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Networking vs. telecom: What's the difference?

Networking describes how devices interconnect to share resources with each other. Telecom, which includes networking, broadly refers to the exchange of data across long distances.

In the world of enterprise IT infrastructure, the terms networking and telecom are sometimes used interchangeably. Much of this erroneous conflation stems from the days when shared networking closets included network equipment for data transport and telecommunications gear for voice. Over time, it was common to refer to these infrastructure closets as telecom rooms.

With the advancement of VoIP technologies, voice services migrated off separate analog or digital networks and combined with the data network. In response, a single network could now handle telecommunications and data transport services, including hardware, software and cabling.

What is networking?

Enterprise networks consist of LANs, WANs, data centers, clouds and the internet edge. Network tool manufacturers design and build Ethernet-based routers, switches, load balancers and network security tools to transport business data throughout the overall corporate footprint securely, efficiently and reliably. Businesses can set certain applications and services as high priority on the network during times of congestion using various quality of service (QoS) techniques.

What is telecom?

Telecom, at one point, was a completely separate network that provided voice, voicemail and call center services. It has since combined into data networks. In most cases, modern telecom services are a series of applications and services that rely on the underlying network for the transport of voice and collaboration packets from one endpoint to another.

How do networking and telecom compare?

Networks are responsible for the transport of all data within an organization. This includes traditional telecom services such as VoIP, call center and voicemail. Additionally, telecom services have transformed into modern collaboration services. This includes not only voice, but also chat, presence, file sharing and video conferencing services. Because these services require network access, telecom relies on the network to function.

In most environments, telecom services that traverse the network have higher transmission and receive higher priority compared with other services due to their real-time communication nature. Enabling QoS on these services helps eliminate voice and video packet delays, which can significantly affect usability from an end-user perspective.

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