Ringback tone

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A ringback tone (RBT, alternatively ringing tone) is an audible indication that is heard by the originator of a telephone call while the destination being called is ringing. It is normally a repeated tone, designed to assure the calling party that the called party's line is ringing, although the ring-back tone may be out of sync with the ringing signal.

The ringback tone may be generated in the distant switch and transmitted in-band. In analog networks the caller could therefore monitor the quality of the complete voice path of the connection before the call was established. The distant switch also sends a message out-of-band indicating to the rest of the following network that the phone is ringing. Under strict implementation of the SS7 protocol and the CAMEL signaling system, the closest switch to the caller may be generating the ringback tone. In most public phone networks the ringback tone is not generated in the handset or by the local switch, as customized tones or voice announcements may be generated by the distant switch in place of a ringing signal.

National characteristics[edit]

A ring-back tone from the UK

A ring-back tone from North America

A European ring-back tone per ETSI standard

A ringback tone from Japan

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United Kingdom, Ireland and some Commonwealth nations[edit]

In the UK, Republic of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and many Commonwealth nations, it is a double ring. For most countries, it consists of a 0.4-second pulse, a 0.2-second pause, a 0.4-second pulse, and a 2-second pause. In all cases except Australia, the pulse is made by mixing a 400 Hz and 450 Hz sine wave.

North America[edit]

In North America, the standard ringback tone is a repeating 2-second tone with a 4-second pause between. The tone is 440 Hz + 480 Hz.[1]


Many European countries use tones which follow European Telecommunications Standards Institute recommendations. Many of these tones are 425 Hz. Typically the pattern is 1 second of tone followed by 3 to 5 seconds of silence.


In Japan, the standard ringback tone is a repeating 1-second tone with a 2-second pause between. The tone is 400 ± 20Hz (amplitude modulation is 15 to 20Hz).

Ringback music[edit]

Also known as caller tunes in some parts of the world (like India),[2] ringback music is a service offered by mobile network operators which enables subscribers to set music or even personalized recorded sounds as ringback tones.[3][4]

Early versions of personalized ringback tone systems have been invented by a couple of inventors, Kang-seok Kim (Korean patent 10-1999-0005344), Mark Gregorek et al. (U.S. 5,321,740) and Neil Sleevi (U.S. patent 4,811,382).[citation needed] The first functional ringback tone replacement system was invented by Karl Seelig et al. (U.S. patents 7,006,608 and 7,227,929). In 2001 Seelig's prototype was described in the Orange County Register and the Economist Magazine.

Ringback advertising[edit]

Advertising over ringback tones (AdRBT) was introduced using a range of models across several commercial markets in 2008. In America Ring Plus offered the first interactive advertisement platform. In Turkey, 4play Digital Workshop launched 'TonlaKazaan' AdRBT with Turkcell, and Xipto AdRBT launched in the United States with Cincinnati Bell wireless; OnMobile launched an Ad-supported Music RBT program in India with Vodafone. 4Play Digital workshop accumulated several hundred thousand users of their service in the first few months of commercial deployment, and received an innovation award in February 2009 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. AdRBT typically rewards the caller or the called party with discounted Music RBT service, free minutes, cash, or other rewards in return for accepting advertising messages integrated with Music Ringback, or for selecting advertisements instead of music as a personalized advertising ringback.

In May 2011, Adfortel started the first ad-sponsored call service in Austria with Orange,[5] with users hearing a targeted advertisement instead of the regular waiting ring tone.

A Juniper Research report released in January 2011 predicts that ringback tone advertising will reach $780 million annually by 2015.[6]

Interactive reverse ringback tone[edit]

Interactive reverse ringback tones (IRRBT) are the same as normal ringback tones but have interactive functionalities and are targeted to the person who configures the tone. IRRBTs are heard on the telephone line by the caller who sets the IRRBT while the phone they are calling is ringing.[citation needed]

Unlike the RBT, the IRRBT is often generated in the nearest switch and transmitted in-band, so the IRRBT will take precedence if both are configured.[citation needed]

Social network ringback tones provide interactive social network content to subscribers. Mixcess is the first platform (social network) using IRRBTs in the United States. The IRRBT was developed by Ring Plus, Inc. (U.S. Patent No. 7,227,929 invented by Karl Seelig, et al.). The IRRBT can be used to share videos, music and messages from friends.[citation needed]


Patents for personalized ringback tone delivery systems were first filed in Korea by Kang-seok Kim (10-1999-0005344) in October 1999 and in the United States by Mark Gregorek et al. (U.S. patent 5,321,740), Neil Sleevi (U.S. patent 4,811,382), and Karl Seelig (U.S. patents 7,006,608 and 7,227,929). Onmobile Global Ltd. India, Method and system for customizing ring-back tone in an inter-operator telecommunication system Nov, 18 2010: US 20100290602. Onmobile Global Ltd. India, Method and system for updating social networking site with ring back tone information Oct, 7 2010: US 201002558

See also[edit]


  • Mark Gregorek et al. (U.S. patent 5,321,740) Neil Sleevi (U.S. patent 4,811,382)
  • Karl Seelig et al. (U.S. patents 7,006,608 and 7,227,929)