Friday, February 13, 2009

What is a telephone call?

For this entry, I would like to define what a telephone call is all about. In these days and ages, it is very much taken for granted that a telephone call can be placed anywhere, anytime and to anybody, regardless of how far away that person might be. With the ever-increasing number of telecommunication providers, and the ever-changing variety of equipment necessary for this type of communication, a mere telephone call is a matter of daily routine for most and a matter of existential necessity for others.

A telephone call consists primarily of a digital or analog connection over a network made between the calling person or party and the person being called. The transmission in itself carries an ordinary voice signal; however, the same lines can transport data in the form of a facsimile transmission or by using a modem (or router) to send data to and from the internet.

A call can be placed using a land line, cell phone, satellite phone or a combination of these. With modern technology, so-called conference calls can be placed when two or more parties with to speak with one another.

Due to fluctuating rates and continuously changing provider plans and of course the large number of providers, the unit prices (usually calculated per minute) of calls have become dramatically cheaper. Generally, calls placed from land line to land line are cheaper than land line to cell phone or vice versa. However, some countries have developed special package offers where calls placed for example, from a cell phone, to land line numbers or within its own network, are included in a flat rate fee, carried in most cases by the caller.

Other variations do exist however. A so-called reverse charge or collect call can be made. In this case, the called party would carry the fees for the call, which are usually much higher than in the case of a normally placed call. The advantage in this case is, the party being called can accept or reject the call. Prices can vary from carrier to carrier however.

A flat rate usually consists of a “one price for all calls” deal. The fine print for these offers should be read very carefully however. Depending on the provider, the flat rate might include only calls placed within a certain radius of the caller, i.e. for local calls only, or they might include all calls placed within the same network (T-Mobile, Verizon etc.) or a combination of several options.

The typical mode of placing calls is either with a phone handset for land line connections or with a compact transportable cell phone, enabling the caller to call from almost anywhere in the region, country or even the world. An ever-increasing method of placing calls however, is with the use of VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) headsets, enabling the caller to place calls through a PC with various services like Skype, Jajah and Vonage, to name a few, without the need to enter or exchange telephone numbers. Calls placed through these services may or may not be free of charge. Generally calls placed from Skype to Skype, Jajah to Jajah and so on, are free of charge.

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