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Switchboard Suppliers

South African Telecoms has over 30 years experience in the telecommunications switchboard industry. Our experienced team of telecoms staff provide switchboard business telephone systems to the business and professional sector. We provide, supply and install switchboard telephone system equipment in South Africa.

What Is A Switchboard?

telephone switchboard is a telecommunications system used in the public switched telephone network. Switchboards are also called PABX/PBX business telephone systems. A telephone switchboard is a telecommunications system used in the public switched telephone network or in a business to interconnect circuits of telephones to establish telephone calls between the subscribers or users, or between other exchanges. Switchboards or PBX which stands for Private Branch Exchange, is a private telephone network used within a company or organization. The users of the switchboard PBX phone system can communicate internally (within their company) and externally (with the outside telephone network), by using different communication telephone lines such as Voice over IP, ISDN or analog. A switchboard or private automatic branch exchange (PABX) is an automatic telephone switching system within a private business. Originally switchboards were called private branch exchanges (PBX), which required the use of a live operator to manage and transfer telephone calls.

How Do Switchboards Work?

Switchboard functions allow businesses to use features such as make and receive telephone calls and transfer telephone calls between extensions. A receptionist or switchboard operator will answer incoming telephone calls and then transfer the calls to the relevant extension number.  Switchboards allow a single access telephone number to offer multiple telephone lines with hunting to outside callers while providing a range of external lines to internal callers or staff to make outgoing telephone calls. This device functions in the same way as a traditional telephone switchboard but on a smaller scale to accommodate a business/office environment. Users of switchboard telephone systems share a number of outside lines for making external phone calls. A switchboard connects the internal telephones within a business and also connects them to the public switched telephone network (PSTN), VoIP Providers and SIP Telephone Line Trunks.

Switchboard Functions And Use

A switchboard PBX (private branch exchange) is a telephone system within a business that switches calls between local extension users while allowing all users to share a certain number of external telephone lines. The main purpose of a switchboard is to save the cost of requiring a telephone line for each user to the telephone company's central office.

Switchboards Key Features

Auto Attendant

Switchboard automated attendant (also auto attendant or AA) allows incoming callers to be automatically transferred to a relevant extension without the intervention of a switchboard operator (Receptionist).

Many switchboard auto attendants also offer a simple menu system ("for sales, press 1, for service, press 2, etc.) and it may also allow a caller to reach the operator by dialing a number, for example '0'.

IVR and Auto Attendant. An Automated Attendant serves a very specific purpose (replace live operator and route calls), whereas an IVR can perform all sorts of functions (telephone banking, account inquiries, etc).

The following lists common routing steps that are components of an automated attendant:

  • Transfer to extension number;
  • Transfer to a voice mail message;
  • Play and replay messages (i.e. "we are currently experiencing high telephone call volumes ...");
  • Direct to a sub menu for further options;
  • Repeat choices.
  • In addition, an Automated Attendant would be expected to have values for the following:
  • 'Where to go when the caller dials '9' or an incorrect digit;
  • Timeout.  What to do if the caller does not press any digit (usually go to operator/receptionist);
  • Default mailbox. Where to send calls if '9' is not answered (or is not pointing to a live person).  

Many switchboard telephone system auto attendants will have options to allow for time of day routing, as well as weekend and holiday routing. Typically there would be a normal greeting and routing steps that would take place during normal business hours, and a different greeting and routing for non-business hours.

Automatic Ring Back

When a switchboard user’s extension is busy, one has to call back every few minutes to check if their extension is free yet. With automatic ring back, a code can be dialed into the telephone keypad to enable ring back. Then, when their extension is free, the original caller's phone rings with a distinctive ring tone so that they know it is automatic ring back and not a regular telephone call. When the phone is picked up, it calls the other extension number since the extension is now free.

Call Forwarding (When Busy or Absence)

Switchboard call forwarding determines the routing of incoming calls when the extension is busy or not answered after a set number of rings. The switchboard telephone system is configured with a number of extensions to divert calls and could even be different extensions for each of the cases. When a call comes into the original extension and it is one of the mentioned situations, the call is diverted to the pre-defined extension number.

Call Park

This feature of some switchboard telephone systems allows a person to put a call on hold at one telephone handset and continue the conversation from any other telephone handset.

The “call park” feature is activated by pressing a preprogrammed button (usually labeled “Call Park”) or a special code; which transfers the current telephone conversation to a “virtual” extension number and immediately puts the conversation on hold, allowing the call to be retrieved from any extension.

At this point, the switchboard telephone system will often provide an option for the person to make an announcement through a public address system, often consisting of some of the telephone handsets and/or overhead paging speakers controlled by the switchboard telephone system.

These announcements are referred to as paging. To access the paging system, the extension user must enter the paging access code or press the "page" button on the telephone handset, and announce the call parked extension.

An example would be at a grocery store where the bakery has a call parked. The extension user would say "Bakery you have a call parked on 250" and the bakery department would then dial 250 to access the on hold caller.

A predetermined time is provided for any person to retrieve the call by dialing the extension number of the parked call on any telephone handset.

If no one picks up the parked call within the set time, the switchboard telephone system may ring back the parked call; this transfers the parked call back to the person who originally parked it.

