How To Get an ISDN Line

Tara Parachuk | December 28, 2009

How To Get an ISDN Line | Blog - Where clients and voice actors can find valuable information on pre-production, technology, animation, video and audio production, home recording studios, business growth, voice acting and auditions, celebrity voice actors, voiceover industry news and more!

What’s the best source to acquire ISDN service?

If you are someone who wants to get an ISDN line and are curious about how to go about it, a number of pro voice talent with ISDN equipped home studios have shared their insight with you!

In this article

  1. How Do You Get an ISDN Hookup?
  2. Here’s The Conversation as it Unfolded!
  3. Acquiring an ISDN Connection in a Nutshell
  4. Do You Have Anything to Add?

Thoughts regarding Source-Connect and other technologies are also expressed. Read more now in today’s VOX Daily.

How Do You Get an ISDN Hookup?

It all started with a question. How does one procure an ISDN line?
Many people contributed to the answering of this question, all of whom are quoted and identified below.

Here’s The Conversation as it Unfolded!

“You have to call your local phone company and see if they offer ISDN in your area. They might need to be persistent… most phone company customer service folks don’t even know what ISDN is.”
— Caryn Clark

“That’s been the biggest challenge for me getting any information in my ‘not quite rural/not the biggest city in the world’ about ISDN. I’ve even asked a 30+ year telecommunications expert what his opinion was on it, and he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about (tried to convince me I just wanted more bandwidth!). I’m not the person who asked Stephanie the question, but I’m eagerly anticipating the input, too, all the same!”
— Dana Detrick-Clark

“Phone company is the way. One of the problems is that ISDN was originally developed as a means to transmit large amounts of data — and that use is outdated. Now many ISDN specialists have retired.”
Michael J. Schoen

“Call your local radio station and find out if they have one and how they got it.”
Therisa Bennett

“Look up Digifon. They’re a great resource for all things ISDN.”
— Chuck Davis

— Chris Wagner

“You won’t believe this my dear friends. I have been trying for the last 15 or 20 minutes to know the price of ISDN service here in Puerto Rico and almost nobody know what ISDN is. And when I finally found somebody that knows about, the person pointed me to the wrong extension, so the call was dropped.”
Pablo Hernandez

“If your local phone company doesn’t know what ISDN is, tell them it means Integrated Services Digital Network. That way you show that you know more than they do! 😉 But the question is, is ISDN outdated or not? Before I invest in ISDN lines and an ISDN codec I would like to know if technologies like Source Connect ( won’t make the expencive ISDN obsolete within the next two years.”
Philippe Bernaerts

“Good point Philippe. I talked to our local phone company a few months ago inquiring about ISDN and they questioned why I’d want to connect with such an old technology. Maybe I didn’t talk to the right person, but I got the same from a couple tech guys.”
Jason Ryll

“Here in NJ it’s Verizon for the local lines & MCI (which Verizon bought) for long distance… And the death of ISDN has been touted for several years… I doubt that it’ll be gone in 2 or even 5 years. I got it in July and have 3 new REPEAT clients since I got it.”
— Liz de Nesnera

“Since I also work for ‘the phone company’ ISDN has been pushed aside for DSL and Fiber Optics for data and voice transmission–Most customer service reps who have worked for phone companies in the last 10 years have not a clue. You would need to ask to speak to a specialist (probably in Small Business) and they can help. Most major phone companies have it but that service is not ‘paying the bills.'”
Richard Willis

“I have A T and T. Have had ISDN for years. They knew what I wanted as soon as I asked about it. ISDN work is not as common as other jobs, but the fact that I have it in my studio slims the list of potential VO candidates when clients insist on using it! It has definitely paid for itself. There may be a bigger badder better way to get voice in real time from one location to another, but it’s more reliable and still very much used in the industry.”
Larry Wayne

“Something else to consider is an emerging Internet codec called Broadcast Reliable Internet Codec (BRIC).
David Boyll

“Be sure to impress upon whomever you get who knows ISDN that you want DATA ONLY. I have had repeated issues with AT&T and AT&T (the old SBC) not knowing what the other company is doing.”
— Connie Terwilliger

“I hope they all mentioned Dave Immer. He just helped me with my ISDN today (it had a malfunction for a client and he was avail the second I needed him). And of course you must not forget George Whittam (tech guru) at ElDorado Recording Services.”
— Debbie Munro

Acquiring an ISDN Connection in a Nutshell

1. Call your telephone service provider.
2. Request to speak with someone in “Business” who is knowledgeable about ISDN.
3. If you can’t find any help this way, contact your local radio station and see if they have ISDN and inquire as to how they got their connection.
* If you’re in favour of using a newer technology instead of ISDN, look into similar products such as Source-Connect or BRIC.

