Definition

analog telephone adapter (ATA)

An analog telephone adaptor (ATA) is a device used to connect a standard telephone to a computer or network so that the user can make calls over the Internet. Internet-based long distance calls can be substantially cheaper than calls transmitted over the traditional telephone system, and ATAs are typically cheaper than specialized VoIP phones that connect directly to a computer's Universal Serial Bus (USB) port.

Whether or not VoIP is cheaper than traditional phone service depends on a number of factors, including the rates charged by the respective service providers and equipment costs. Skype, one VoIP provider, offers free calling locally and between members, and inexpensive long-distance calls to other numbers.

There are several types of analog telephone adapters. All ATAs create a physical connection between a phone and a computer or a network device; some perform analog-to-digital conversion and connect directly to a VoIP server, while others use software for either or both of these tasks.

The simplest type of ATA has one or more RJ-11 jacks to plug a telephone (and/or a fax) into and a USB connector that plugs into the user's computer, laptop, or handheld device. This type of ATA often works in conjunction with some type of software (typically a softphone program). The software acts as an intermediary between the telephone and a VoIP server, digitizing voice data so that it can be transmitted over the Internet.

In an enterprise setting, an ATA usually has multiple telephone jacks and an RJ-45 connection to a 10/100BaseT Ethernet hub or switch, and is used to connect to a local area network (LAN). Such an ATA digitizes voice data, and uses protocols such as such as H.323 or SIP to communicate directly with a VoIP server so that a softphone is not required. An ATA that connects telephones to a LAN is sometimes called a VoIP gateway.

Some Internet telephony service providers, such as Vonage, provide an ATA to their customers as part of the service package.

This was last updated in November 2010
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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