Conference call

A Polycom phone made specifically for conference calls.

A conference call is a telephone call in which the calling party wishes to have more than one called party listen in to the audio portion of the call. The conference calls may be designed to allow the called party to participate during the call, or the call may be set up so that the called party merely listens into the call and cannot speak. It is often referred to as an ATC (Audio Tele-Conference).

Conference calls can be designed so that the calling party calls the other participants and adds them to the call; however, participants are usually able to call into the conference call themselves by dialing into a special telephone number that connects to a "conference bridge" (a specialized type of equipment that links telephone lines).

Companies commonly use a specialized service provider who maintains the conference bridge, or who provides the phone numbers and PIN codes that participants dial to access the meeting or conference call.

Three-way calling is available (usually at an extra charge) for many customers on their home or office phone line. To three-way call, the first person, who is the one who someone wishes to talk to is dialed. Then the Hook flash button (known as the recall button in the UK and elsewhere) is pressed and the other person's phone number is dialed. While it is ringing, flash / recall is pressed again to connect the three people together. This option allows callers to add a second outgoing call to an already connected call.

3 way calling for prison interpretation is, if an inmate is on the phone and another person picks up another phone this is considered 3 way/conference calling.




Businesses use conference calls daily to meet with remote parties, both internally and outside of their company. Common applications are client meetings or sales presentations, project meetings and updates, regular team meetings, training classes and communication to employees who work in different locations. Conference calling is viewed as a primary means of cutting travel costs and allowing workers to be more productive by not having to go out-of-office for meetings.

Conference calls are used by nearly all United States public corporations to report their quarterly results. These calls usually allow for questions from stock analysts and are called earnings calls. A standard conference call begins with a disclaimer stating that anything said in the duration of the call may be a forward looking statement, and that results may vary significantly. The CEO, CFO, or Investor Relations officer then will read the company's quarterly report. Lastly, the call is opened for questions from analysts.

Conference calls are increasingly used in conjunction with web conferences, where presentations or documents are shared via the internet. This allows people on the call to view content such as corporate reports, sales figures and company data presented by one of the participants. The main benefit is that the presenter of the document can give clear explanations about details within the document, while others simultaneously view the presentation.

Business conference calls are usually hosted or operator-assisted, the quality (extreme reliability) and feature set of the telephone conferencing platform is what differs free from business conference calls. Billing is usually never a problem as most business conferencing call providers have flexible billing options. When you measure it from minute to minute, it would always be more advisable to go for business conference calling than settle with cheap and unreliable free ones.

Conference calls are also beginning to cross over into the world of podcasting and social networking, which in turn fosters new kinds of interaction patterns. Live streaming or broadcasting of conference calls allows a larger audience access to the call without dialing in to a bridge. In addition, organizers of conference calls can publish a dial-in number alongside the audio stream, creating potential for audience members to dial in if and when they wish to interact.

Party line

Conference calls can also be used for entertainment or social purposes, such as the party line or a group call. Such entertainment-based conference calls are used to provide a break from boredom as well as a way to socialize with others. People call in to a specified telephone number and are connected to conversations with other callers. This serves as a way to talk to and perhaps, subsequently, meet new people.

In the "early" days (up to 1950's-1970's in some parts of Australia) a "party line" was the only way a community could make calls. Everyone was connected to the same line and all you had to do was pick up the handset and you would be connected. In some areas, the local operator could connect you by simply plugging in the lead to your house and you could join in the conversation. Interestingly the operator was able to listen to all calls, they would cut in and tell a caller if they were approaching their allocated time for a call. The operator was often a good source of information about the community.

Flat Rate Conferencing

Flat rate services are now being offered which enable conference call users to have unlimited access to a conference bridge at a fixed monthly cost. Because telecommunication carriers offer free long distance bundled with local service, this alternative is gaining widespread popularity for budget conscious businesses and non-profits.

In the UK, there are conference services offered on a pay as you go basis where the cost of the phone calls (using 0844, 0870 or 0871 numbers) from each of the participants covers the cost of the conference service. With this service type there is no monthly charge and usually no contracts to sign.

Prepaid conference calls

Prepaid conference call services allow businesses and individuals to purchase conferencing services online, and conduct conference calls on a pay-as-you-go basis. Typically, a conference call PIN and its associated calling instructions are displayed immediately online after being purchased and/or sent via email. Generally, prepaid conference call services are used with a landline telephone, mobile phone, or computer, and there is no need to buy additional expensive telecommunications hardware or add/switch long distance service. Some services allow you to start or join a conference call from virtually any country worldwide—with appropriate telephone access.

