Guide to Unified Communications Lingo: From the Windstream Telecom Lingo Series


In the telecommunications and IT world, we freely toss around terms like “UC”, “PBX” and “SIP” (Unified Communications, Private Branch Exchange, Session Initiated Protocol). These make perfect sense to those who live in this world. We often make up our own words and even change the definitions of existing words like “host”, “bit”, “gate”, “jitter”, “bug”, “trunk” and even “hockey puck” to suit our needs. We speak “Telecom,” a language of acronyms and geek speak that we understand perfectly—and present our Guide to Unified Communications Lingo—to help you do the same.

AA (Auto Attendant)
A telephony system that automatically transfers and routes incoming calls to their destination without the intervention of human operator, typically providing callers with a simple selection menu ("for sales, press 1, for service, press 2, etc.). Most AAs can route calls to landline phones, mobile phones and VoIP devices. More advanced Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems offer callers input options of voice, keypad or a combination.
ACD (Automatic Call Distribution)
An automatic call system that receives and routes inbound phone calls and routes them to the appropriate contact center—typically used in large volume call centers.
Analog Line
A standard telephone line that connects your business to a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to switch calls through a local telephone company’s switching equipment. Analog lines use an electrical signal to transmit sound over copper wire lines. To transmit data over an analog line, a modem is used to convert digital computer signals into analog signals.
ANI (Automatic Number Identification)
Automatic feature that captures the billing phone number of incoming callers similar to caller ID but capable of capturing the caller’s phone number and line type even when their ID is blocked.
ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode)
Wide-area network circuit that transmits voice, video and data broken into packets of fixed sizes to ensure predictable and manageable transmission performance.
Best Effort Voice
A Class of Service (CoS) offering best-effort delivery without priority service or bandwidth guarantees. On a best-effort connection, voice and data packets are delivered in the order they arrive and leave on shared bandwidth without prioritization. Best effort connections offers simple configuration and fast operation and is suitable for normal traffic and applications like file transfers and e-mail but without prioritization, has the potential for network congestion causing latency and jitter that can affect voice quality. Also see Quality of Service (QoS), a service class that guarantees consistent network performance and voice quality.
BYOB (Bring-Your-Own-Broadband)
Offers VoIP services over the Internet or a third-party provides transport.
BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device)
A recent business trend, it’s a practice that allows employees to bring their own personal devices such as smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices into their workplace environment to access business applications and information.
CDR (Call Detail Record)
A detailed system usage record capturing call information such as call origination, endpoint, call duration, call billing assignment, total usage and other pertinent data for processing and analysis.
Click to Call
Capability of launching phone calls directly from the contact list on your computer.
DID (Direct Inward Dial)
A call routing solution that provides unique, direct numbers enabling external callers to contact users directly.
DoS (Denial of Service)
DoS or Distributed DoS (DDoS) are intentional, organized, complex network attacks designed to overload an IP telephony network with traffic to slow or crash applications and servers.
DR (Disaster Recovery)
The planning, preparation and implementation related to processes, policies, procedures, facilities and infrastructure to quickly recover and restore IT technology, data and other assets vital to the continuation of business functionality in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
DTO (Direct Trunk Overflow)
Enables business continuity offering redundant service on a local T1 or higher voice line for inbound calls, transferring inbound terminating calls to an alternate path in the event of service impairment or all available circuits are in use. DTO can automatically redirect calls to any telephone number including an alternate office, an answering service, a residence or even a mobile phone.
E911 (Enhanced 911)
The solution used in North America to connect emergency callers to the local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) the E911 service also delivers the callers physical address to the PSAP during the call.
EIM (Enterprise Instant Messaging)
Instant messaging service that runs on private instant messaging servers within a business.
Computer networking technologies for Local Area Networks (LAN), Ethernet typically uses wired networks to connect devices such as PCs, routers and switches, offering high-speed data transmission with consistent upload and download speeds to move large data quickly.
Find Me/Follow Me
An IP telephony feature enabling users to program inbound call preferences to ring through to their phone extensions or forward to a mobile phone, home office, a colleague’s extension or other connection to ensure every call is answered.
FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence)
Solutions integrating mobile services with private wired or wireless communications network, enabling user access via a single number to use enterprise telephony features from their mobile phones.