Do You Have Anything to Add?

If you have thoughts pertaining to ISDN, tips on how to get it or new technologies that you’d like to recommend leave a comment and join the discussion.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
© Podgoršek

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  • Avatar for Steve Stratton
    Steve Stratton
    December 28, 2009, 11:33 pm

    True, ISDN is an antiquated technology, but it is offered by virtually all phone companies (whether they know it or not) and is very much alive in the VO world. While it is a digital technology similar to DSL or T-1 it doesn’t have the same line limitations and is available just about everywhere you can get a phone. This didn’t used to be the case, but now that almost all phone circuits are digital you can get it in the most obscure areas. ISDN never really took off in the United States (unlike Europe) and therefore most phone reps don’t know what you are talking about. All phone customer service personnel will assume you want this service for internet use (which you can do by the way). Just tell them you will be connecting proprietary equipment and it is not for internet use.
    The real problem with ordering ISDN is that there is no standard established for the configuration of ISDN services. An ISDN line can be set up a million different ways. As a result every phone company uses their own standard and it is up the you to require the line to be configured the way you need it for the equipment you are using. Here’s a list of suggestions for ordering your ISDN line.
    – Deduce how your new ISDN needs to be configured. You’ll find this info in the manual to the codec you plan to attach to the line. If not, or you still have questions, call the ISDN codec manufacturer (probably Telos for Zephyr, or Musicam for Prima).
    – Call your local hard wire phone company (you will have only one). They are most likely the only one that can provide you service.
    – If the person you are talking to has no idea what you are talking about, ask for their supervisor.
    – Tell the phone company how you need the ISDN line configured.
    – Be patient. The phone company will probably have to have a tech support person call you back to deal with this info.
    – An alternate way to order is to simply order the line in a stock configuration and see if it works when you get it. If it doesn’t, then you can call tech support and set up the proper configuration. This worked for me a lot faster in my last couple installs.
    – If you are totally lost, call the codec manufacture. They will step you through the process and even call the phone company for you to help get things going. At least they did for me (Telos).
    An ISDN line is actually a two wire circuit that provides TWO separate phone lines (called bearer channels). Therefore, each ISDN circuit will have two phone numbers associated with it. For this reason most phone companies now price ISDN at twice the price of a regular single line.
    I hope this helps.

  • Avatar for Kara Edwards
    Kara Edwards
    December 29, 2009, 9:29 am

    It’s important to specify that you are ordering ISDN BRI lines when calling the phone company. Otherwise they will think you are calling about internet services. As Connie said, also be sure to mention these are voice/data lines and what you will be using them for. It will likely take several transfers to different folks before someone will know what you want. When you find the person who understands, make sure to get their name and direct number. Same for the tech that installs the lines- get their name and number in case you have any problems down the road.
    Once installed, be sure to specify a long distance carrier. Trust me, you don’t want to see the bill if you don’t! Make sure to be patient. While it isn’t the easiest technology to get, it is possible- and well worth it in my opinion!
    -Kara Edwards

  • Avatar for Daniel Goldman
    Daniel Goldman
    December 29, 2009, 11:10 am

    Hi all, great info and questions/answers exchange. In my scenario, I am strictly on Broadband & VoIP telephone which means that I am uninvolved with any phone company; rather, reliant upon broadband/cable. So in that scenario, which would be best…Source-connect, BRIC or other? I don’t believe ISDN, (assuming it is even still available here in Upstate New York), is a viable alternative for me. So I believe I have to use something else. ‘Question is…what? Thanks!

  • Avatar for Steve Stratton
    Steve Stratton
    December 29, 2009, 5:41 pm

    I am sure ISDN is available in upstate New York. The real question is what equipment will your client be using at the other end. Often Source Connect works great. And BRIC looks promising. But does the other studio have it? Most significant production studios that record VO talent have ISDN.
    ISDN can do both voice and data. Some in this blog have suggested turning off the voice feature. In the early days of ISDN this was somewhat necessary, but today the two can live together just fine. I have my lines configured for both. That way, I can use the ISDN lines to receive regular phone calls without buying additional equipment for a phone patch. Works great.

