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The Difference Between Analog and Digital Phone Systems

The telephone is one of the oldest technology to exist but it is also one of the slowest to adopt to a digital alternative. The shift has only started in the 1960s but it is only today that major differences are realized. Both analog and digital systems still exist today. If you are making a choice between them, it’s good to have an understanding of both so that you will be able to make the right decision.

Analog vs Digital

The analog system is the one that most people are familiar with. It is also known as the plain old telephone system and it’s probably the same one you use at home. This kind of connection allows analog voice signals to travel along copper wires. Digital on the other hand uses VoIP where the voice signal is converted to digital and then sliced into many packets to be sent across the Internet to reach the specified destination.

Digital phones use less bandwidth which results to lower costs because you can fit more conversations into an existing line. There is no need to ask your provider to install additional lines. In the event that you do need more users, you can simply call up your provider and in minutes, the additional lines can be set up and ready to be used. VoIP technology allows users to make several calls simultaneously, something that is not possible with analog systems.

Digital telephony has also opened the door to new features that were practically non-existent with analog systems. One great example is video calling.

Problems with digital systems

There is always a fault with any kind of technology and the digital phone system is not immune to it. One of the biggest problems of this system is reliability. Analog phones are powered by telephone companies whereas digital phones are powered at home or the office so they are susceptible to power outages. This is the reason why digital phones are unsuitable for emergency situations where communication is vital.

Because you can make/receive simultaneous calls in digital systems, it can also cause congestion. The result is a greater lag and the voice of the person you’re speaking with can drop at times.

Digital phones need to be connected to a router or computer and need to be configured properly in order to function. However, there are newer models that promise to be plug and play.

In spite of these problems, more and more people are turning to digital phone systems because of their features and great value for money especially for international calls.

VoIP providers are developing systems that can overcome these challenges. For example, to avoid congestion, just upgrade your bandwidth/Internet plan. You can also have your provider allocate more bandwidth to calls than data or you can have a separate connection altogether. Your connection can also be configured to allow more calls during a specific time of day. Providers have also improved call quality and some boast that the clarity and quality of phone calls are now comparable to analog phone calls.

Pros and Cons

The major advantage of analog systems over digital is reliability. Analog phones can still remain operational even in the event of a disaster or power outage. This is why businesses that rely heavily on communication still maintain an analog system.

On the other hand, businesses prefer digital lines because it’s easier to add more lines as the business grows. They are also cheaper to maintain and install.

Analog and digital comparison
Advantage Disadvantage
Analog Low and easy maintenance Cannot be scaled up or down easily
Simple to use Bandwidth is not fully utilized
Minimal setup Expensive
Digital Increased effectiveness of call routing and transmission Emergency numbers are not widely available and emergency responders will not be able to pinpoint the location of the call
Lower monthly cost Security threats because it is connected to the Internet
Scalable Power outages and problems with Internet connection will bring down connections
Data and video transmission capability
You can use your PC or laptop as a softphone
Small businesses can now enjoy the features that only large businesses are able to afford

What’s the best system?

The short answer is it’s entirely up to you. Different people and businesses have varying needs and you should get a phone system that will be able to deliver all your requirements. List down your requirements and expectations on your phone system as well as your budget. These will help you narrow down your choices and/or help the provider customize a system for you. You should always be clear about every aspect of your phone system such as the plans and pricing, the number of users, the features that you need and possible plans for expansion. You should also talk about maintenance and repair fees as these can cause problems in the future when not addressed properly before signing a contract. Research what people have to say about a provider. It’s also a good idea to look at local providers and customer support. It’s good to know that you can get troubleshooting help any time especially if your business revolves around your phone system.

Author: Yazz

Yazz is a trained telecommunications engineer with a diploma in telecommunications. He has spent the last 15 years working for Telefonica, one of the largest telephone operators and mobile network providers in the world.