FoIP (Fax over Internet Protocol)
A capability enabling fax transmissions to be sent over an IP network.
Standard protocols used to establish sessions for voice communications and video conferencing over an IP network; an alternative to SIP.
Hosted Services
IP services delivered by a service provider from a multi-tenant environment to an organization over a dedicated transport or the Internet—from an off-site location versus operating services on an organization’s on-site servers.
Hunt Groups
A business phone system feature that enables incoming calls to ring a sequence of extensions or multiple specified extensions all at once to ensure all calls are answered by a live person and avoid callers waiting in a queue or being sent to voicemail.
IM (Instant Messaging)
Originally an application for exchanging text-based messages, also a means for sharing VoIP and video conferencing, file transfer and desktop applications in real time over the Internet via computers or mobile devices.
IP(Internet Protocol)
A mechanism by which packets may be routed between computers on a network-of-networks, allowing computer-based devices to communicate over various physical media, ranging from modems to Ethernet cabling, fiber-optic cables and even satellite and radio links. As its name implies, the global Internet is constructed using the IP network protocol.
IP PBX (Internet Protocol – Private Branch Exchange)
A private telephone network and switching system on premises within an enterprise or organization that works with VoIP and traditional telephone lines for routing phone calls.
IP Phone
A telephone that converts voice into packets and then sends them over IP to another telephony device. This is also called voice-over-IP (VoIP).
IP Telephony
Also known as VoIP, technology that provides two-way voice transmission over Internet Protocol.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
Communication between users and an automated system using a telephone keypad or speech recognition.
Interference in the transmission of VoIP and video communications that produces an undesirable signal variation.
Least-Cost Routing
Routing solution that selects outbound communications path based on lowest cost.
The time it takes for a packet of data to travel across a network from one application to another including the time required by the sending and receiving computers to process and display data. High latency caused by geographical distance and lower-speed network connections can delay or interrupt the natural flow of voice and data.
MACs (Moves, Adds and Changes)
Moves, adds and changes to either users or components on the network.
Managed Services
IT services provided by a third-party provider called a Managed Service Provider (MSP) that manage, monitor and maintain infrastructure, technologies, equipment, networks, systems, software and applications, ensuring consistent operations, quality service levels and implementation of upgrades. Services may be hosted and accessed through an MSP data center or colocation facility or managed on premises by an MSP at the user’s facilities—including managing networks, servers, storage, security and other assets and systems.
MDM (Mobile Device Management)
Software that secures, monitors and manages mobile devices, distributing applications, enforcing data and configuration settings, with the ability to lock or delete data from a lost or stolen mobile device.
MGCP (Media Gateway Control Protocol)
A standard for handling signaling and session management during multimedia conferencing. It defines communication between a media gateway, which converts the data for use on a circuit-switched network to the format required for a packet-switched network and the media gateway controller.
MIM (>Mobile Instant Messaging)
Instant Messaging service for mobile devices.
Mobile UC (Mobile Unified Communications)
A mobile UC solution includes common telephony functions, presence status, messaging, video conferencing, document sharing and collaboration from a smartphone or tablet.
Mobility Router
A network appliance that combines IP telephony, enterprise wireless LANs, mobile networks and location technology to extend voice and unified communications to mobile devices—and automatically selects the Wi-Fi or mobile network to optimize cost and call quality.
The integration and use of mobile devises like smartphones and tablets into an enterprise communications system.
MoIP (Mobile Communications over IP)
A mobile application that includes chat and voice over an IP network using 3G, Wi-Fi, etc.
MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching)
An IP network technology that uses packet-switching protocols to label data packets with abbreviated routing information such as destination, bandwidth and other metrics—then maps and assigns packets to corresponding Label Switch Paths (LSP) and Label Switch Routers (LSR), routing them along the best paths available to optimize data transport speed and efficiency across a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network).
MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure)
Calculated time between failures of a system during operation.
MTTR (Mean Time To Repair)
Calculated time required to repair a device.
Multi-Tenancy UCaaS
Unified Communications as a Service provided on a shared single software platform.
Packet Loss
Lost data packets producing poor voice quality or dropout in IP phone systems caused by network congestion, distance or poor line quality.
