The Edison Bell Telephone Company building of 1896 in Birmingham, England
The Edison Bell Telephone Company building of 1896 in Birmingham, England

A telephone company, also known as a telco, telephone service provider,[1] or telecommunications operator, is a kind of communications service provider (CSP), more precisely a telecommunications service provider (TSP), that provides telecommunications services such as telephony and data communications access. Many telephone companies were at one time government agencies or privately owned but state-regulated monopolies. The government agencies are often referred to, primarily in Europe, as PTTs (postal, telegraph and telephone services).[2]

Telephone companies are common carriers, and in the United States are also called local exchange carriers. With the advent of mobile telephony, telephone companies now include wireless carriers, or mobile network operators.

Most telephone companies now also function as internet service providers (ISPs), and the distinction between a telephone company and an ISP may disappear completely over time, as the current trend for supplier convergence in the industry continues.[3]

In the past, most TSPs were government owned and operated in most countries, due to the nature of capital expenditure involved in it. But today there are many private players in most regions of the world, and even most of the government owned companies have been privatized.


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In 1913, a telephone trust ended and more than 20,000 independent telephone companies were able to use the trunk lines of Bell Telephone Company.[4][5]

Popular culture

See also


  1. ^ Operability: Keeping Your Telephone Number When You Change Service Provider. Retrieved on 2013-09-18.
  2. ^ Sandholtz, Wayne (1993-01-01). "Institutions and Collective Action: The New Telecommunications in Western Europe". World Politics. 45 (2): 242–270. doi:10.2307/2950659. ISSN 1086-3338. JSTOR 2950659.
  3. ^ Héritier, Adrienne; Windhoff-Héritier, Adrienne (1999-11-28). Policy-Making and Diversity in Europe: Escape from Deadlock. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521653848.
  4. ^ "This day in history". News & Record. 2015-12-21.
  5. ^ Commission, New York (State) Public Service (1916). Abstracts of Reports of Corporations.