A telephone provider in general terms is a service provider, who offers their customers voice communication services (telephony). Whilst telephone providers previously aligned their businesses at voice communication exclusively, nowadays the services on offer from telephone and internet providers are merging. Almost all telephone providers now also act as data network providers, and vice versa. The trend towards voice communication within the data network - via Voice over IP - has also resulted in voice and data service providers shifting even closer together.
It is fundamentally possible to categorise the services on offer from telephone providers as follows:
The customer is provided with a fixed landline telephone connection at a defined location, via which speech communication is possible.
Mobile phone telephony
Customers are able to make telephone calls with a mobile phone or smartphone via a mobile phone network at any given location. They can be reached via a mobile phone number. The mobile phone provider operates a mobile phone network for this purpose When abroad, the mobile phone customer is able to communicate via foreign providers by means of so-called roaming.
With internet telephony the voice data is packaged in a data package and transported via a pure data network, such as the internet. Internet telephony is therefore also referred to as Voice over IP (VoIP). VoIP offers the advantage that the user only requires an internet connection, in order to carry out all voice and data communication. Furthermore, numerous additional services can be realised via VoIP. For example, PCs and laptops can be expanded with software to create IP telephones and pure IP telephones can also be used to display and utilise additional information from the network. VoIP can be used via mobile phone networks and fixed landline connections.
In addition to voice communication, as previously mentioned the telephone providers also generally offer internet access as a product bundle with telephony. The internet access is realised by DSL technology, cable network or on a mobile basis depending on the provider. Such product packages are also referred to as Double Play. If there is an additional option to receive television programmes then one speaks in turn of Triple Play.
The tariff systems of telephone providers often differ dramatically. In the field of internet usage and landline telephony so-called flat rates are prevalent, with fixed-rate monthly billing, irrespective of actual use. For calls made within or from mobile phone networks charges are often usage-dependent or billed on a per-minute basis.