  • Avatar for steve hammill
    steve hammill
    December 29, 2009, 6:24 pm

    ISDN is at EOL (end of life). How long it takes to die is anybody’s guess, but it will die sooner rather than later. The issue is the health of the existing infrastructure; no business will support a mature technology when hardware/software maintenance costs cut deeply into or exceed the ROI. That and contractual termination clauses are what will dictate EOL.
    They will not install ISDN here because the old infrastructure is fragile and they are trying to eek out whatever they can of the existing investment.
    In big cities the EOL will be later than in rural areas.

  • Avatar for Peter Stern
    Peter Stern
    December 30, 2009, 8:07 am

    I have ISDN in my studio in London, UK and although it’s not as popular as it used to be, the telecom companies here still know what it is.
    It works well with Audio TX Communicator – a software codec.
    Yes, it may be old technology but that also means it is tried, tested and, above all, reliable. Newer technology doesn’t necessarily mean better technology. There may be alternatives out there, but the fact is that ISDN is still the industry standard and until that changes, I’m sticking to it. Incidentally, mine paid for itself with my first ISDN job.
    Peter Stern – British Voiceover

  • Avatar for Thomas C. Gass
    Thomas C. Gass
    December 30, 2009, 10:37 am

    I’m surprised to hear of all the difficulties in getting an ISDN line outside of Europe… Here it is still common technique in studios and I use my Maya codec almost daily…
    A simple “trick”: ask your codec supplier to help you finding a company who is able to provide you with an ISDN line – if they can help you, they might have found a new customer for their codec? 😉
    All the best
    Thomas C. Gass

  • Avatar for Dave White
    Dave White
    December 31, 2009, 12:22 am

    I hired Dave Immer at Digifon and he took care of everything. Sold me the box, called the phone company, talked me through the setup, helped me troubleshoot and is a phone call away when I need him. I’ve called him many times over the last 5 years.

  • Avatar for Steve Stratton
    Steve Stratton
    December 31, 2009, 1:56 pm

    Here’s a hint. When you order your ISDN line be sure to request that you have no long distance service. When I last ordered with Qwest the long distance service that came with the line was $.22 a minute. When questioned they said the high rate was because of the special digital lines (yeah, right). I told them I wanted no long distance, and then called MCI. At the time, MCI was the only carrier whose entire system was digital. I ordered long distance for the two ISDN numbers, never telling them it was a “special digital line”, and I now pay $.04 to $.07 a minute. Cha Ching.

  • Avatar for Dean Marks
    Dean Marks
    December 31, 2009, 7:27 pm

    All excellent comments re ISDN…. I’ll take a crack at providing a bit more background on the workings of this technology…. maybe it will help, maybe not.
    ISDN stands for “Integrated Services Digital Network”, and indeed comes in several flavors from the phone company. In large business enterprises, ISDN was (and still is) used as the circuit type of choice, especially for large call volume applications.
    Two types were preferred depending on requirement: ISDN/BRI, and ISDN/PRI. BRI stands for “Basic Rate Interface” and PRI stands for “Primary Rate Interface”.
    The bandwidth contained in ISDN/BRI circuits consist of 2 or 3 voice channels, also known as “bearer” channels, and a single “data” channel. The voice channels are used for the obvious, and the single data channel is used to carry control data related to each call carried by the voice channels. Data such as caller ID, etc., are (or were) carried on this standalone “data” channel.
    Same sort of deal for the PRI flavor of ISDN, only it consists of 23 channels for voice calls as well as that single “data” channel that carries info about each of the 23 available voice call channels in the ISDN/PRI bandwidth. It gets kind of nuts thinking about this stuff, so I really understand if your hair hurts reading this, or you’re nodding off.
    If puchased for studio work, then BRI is the choice as very well described in other comments within this thread, although the other technologies (Source Connect, BRIC) look intriguing to this old telecommunications dinosaur.
    For several years I worked in a consultant capacity for what was then known as NYNEX, and had the chance to see the inner workings of the phone company. ISDN was the rage at the time, yet it was viewed by most of the employees of the central office I worked in as a black art. In fact, their response, if asked what ISDN stood for was generally, “…. I Still Don’t No…”!
    Don’t feel bad if you feel lost about this stuff…. there’s plenty good info in this blog to help you with your decision!!!

