ELECTRICAL SIGNALLING SYSTEM. ISDN'S ELECTRICAL
SIGNALLING IS BIPOLAR, THUS A CONVERTER IS NEEDED.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?