||This article contains weasel words: vague phrasing that often accompanies biased or unverifiable information. (October 2012)|
An Interexchange Carrier (IXC) is a U.S. legal and regulatory term for a telecommunications company, commonly called a long-distance telephone company, such as MCI (before its absorption by Verizon), Sprint and the former AT&T Corporation (before its merger with SBC in 2005). In the United States, it is defined as any carrier that provides inter-LATA communication, where a LATA is a local access and transport area.
How it works
An IXC carries traffic, usually voice traffic, between telephone exchanges. Telephone exchanges are usually identified in the United States by the three-digit area code (NPA) and the first three digits of the phone number (NPA-NXX). Different exchanges are generally in different geographic locations, such as separate central offices (COs, also called "wire centers").
IXCs originally carried voice traffic on analog lines, but voice traffic has since become largely digitized. Therefore, voice traffic is more typically a data stream and can be intermixed with data traffic such as uplinks for DSL. Most commonly, links between an IXCs and COs are ATM links carried on optical fiber.
For voice traffic transfer, IXCs use Softswitches that implement Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and error correction. ITSPs can thereby connect between VOIP to POTS, computer to computer, computer to phone, and IP devices to other phone services.
Carrier identification code
Each carrier (interexchange or local exchange) is assigned a four-digit identification code, the Carrier Identification Code (CIC) which was used with feature groups. The interexchange carrier to which calls from a subscriber line are routed by default is known as the Presubscribed Interexchange Carrier (PIC). To give telephone users the possibility of opting for a different carrier on a call-by-call basis, Carrier Access Codes (CAC) were devised. These consist of the digits 101 followed by the four-digit CIC. The CAC is dialed as a prefix immediately before dialing a long-distance phone number.
In popular usage, CACs are often referred to as dial-around codes (because they allow dialing around the PIC). Sometimes they are even called "PIC codes", though this term is inaccurate, since the code is being used to avoid the PIC, not to use its services.
When CICs were first introduced in 1983, they were only three digits long, and the CAC consisted of the digits 10 followed by the three-digit CIC. In 1998, the CIC had to be extended to four digits. Existing carriers' codes were prefixed with zero. Thus, a pre-1998 CAC of the form 10-XXX became 101-0XXX. Since the CACs starting with 10-10 are generally the oldest and best-known ones, CACs are sometimes referred to as 10-10 codes.
Use of CACs is popular with telephone users who wish to avoid paying a regular monthly fee for access to inexpensive long-distance service. They can also be useful if encountering a "circuits busy" condition when all long distance trunks are tied up; a CAC allows selection of an alternate carrier, which may have other open long-distance trunks. This feature gave rise to slamming and the lesser known cramming technique of telephone fraud.
As multiple competitive long-distance carriers have been permitted in countries other than the United States, schemes similar to the CIC/CAC have spread worldwide. They are now used in (among other countries) Canada, Germany, and Japan.
Although CAC are no longer widely used, PIC and CIC are still common.
Interexchange carriers and mobile phones
Most U.S. and Canadian wireless carriers do not let their customers choose an IXC (long-distance provider). Instead, the wireless carriers send all long-distance calls through one pre-selected interexchange carrier, then bill customers directly for the calls. Fido Solutions, in Canada, lets customers switch to Yak Communications as their PIC (presubscribed long-distance provider), but only for outgoing calls made from Fido's Toronto calling zone. Most U.S. and Canadian wireless carriers also do not support CACs (dial-around codes) either. This is because carriers must put in a lot of effort to bill customers on behalf of IXCs (long-distance providers). Since governments do not require it, and few customers request it, most carriers have never bothered to provide CAC support.
- "About Softswitches in general". IXC. 19 September 2012.
- See the FCC's FAQ on the subject.
- RBBrittain; roamer1 (October 2003). "Cingular's Long Distance provider is Sprint in my Market (posts 11 and 16)". AT&T discussion forum. HowardForums. Retrieved 12 September 2011. "Cingular LD ... buys from Wiltel ... . Nextel appears to use AT&T along with some internal VoIP; Verizon uses Verizon LD (mostly resold MCI and WilTel, AIUI); who AT&T and SPCS use should be obvious."
- "Yak on the Go for Fido (FAQ tab)". Yak Communications. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
- roamer1 (31 March 2006). "10-10 LD dial arounds & wireless phones (post 19)". AT&T discussion forum. HowardForums. Retrieved 12 September 2011.