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T-1 Telephone Service
T1 lines give you the ability to consolidate multiple analog telephone lines for a cost savings or switch to VoIP telephony.

By: John Shepler

You may have heard that T1 lines offer a cost advantage over regular telephone lines for businesses with multiple phone lines. But did you know that there are several flavors of T1 line service? Here's how they work and how to pick the right one for your application.

T1 digital line service was originally developed as a trunking system to transfer groups of telephone calls between phone company offices. It was designed from the ground up to be a direct replacement for multiple phone lines to a business location. A standard T1 voice line carries 24 telephone calls and replaces 24 separate pairs of telephone line between your location and the closest telephone office.

So how do you squeeze 24 phone calls onto two pair of copper wires used for T1 service? You need a device called a CSU/DSU or Channel Service Unit / Data Service Unit to convert the phone calls to and from the digital format and to pack and unpack them on the digital trunk. In most cases, the CSU/DSU will be part of a T1 interface card that plugs into your PBX telephone system. You can also get stand alone CSU/DSU equipment that will make a T1 line look like 24 individual phone lines to your analog phone system.

You don't need to use all 24 phone lines if you don't need them. You just need enough to make a T1 telephone line more cost effective than a bunch of individual analog telephone lines. That break even point can be as low as 10 or 12 phone lines.

T1 PRI or Primary Rate Interface is a variation on T1 telephone service that replaces up to 23 phone line. What happened to the 24th line? That capacity is used to provide Caller ID or ANI (Automatic Number Identification) information. This is an especially valuable feature for Call Centers.

Integrated T1 service combines both telephone calls and Internet service on the same T1 line. Where available, Integrated T1 lines can replace both analog phone lines plus a DSL or Cable Internet connection. Since most businesses have some type of Internet access these days, Integrated T1 can be even more cost effective than regular T1 phone service.

A new and completely different way to use T1 lines for telephone service is by using them as data lines for VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol telephone. This is also known as broadband phone. For this technology, you have an IP PBX or special IP Telephones that take care of digitizing the telephone calls. VoIP transmits phone calls over the Internet or a private company network, and is a way to bypass some long distance toll charges.

How About Ethernet?
Carrier Ethernet directly competes with T1 and is available with both copper and fiber optic delivery. Bandwidths range from 2 or 3 Mbps on the low end up to 10 Gbps and beyond. Pricing per Mbps is more attractive than T1 lines.

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