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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. From the telephone user's point of view, the long-distance company does not handle calls that do not have additional tolls. Calls made across phone circuits within the local geographic area covered by one local network are handled only by that one LATA, commonly called a 'local telephone exchange.' Local calls are usually defined by connections made without additional charge whether the connected call is in the same LATA or connects to another LATA with no charge. In the United States intraLATA usually refers to rated or 'Toll' calls between LATA within state boundaries, as opposed to interstate, or calls between LATA in different states.
How it works
An IXC carries traffic, usually voice traffic, between telephone exchanges. Telephone exchanges are usually identified in the United States by the LATA indicated by three-digit area code (NPA) and the first three digits of the phone number (NPA-NXX) within the LATA. Different exchanges generally cover different geographic locations, connected 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 IXCs and COs are ATM links carried on optical fiber.
For voice traffic transfer, IXCs use Softswitches, software code, 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 10. 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 CACs are no longer widely used, PICs and CICs 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 carrier). 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, once offered a CityFido plan which let customers switch to Yak Communications as their PIC (presubscribed long-distance provider), but only for outgoing calls made from Fido's Toronto calling zone. As Fido was taken over by Rogers Communications in 2004, the plan is no longer available to new subscribers. Another such arrangement in the U.S. is Sprint Wireless allowing users to select Google Voice to carry their long distance calls.
Most U.S. and Canadian wireless carriers also do not support CACs (dial-around codes) as governments do not require them to do so.
- "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. Archived from the original on September 2, 2011. 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.