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What's the Difference Between a Phone Number, a Line, and an Extension?

The telecom industry has evolved over the past couple of decades. Remember the time when days when telecom services like 1-800-COLLECT was a highly-popular calling option? Now, making a phone call from anywhere is as easy as reaching into a pocket or handbag.

The Difference Between a Phone Number, an Extension, and a Line

The era of the installation and use of complex landline phone systems by businesses is coming to an end. Many businesses are switching their traditional phone services to business VoIP due to its cost-effectiveness and it's a practical solution to having more efficient office communications. Having a VoIP system is ideal for creating a high-quality connection and allowing businesses to operate from anywhere. VoIP systems also make it easier to keep productivity levels high.

In fact, businesses that decided to install an electronic phone system, like VoIP services, as opposed to several single-line phones will see a decrease in their telecommunication costs. Other benefits of using an electronic phone system include an increase in productivity and an improvement in how the office communicates.

Unfortunately, many people do not understand how traditional business telephone systems work in comparison to their internet-based counterparts. The equipment and technology used in internet-based communication services are much different than what businesses use on a regular basis.

Even though each phone system is different in regards to the provider, type of phone, size of the system, and features, the basic components of the phone have similar characteristics. This is a good starting point gaining an understanding the new office phone system.

Any business that is trying to make the switch from their landline telephone system may want to start by learning how a phone number, phone line, and an extension are different things. By understanding the differences between them, businesses can make an educated decision about the future direction of their communication system and how to stay current in the digital era.

What are Phone Numbers?

Ok, the answer to this question is probably fairly obvious. Most people fully understand what a phone number is because the majority of people have one. On any given day, the average person dials, at most, 100 different phone numbers. Because the numbers are stored in phones, no one actually remembers any of these numbers. Instead of talking about the obvious, it's good to talk about how phone numbers get transmitted or connected.

When examining a phone number on its most basic level, it's really just a series of digits. A phone can be compared to the computer's IP address. Phone numbers are equivalent to a street address, as it lets the system know how to connect the person to the caller they seek.

Depending on who provides the phone number, the number is dialed and connected using a land, fixed, telephone line. The phone number is then connected to providers using the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), or to a wireless telephone device, like a cell phone. Phone calls placed on mobile devices get transmitted across radio waves from cell phone towers, but they are also routed to phone numbers.

Is There a Reason to Have More than One Phone Number?

Yes. It is possible for businesses to have more than one phone number. The real question is why a business would want multiple phone numbers.

One reason for having multiple phone numbers is it allows the business to separate its different departments. Instead of having one number that everyone calls for any issues, a business can have a separate phone number for sales, shipping, customer service, etc. Having multiple phone numbers makes it easier for future and current to reach the right area of the business. Also, businesses may just want their salespeople to have more than one phone number.

Geo-targeting is another, albeit more complex, reason to have more than one phone number. Having multiple phone numbers in every area code lets a business's salespeople appear as if they are calling from a local number. VoIP can do a lot of neat things like routing calls through a different number depending on the location of the caller.

What is an Extension?

Before there was VoIP, each line was connected to the PSTN. The PSTN system is what helps lines get connected from one desk to another in a central location. It lets employees call an extension. An extension is a four-digit number that works in the same way as a phone number. The four digits are an extension of the phone number that connects to the main phone line.

To continue with the street analogy, if the phone number is equivalent to a street address, the extension is the house number.

When dealing with a business telephone system, extensions are telephone lines that are found on a private branch exchange (PBX) system. PBX systems are essentially a switchboard that allows multiple lines in an office to connect without needing a single outside line.

Each user's extension can be configured to have several different phone features that meet the needs of the user. The programmable phone features include a voicemail inbox, call forwarding, and text messaging. Users are also able to transfer calls to a different extension.

What is a Phone Line?

When talking about how extensions and a phone number are different, the term 'line' is used often. But what is a 'line'? Every phone number is linked to a line. Traditionally, the 'line' is the telephone wire that is connected to a circuit. The circuit is connected to the PSTN. The 'lines' are referring to the telephone wires we see on the street. Today, a line is a connection between two phones.

So, How is a Telephone Number, Line, and an Extension Different?

In summary, a phone line is the "address" that people dial to contact each other. The extension is a more specific part of the address, it's the house number to the street address. The line is the phone connection.

If a business has five numbers, or extensions, with two lines, then only two people could use the phone at a time.

When businesses set up their phone system, they need to make sure there are enough lines for the company.

What's the Future of Phone Communications and Digital Technology

Over time, the traditional business phone system has become expensive and complex. VoIP business telephone services help are instrumental in making communications less complicated, doesn't require the use of a hosted PBX system, a switchboard, clunky equipment, and telephone lines.

The telecom industry is evolving to have the incorporating digital technology in their phone communications.

So, what's the future of the telecom industry?

With text messaging on mobile phones and the use of messaging apps, the future of the telecommunications industry may be uncertain.

More than 80 percent of text messaging transmissions come from messaging app like iMessage and WhatsApp. Skype accounts for roughly a third of all VoIP and international voice traffic

Because of this, telecom carriers are facing multiple challenges like a decrease in their revenue, increased competition, and trying to stay relevant in the industry.

In the end, businesses need to have an understanding of where phone number come from, how they work, and where the industry is heading. Knowing all of this will help businesses make more informed communication systems and find a way to improve the productivity in the office.