The Telephone – 140 Years of Streamlining Communications

Kim Silva – Sales and Marketing

“I believe in the future wires will unite the head offices of telephone companies in different cities, and a man in one part of the country may communicate by word of mouth with another in a distant place.” 
– Alexander Graham Bell

Graham could not have imagined the pace at which his 1876 telephone invention would even further evolve. 

Early telephone communication originally required direct lines between individual phones.  The introduction of the Telephone Exchange, however, replaced direct lines with service centers that provided interconnection within a geographic area.  This revolutionized worldwide communication and streamlined business communications in particular.

Business Communications Evolve

With the Telephone Exchange, businesses became more accessible and prospered with wider customer reach.  Telephone communication reduced travel and allowed business owners to save money without traveling back and forth to communicate with customers, suppliers, and stakeholders; they gained efficiencies for faster paced business and increased transactions.  As telephony technology has continued to evolve, these same benefits realized by the initial use of the telephone are still advancing businesses today, but on a whole new level.

Business telephony condensed…companies relied on switchboards and operators to route calls, until technology advanced to automatic phone switching systems in the first part of the 20th century.   The 1960s brought about use of the Private Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX) telephone systems, today referred to as PBX, which transformed business phone systems.  Like the early use of the telephone, PBX systems streamlined business operations and reduced costs.  These early on-premise PBXs allowed a telephone network to be dedicated to a single business rather than being administered through telephone providers. 

PBX technology enabled companies to purchase fewer phone lines.   Pre-PBX, businesses’ internal calls were routed via an actual phone line via the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), meaning internal calls had to leave the building and come back to the receptionist, who would then route calls to the appropriate extension.  PBX also facilitated the use of shared lines for making external calls, rather than providing each user a dedicated line. 

PBX machines were one of a company’s biggest expenses.   The technology was a huge improvement for businesses, streamlining communications  and ultimately saving money, but the ROI was long.  As technology improved, upgrades were available at a premium.

Though cutting edge at the time, PBX machines were big and cumbersome and required a massive jumble of wires.  IT staff had to head to the PBX closet and its confusing mass of wires to switch extensions or troubleshoot problems.

Modern Business Communications

With the development of the internet,  wires and phone lines  –  that were once such a big part of the industry –  are today quickly being replaced by fiber optic cables and wireless carriers.  With this, business communications have evolved even further and have become almost entirely VoIP.

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, enables calls to be carried over the internet instead of an analog phone line. VoIP has transformed telephony, and business phone systems today are almost entirely VoIP-based, providing significant cost savings.  With VoIP, long distance charges, previously  a major concern for companies, have been virtually eliminated. 

PBX systems today have progressed to utilize both VoIP and cloud technology.  With a hosted, IP-based, cloud system, such as O1 Phone VoiceStream, businesses are realizing many of the same benefits brought about by the original use of the telephone – cost savings, efficiencies for faster paced business and wider customer reach. Additionally, hosted-cloud based systems provide disaster recovery benefits with call routing options and several layers of redundancy for carrier access, power back-up, and equipment diversity.

Today’s systems alleviate the considerable CapEx charges affiliated with standard PBX systems. And, with no on-site equipment to build and constantly maintain, organizations eliminate the need for IT staff to troubleshoot equipment, perform upgrades, and install new features.  With a cloud-based system, such as VoiceStream, upgrades are automatically provided free of charge, future-proofing  business phone systems and saving money.

Collaboration is another advancement in the business phone world.  Collaboration used to be done around the water cooler.  Today, collaboration has taken on the form of Unified Communications (UC) and is essential to enhancing productivity, improving agility, and supporting a mobile workforce. Functionality such as instant messaging (IM), presence, screen sharing, and video and audio conferencing increases productivity, efficiency, and sales. 

Today’s business phone systems can support a mobilized workforce and increase customer reach.    Mobile phones are now critical to business and companies are embracing the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement.  The VoiceStream business phone system offers a mobile application, giving employees the ability to stay connected from any device, respond real-time to events, and access key services from any device. 

Phones today hardly resemble Bell’s original telephone from 140 years ago, however, the benefit remains the same – streamlined communications.  Invest in today’s business phone technology and ensure your business isn’t living in the past.