TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Foreign Exchange (FX) Lines Still in Use?

Re: Foreign Exchange (FX) Lines Still in Use?

Isaiah Beard (
Wed, 18 May 2005 16:55:01 -0400 wrote:

> In another thread Pat mentioned FX lines. As mentioned, these were
> used to save on long distance changes -- customers would make a local
> call to a distant business and the business could call its customers
> for the cost of a local call. This service was not cheap.

> At a resort I visited that had FX lines to a city 75 miles away, the
> switchboard had special heavy cord pairs. Extensions authorized for
> FX had a second jack underneath in which the heavy cord was inserted.
> I heard FX lines used higher voltage thus the heavy cords. I don't
> know what kind of special wiring, if any, was in the telephone sets.

> I would guess WATS and long distance packages has made most FX lines
> obsolete. There was toll free before 800 numbers but it was manual
> and a local number added a comfort factor.

There is something else too that is going the way of the dodo: tie
lines. These were useful for large universities with multiple campuses,
as well as businesses with more than one hub operation in distant cities.

A tie line is usually part of a PBX system and works like this: instead
of getting an outside line, you dial a special code that connects you to
the PBX at the distant office. There could be multiple codes, each one
connecting you to a different distant location, depending on how big
your organization is. You can then call any extension in that distant
PBX, OR get an outside line in that distant PBX and make a local call in
that area without incurring toll charges.

Of course, tie lines, too, are pricey, but in their day they were
economical if your organization had a lot of voice traffic going back
and forth from each office, and saved some cash making LD calls in
certain areas, too.

Nowadays, cheaper LD and Voice over IP is making tie lines quite
obsolete. I currently work in a large organization that has three
major complexes spread out across the state, that are connected to tie
lines. All three sites have CENTREX systems, and the tie lines are
accessed through it. Recently, one of the three sites migrated to a
completely VoIP system, which effectively "broke" the tie line (the
other two sites can no longer use the tie line to call site 3,
incurring toll charges while site 3 is saving TONS of money ... all of
its calles are net-routed now). Ultimately, the only option appears
to be that the other two sites have to upgrade as well, but
technological inertia here for things as mundane as phones moves
glacially slow.

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