Is ISDN for You?


The two main platforms that VO talents, commercial recording studios, and post production facilities use are connections over IP and ISDN. Both platforms give users high fidelity, bidirectional communication with studios, talents, broadcasters, and other production facilities on a global scale.

However, costs, technological features, and requirements differ between IP and ISDN connections.

IP based Connection

There are several IP platforms that will allow you to connect to different users using the same software. The fees differ when connecting via IP. Some companies have a subscription based fee, others have a flat fee for downloading their software, and some are even free. IP based providers create all their programs to be software based, so no dedicated hardware is needed and the setup is fairly simple. Users can simply create a username and password, and they’re on their way.

Current Issues with IP based Connection

There are some downsides to using IP based software. There are multiple companies that offer connectivity through IP and they continue to increase. Currently, these companies don’t offer a standard and each software provides its own unique features. For example, some IP softwares deliver mono and stereo compatibility, while others just provide mono connections. Also, various companies allow users to use their software in conjunction with their DAW (ProTools, Cubase, Nuendo), while some don’t.

One of the main issues with IP solutions is that companies rely on the public internet. So, if for some reason the internet is having issues , so is your IP based connection. All a user can completely rely on is the connection to their local internet  connection, also known as their “point of presence.” Since IP solutions are reliant on the public internet, users are subject to packet loss and security issues. The internet uses packets as its transport medium, so for every packet that is lost, so is a chunk of audio during a recording session, depending on the software’s error correction algorithm. Also, most standalone IP codecs will only connect to another like model, making compatibility an issue.

Depending on what kind of work you do, the people you work with, and how risk tolerant you are, IP may or may not be the choice for you.

ISDN Connection

Instead of the public internet, ISDN (Integrated Services for Digital Networks) relies on phone companies (LECs, the “Local Exchange Carriers” and IXCs, the long distance providers) to transmit and receive data. Therefore, ISDN installation requires the assistance of these phone companies. After the installation, ISDN users can communicate bidirectionally with another ISDN codec by dialing phone numbers utilizing the data capacities of the switched public phone network. This connection thereby provides a dedicated, fully private connection from end to end.

There are several of ISDN codecs on the market, some of which can connect with each other even if they were not made by the same company. Some ISDN codecs additionally offer connections over IP. Certain ISDN systems, like the APT ProLinks and APT Milanos, can allow users to run two discrete sessions at the same time. Others, like products made by Telos, offer a simple way of connecting by dialing two 64kbps calls while providing users with an array of algorithms including MPEG Layer 2,  MPEG Layer 3, AAC, etc.  Click here if you are interested in knowing more about ISDN codecs.

Current Issues with ISDN

One of the limitations of ISDN is that users will not be able to connect with certain codecs, depending on the manufacturer; however, EDnet can act as a medium and bridge otherwise incompatible devices.

On another note, as internet technology becomes a primary focus, some telephone companies have started raising the monthly cost of ISDN circuits. This has caused some users of long distance ISDN audio connections to try an array of IP based solutions just to continue working in a cost effective manner, regardless of their desire to do so.  Nonetheless, there are a multitude of ISDN users from studios large and small, as well as ad agencies and voiceover talents, that continue using ISDN services.

Given that AT&T and other phone companies wish to raise the cost of simply having an ISDN connection to an unaffordable and unfair price, what can we do?

EDnet’s Resolution

Fortunately, current laws state that ISDN must remain available for those that need and want it. Telephone companies’ sales personnel try to steer new installations to Internet style connections where they can “up-sell” the customer other services that ride on the same circuit.  The good news: EDnet has been able to negotiate reduced and fairer pricing for those that need ISDN services in spite of what different phone companies’ sales reps claim.  Click here for your area and compare pricing for EDnet’s negotiated ISDN access.

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