How a conference call bridge works: the technology behind conference calls

If you have any role in the business environment – or even, increasingly, outside the business environment – you probably have some familiarity with conference calling, but you may be a little unclear on how it actually works. A conference call is like a telephone call, except that multiple people can be connected simultaneously. As you have likely experienced, all the participants dial into a conference bridge to get connected to the teleconference.

How many people can use a single conference bridge?

A conference bridge has a function much like a server acting as a telephone which can answer multiple calls at the same time. The bridge can even accommodate a number of teleconferences to be held at the same time. This is achieved through identifying numbers for each individual call, which are supplied to the conference bridge via an IVR menu which allows the bridge to allocate each caller to the correct conference call room.

A single virtual meeting room can usually hold dozens, or even hundreds, of participants at any given time – although with some providers you have to pay in order to be allowed larger numbers of attendees. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to compare what paying for a conference call will actually get you with different providers.

Some conference call bridges use dynamic meeting rooms – that is to say, virtual meeting rooms which are created according to assigned schedules. This is generally found most frequently being used by larger providers where capacity planning is of vital importance.

Who can use a conference call bridge?

Modern conference bridges generally use a combination of hardware and software which renders them capable of connecting multiple phone lines simultaneously, and attach to a PBX which can be connected to a local phone system, and to a public telephone network. Consequently, anybody can connect to a teleconference via a conference bridge. These days, teleconferencing from mobile phones is becoming increasingly common, and can even be achieved for free by choosing a provider which offers conference calls included in your bundled minutes.

How does a conference bridge actually work?

The traditional method for conference calling is known as circuit switching: interconnected switches route calls to the conference bridge.

But times and technologies have changed, and most modern teleconferencing services use packet switching. This means small packets of data travel across the internet from one computer to another. The participants of a teleconference can connect independently to the bridge with the help of a login code and a personal identification number, increasing security compared with earlier techniques.

Benefits of conference calling

Modern conferencing solutions have vastly improved coordination, cooperation and communication in countless businesses. In particular, small businesses have found huge benefits from telephone conferencing in terms of enhancing employees’ productivity. By making use of teleconferences, you can reduce the need for time to be spent commuting to work or travelling potentially large distances to meetings. This means that more work hours can be put productively to work, and so much more gets done within the same amount of time. Crucially, though, you don’t have to sacrifice clear and immediate communication, a real drawback from instant messaging and emails.

A conference bridge can add a new dimension to regular phone conferencing and to communication on the whole. People can interact with each other from anywhere in the world, just as they would in a face to face meeting, provided they have access to a conferencing service. If they have access to a computer, a web camera, headsets, a phone line, and a internet connection – even better. The vast powers and bonuses of teleconferencing have contribute immeasurably to the revolution in the structure of our working lives, and have benefited people in fields from teaching, to politics, to music.


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