Bill's Glossary of Technical Terms

Internet Telephone Glossary

Some of these definitions may be a little different from exactly how others define them, but they’re broader in the vernacular and get the idea across.

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Internet phone article


Plain Old Telephone Service. Two wires going back to a central office that can connect you with every other telephone line in the world. The first link has an analog carrier appropriate for fax machines, slow modems, and cheap telephone sets.


Voice over Internet Protocol. Literally, any telephone connection that uses computer networking rather than standard, inexpensive 2-wire telephone cable to transmit the conversation. It started out as a method for businesses to distribute their PBX services to remote offices using the existing computer connections rather than another expensive telco leased line. Here it usually means having a two-way voice conversation using the public internet for at least part of the transmission.

Baby Bell

Your traditional, old-style, local wired phone company. This may be a remnant of 1978’s AT&T family, a regional full-service company like Alltel, or a company like Excel or AT&T that buys local service from one of the above and puts their name at the top of your bill.
(Local Exchange Carrier, Local Bell Operating Company, Other Local Carrier)

Ma Bell

Technically, AT&T or the successors to the AT&T mogopoly after its antitrust breakup. Here it may apply to anyone selling legacy technology.


Any of a number of technologies that use multiple low-powered radio base stations (towers) to provide communications over a complete large geographic area. Base stations typically have a coverage of a few miles and the user is unaware of switching from one to another.


Any of a number of technologies under the IEEE 802.11 standards that allow connection to a computer network without wires. Base stations typically have a range up to 100 meters or so and moving out of range of one and into the range of another may involve several seconds of lost connection while the systems adjust.


Internet Protocol. The set of standards that are used in almost every computer network, whether two computers at your dentist’s office or the global (virtual) system that we know as “The Internet.” 






Bill Barnes is a freelance small business system administrator.

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Last updated Monday, September 06, 2004 09:16 AM