What is a Conference Bridge?

Audio conferencing relies on a conference bridge to provide the software and hardware application designed to support simultaneous multiparty conferences. A conference bridge is typically a server that handles each individual audio stream for each party on the conference call. This feature was typical of a legacy PBX that handled each voice call circuit that attended the call. However today with VoIP the same features can now be readily obtained using VoIP and a IP/PBX conference bridge. The conference bridge in this case can be a server, router or software application. IP/PBX have brought audio and video conferencing to the SMB as there is no longer the requirement for very expensive conference bridges instead even small businesses can now operate audio conferencing on standard IP/PBX servers.

 

Hosted or on-Premises

Conference bridges are a highly desirable feature of an IP/PBX service. This service can be hosted, virtual or on-premises depending on the situation and the business requirements and capabilities of the business. For small companies (SoHo) then virtual conference bridge services are available with virtual IP/PBX services supporting conference bridging for audio and video. SoHo type services such as Skype also can now support small multiparty conference calls.

 

How does it work

A typical conference bridge regardless whether it is hardware or software handles multiple traffic streams from each party on the call. These traffic streams are bi-directional and it is the conference bridges job to ‘bridge’ all these simultaneous call streams together to give the impression of one simultaneous call. In a business scenario if all the delegates on the call are in the same building VoIP handles each data stream within the PBX software to bridge the calls into one conference. If however the call delegates are from outside the business then calls may come in on VoIP or on landlines through the PBX’s PSTN links. It is then the job of PBX hardware and software to bridge together the delegate’s calls into one seamless conference.

Audio and video conference bridges are now very popular as they are well within the budget of even SMB. Conference bridges provide a means to increase efficiency, and enable cost savings through reduced lost time and travel expenditure.

Alasdair Gilchrist

Alasdair is a technical writer with interest in business practice, operational strategy, start up philosophy and affordable technology. He lives in Nonthaburi, Thailand with his wife and daughter, and writes terrible novels as a hobby.

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