PBX (Private Branch Exchange)
A private telephone network and switching system on premises within an enterprise that operates with traditional telephone lines for routing internal and external phone calls.
POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service)
Just that, traditional phone calling services.
Unified communications technology with the ability to determine users’ contact preferences, availability, location, and status at any given time to simplify users receipt of communications such as phone calls, e-mail messages and instant messaging.
PRI (Primary Rate Interface)
A telecommunication standard used in the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) for carrying multiple DS0 voice and data transmissions between two physical locations. PRI was developed specifically for industrial or large quantity users. (BRI -Basic Rate Interface, is the standard used for residential and small business.) PRI provided either 23 or 30 B channels (bearer channels) used in various combinations for high bandwidth needs.
PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network)
A network of public circuit-switched telephone lines.
QoS (Quality of Service)
A method of prioritizing protocols, applications, or users to maintain the flow of data over the network to achieve quality service performance levels.
RTP (Real-Time Transport Protocol)
An Internet protocol standard used to deliver audio and video communications over an IP network.
Seat refers to a user granted access from a digital software provider to use licensed, protected software. Each person/computer licensed to run software is a seat. User refers to licensed digital software agreements granting use to a specified number of users. More users may have software access but access is limited to a specified number of users at any given time.
SIMPLE (SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions)
A standard protocol for exchanging instant messages and presence information.
Single-Tenancy UCaaS
Unified communications as a Service offering communications provided on a software platform with on-premises applications.
SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)
A signaling protocol for Voice over IP (VoIP) to handle call and Internet session connections and control real-time multimedia communications for voice, data and video transmission over an IP network.
SMS (Short Message Service)
Text messaging service available on mobile devices to transmit up to 160 characters (depending on bit size).
SIP Trunking
A service that uses SIP/VoIP to allow businesses to transmit voice and video using Internet protocol on a single line and without the need for traditional fixed wire lines.
A software program for sending and receiving voice calls over the Internet using a computer.
SRTP (Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol)
A data encryption and authentication process for data transmitted via RTP.
TDM (Time Division Multiplexing)
A process that separates multiple data streams into multiple segments on a single signal and reassembles each data stream at the reception destination point, offering flexibility to adjust time intervals to optimize bandwidth usage.
Technologies that create quality video and sound on mobile devices and tablets that is as good as being present at one location when a person is physically at a different location.
Trunk Line
Wireline connections for PBX phone systems to public switched telephone network. In older PBX phone systems, ISDN, T1, E1 and DS3 were commonly used for trunk lines. Today, SIP trunks are often used.
UC (Unified Communications)
A single application interface that enables users to access a range of communications tools including voice, IM chat, e-mail, faxes, voice messaging and audio, video and web conferencing.
UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service)
A service model in which various communication and collaboration applications and services including telephony, messaging, presence and conferencing are delivered by a third-party provider offering high availability, flexibility and scalability over an IP network.
UCC (Unified Communications and Collaboration)
A UC solution integrating voice and telephony, conferencing, messaging, presence status and instant messaging on a single interface across an enterprise to facilitate collaboration using audio, video and web solutions.
UM (Unified Messaging)
An application for collecting messages from emails, voicemails and faxes and placing them into a single inbox that can be retrieved from any device with an Internet connection.
Video Conferencing
Connects participants in two or more locations, facilitating interaction using two-way video and audio transmission at the same time.
VoIM (Voice over Instant Messaging)
Applications that allow voice communications along with text-based IM messages.
VoIP (Voice over IP)
Digital phone service that uses Internet protocol to transmit voice calls over an IP network.
VoWLAN (Voice over Wireless Local Area Network)
The transmission of VoIP signals using wireless local area network.
Web Conferencing
Utilizes Web connections to allow participants to attend meetings from any location using voice, video, and the Internet to communicate and collaborate in real time.

The Windstream Guide to Unified Communications Lingo, a glossary of UC terms, is one in a series of Guides to Telecom Lingo we’ll be posting to the Windstream Business blog. While not a comprehensive list intended for technical use, it’s more of a guide to common UC terms for the unindoctrinated. We invite you to post your thoughts in the comments section, to add or request other definitions and bookmark and refresh these posts. We’ll update the Unified Communications Guide and other guides with additional terms and new ones as they emerge. You’ll be speaking conversational “Telecom” in no time.