  • Avatar for Ty Ford
    Ty Ford
    January 10, 2010, 9:59 am

    ISDN is so day before yesterday. You have to pay for the line monthly and an expensive codec. Plus rely on the various local phone companies and the long distance companies to get it right. If anyone want’s my APT DRT128, I’ll sell it, no problem.
    Ty Ford

  • Avatar for Robin Rowan
    Robin Rowan
    January 26, 2010, 12:24 pm

    I know this blog is pretty old now, but I’m only getting around to reading these now. This is a wonderful question–the cost vs. the return on investment (which is considerable) vs. clients who actually use ISDN. When I first built my own studio in 2001, I purchased an ISDN line from the phone company (about $400 to install), then bought an audio codec (Musicam Roadrunner from BSW for $2600). Although I was on the phone several times to the BSW folks and their tech person, I just couldn’t get the algorithms to set it up, but that wasn’t the main problem. The main problem was the cart before the horse. Do you get an ISDN to attact ISDN clients first, or do you wait until you have a client that needs ISDN services to make that huge purchase? I had and paid for the ISDN service through my local phone company ($90 a month) for more than a year before I finally had the line disconnected and sold the STILL UNUSED audio codec on ebay for a $600 loss. SourceConnect seems like it is going to be the industry standard soon. Radio Stations use ISDN for broadcasts in two different locations, or for call-in shows. ISDN seems like the LAST piece of your studio that you want to spring for, providing you already have a client who needs it!

  • Avatar for Jeff Epstein
    Jeff Epstein
    November 19, 2010, 11:39 am

    Could somebody please explain WHY you need ISDN? It is an obsolete technology and even basic DSL is much faster. The connection I am on now is 100 Megabytes, and I believe ISDN was 128 Kilobytes. I have the feeling the v/o industry is just naive about technology, but perhaps there is some special thing about ISDN that I don’t know. Really, what is the purpose of ISDN? But in any event, it is like saying you have to use an analog reel-to-reel system instead of digital. I mean, join us in 2010!

  • Avatar for Julian Bray
    Julian Bray
    July 29, 2011, 6:01 am

    I work with major broadcast outlets worldwide and in the UK the BBC.
    Fact VoIP the quality is variable and sometimes drops out, not good if you are going live.
    I use a GLENSOUND C5 Dual codec ISDN mixer – this is the Rolls Royce of ISDN mixers and approved by the BBC. It is stand alone and can either work off three ‘D’ batteries (from any hardware store) or a mains transformer . Totally portable and most hotels in the UK have an ISDN line!
    So for reliability ISDN for a hit and miss arrangement VoIP as simple as that!

  • Avatar for dmcknight
    November 9, 2011, 6:35 pm

    “Could somebody please explain WHY you need ISDN? It is an obsolete technology and even basic DSL is much faster. ”
    The topic being discussed here pertains to getting something better than dial-up when you are far out of the range of DSL availability.

  • Avatar for Richard Cooper
    Richard Cooper
    October 11, 2012, 7:36 am

    I would recommend ISDN lines for larger companies who need to handle the mass of incoming calls. ISDN is much faster than a dial-up Internet connection. Telephone systems, like mine, Ozeki Phone System XE need high-speed Internet access to be able to work properly.
    I think you might find this useful if you are thinking to setup ISDN lines:

  • Avatar for Bill Ward
    Bill Ward
    March 4, 2013, 5:03 pm

    I just don’t get it. I am connected via a cable modem which outshines both DSL and ISDN. With my ability to send either WAV or MP3 files, what would be the reason I would want to incur a charge for a land line phone (I currently have none at all).

  • Avatar for Dan Vogel
    Dan Vogel
    March 24, 2016, 10:51 pm

    I tried to call Centurylink Business several times about ordering a BRI ISDN and they would not even call me back. Then I called a telecom consultant Justin Hannah at Cherry Voice and he was able to get it installed in only 10 days and even set me up with unlimited long distance on it. Justin is at 307-274-8410 x8501 and does not charge anything for this in Centurylink and Verizon areas. My cost is $33.63 a month for the two lines and $150 install- quite a bit less than two analog business lines.

  • Avatar for Toni B
    Toni B
    May 23, 2020, 1:53 pm

    Are there any Voice Over Artists out there that would weigh in on whether ISDN is something worth investing in for a home booth being built in today’s market? I was asked by my agents what setup I had and two questions were on the questionnaire: Do you have Source Connect? Do you have an ISDN line? I was encouraged by my agent to sign up for Source Connect. Curious to know what working VO Artists feel has worked for them and what they recommend now, in 2020. ?