Large telecommunications providers such as AT&T, Embarq (formerly Sprint), Verizon and other large to medium conferencing service providers maintain a dominant position in the conferencing niche; servicing many of the World's biggest brands. However, the Internet and improved global VoIP networks have helped to significantly reduce the barrier of entry into this niche.

Free conference calling

Free conferencing is different from traditional conference calling where the organizer of the conference call pays either a flat rate fee or per minute charge or a mixture of both. It has no organizer fees and allows for multiple people to meet for the price of their long distance connections. Companies that provide free conference call services are usually compensated through revenue sharing arrangements, receiving a share of the termination fee the phone company receives for connecting the call. It is "free" of organizer fees, including the conference call in the price of a regular call. In the United Kingdom the prefix 0870 system is used by UK-based free conference calling providers in order to receive a rebate from every call from telephone company that owns the number. However in April 2009 Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, announced that the rebate that is payable to the telecom's supplier when an 0870 number is used would be removed.[1] By not charging organizer fees, the free conference calling services have driven down the cost of conference calling during less than 15 years of competing with the large phone companies.

Premium conferencing

Here participants dial in on a premium-rate number typically beginning with the prefix ‘09’, the conference being hosted by anyone that adds value to the call in order to justify the premium rate element: this could be a celebrity, a sports personality, astrologer, lawyer, or expert in any given field. That person then receives the majority of the accrued revenue. Premium conferencing can also be used for charitable fundraisers.

Common causes of poor conference calls

There are several common causes of poor quality conference calls:

  • People simply not showing up.
  • Lack of familiarity with behaviour and protocol.
  • Lack of familiarity with equipment and technology.
  • Background noise and disturbances.
  • Poor coordination by call-initiator.
  • Lack of moderator

Each of these causes requires a different kind of corrective action. However, there is usually one primary root cause; for example, people may not be showing up because the technology does not work, or the technology may not work because people are not familiar with it.

Technology problems tend to fall into two kinds: lack of bandwidth and poor equipment. Again, it is worth checking which of these apply in the case of technology problems.

Conferencing in IMS

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) defined a technical specification (TS 24.147) for conferencing within the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) based on the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), SIP Events, the Session Description Protocol (SDP) and the Binary Floor Control Protocol (BFCP, aka RFC4582).


See also

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • conference call — ➔ call2 * * * conference call UK US noun [C] MEETINGS, COMMUNICATIONS ► a phone call that involves three or more people: »Top executives explained the decision to sell during a conference call with senior employees. conference calling noun [U] ►… …   Financial and business terms

  • conference call — conference .call n a telephone call in which several people in different places can all talk to each other …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • conference call — conference ,call noun count a telephone call in which three or more people use special equipment that allows each of them to hear and speak with the others …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • conference call — n. a telephone call participated in by three or more persons who may be in different locations …   English World dictionary

  • conference call — /ˈkɔnferens kol, ingl. ˈkHnf(J)nts kEl/ loc. sost. f. inv. teleconferenza, videoconferenza …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • conference call — noun a telephone call in which more than two people participate • Hypernyms: ↑call, ↑phone call, ↑telephone call • Hyponyms: ↑three way calling * * * noun : a telephone call by which a caller can speak with several people at the same time * * * a …   Useful english dictionary

  • Conference Call — An event during which investors can call in to hear a company s management report its quarterly results as well as forward, or projected, earnings. A conference call generally begins with an uninterrupted report from management. Then the meeting… …   Investment dictionary

  • conference call — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms conference call : singular conference call plural conference calls a telephone call in which three or more people use special equipment that allows each of them to hear and speak with the others …   English dictionary

  • Conference-Call — An den deutschen Finanzmärkten bezeichnet man als Conference Call eine Telefonkonferenz mit selbstständiger Einwahl (Dial In Konferenz), bei der börsennotierte Unternehmen Anleger und Analysten über ihre Geschäftsentwicklung informieren. Aus den… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Conference Call — An den deutschen Finanzmärkten bezeichnet man als Conference Call eine Telefonkonferenz mit selbstständiger Einwahl (Dial In Konferenz), bei der börsennotierte Unternehmen Anleger und Analysten über ihre Geschäftsentwicklung informieren. Aus den… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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