Call Pick-Up

Call pick up is a feature used in a switchboard telephone system that allows an extension user to answer another extensions telephone call. This feature is accessed by pressing a preprogrammed button (usually labeled "Group Pick-Up"), or by pressing a special code on the telephone set.

The telephone handsets may be divided into various zones. Under such an arrangement, using “call pick-up” will only pick up a call in the same group; it’s called “group call pick-up”.

“Call pick-up” can be directed and is used for picking up a telephone call that is ringing at a specific extension number; this feature is accessed through a different sequence of buttons than normal “call pick-up”; and is called “direct call pick-up”.

Call Transfer

A call transfer is a switchboard telecommunications feature that allows a user to relocate an existing telephone call to another telephone extension or to an external telephone number by dialing the required telephone number. The transferred call is either announced or unannounced.

If the transferred call is announced, the desired extension is notified of the impending transfer. The caller is automatically put on hold when dialing the desired extension; it is then notified and, if the extension chooses to accept the call, it is transferred over to it.

On the other hand, an unannounced transfer is self-explanatory: it is transferred without notifying the desired extension user of the impending call; it is simply transferred.  

Call Waiting

Call waiting, in telephony, is a feature on switchboard telephone system when a calling party places a call to a called party which is otherwise engaged, and the called party has the call waiting feature enabled, the called party is able to suspend the current telephone call and switch to the new incoming call and can then alternate between the two calls. When a call is waiting the extension user will hear a beep tone on their hand piece.

Conference Call

It’s also often referred to as an ATC (Audio Tele-Conference).

A conference call is a telephone call in which the calling party adds more than one called party into the call. Most switchboards have the conference call feature as a standard feature. Conference calls may be designed to allow the called party to participate during the call, or the call may be set up so that the called party merely listens into the call and cannot participate/speak.

Conference calls can be designed so that the calling party calls the other participants and adds them to the call conversation. However, participants are usually able to call into the conference call themselves by dialing into a special telephone number.

Three-way calling is a feature sometimes also available. To three-way call, the first person one wishes to talk to is dialed and after answer then the “flash” button (also known as the recall button) is pressed and the other person's phone number is dialed; after answer or while it is ringing, flash/recall is pressed again plus the code to connect the three people together - this option allows a caller to add a second outgoing call to an already connected call.

Customized Abbreviated Dialing (Speed Dialing)

This is a function available on many telephone switchboard systems allowing the user to place a call by pressing a reduced number of keys. This function is particularly useful for phone users who dial certain numbers on a regular basis.  

Speed dials are short keys pre-programmed with the telephone numbers your staff would call from your switchboard on a regular basis, instead of them having to dial the full telephone number.  

In most cases, the switchboard technician stores these numbers in the switchboards programming. The speed dial numbers are usually accessed by pressing a pre-determined key on the phone, followed by a one, two or three-digit code which the user assigns to each memory/number; however for ease of use, on many systems, a call may be placed by pressing and holding one key on the numeric keypad.  

Direct Inward dialing (DID or DDI)

Direct dial-in (DDI) is a feature offered by telephone switchboard companies for use with their customers' switchboard PABX systems, through ISDN Basic and Primary Rate and VoIP telephone lines.

In DDI service the telephone company provides one or more trunk lines for connection to the customer's switchboard and allocates a range of telephone numbers to this line (or group of lines) and forwards all calls to such numbers.

The DDI number is transmitted by the phone company as part of the dialed destination phone number, usually the last one, two or three digits, so that the switchboard can route the call directly to the desired telephone extension within the organization without the need for an attendant. The switchboard is programmed by the technician with the extension corresponding to the DDI numbers.

The service allows direct inward call routing to each extension of the switchboard while maintaining a limited number of subscriber lines to satisfy the average concurrent usage of the customer.

DDI service is usually combined with direct outward dialing (DOD) allowing switchboard extensions direct outbound calling capability with identification of their DDI number.

Do Not Disturb

The Do Not Disturb or (DND) function on most switchboard systems prevents calls from ringing on an extension for which DND is activated.

Some DND attributes include directing the call to a pre-assigned extension (like a secretary or assistant), busy signal, DND signal, or recorded message generated by the telephone switchboard. Some switchboards allow the call to go through to the extension giving a visual indication, but not ringing. Some switchboard telephone systems allow the assignment of DND circumvention codes to supervisors.


Also known as “Find-me”: Determines the routing of incoming calls. The switchboard telephone system is configured with a number of an extension where the person will be to receive calls – when a call is received for that person, the switchboard telephone system routes it to that extension number.

Another possibility is, from the destination extension, request the forwarding of calls received by the original extension to that destination extension.  

IVR - Interactive Voice Response

In telecommunications, IVR allows customers to access a company’s database via a telephone touchtone keypad or by speech recognition, after which they can service their own enquiries by following the instructions.

IVR is available on some switchboard telephone systems and can respond with pre-recorded or dynamically generated audio to further direct users on how to proceed and can be used to control almost any function where the interface can be broken down into a series of simple menu choices – in telecommunications applications, such as customer support lines, IVR systems generally scale well to handle large call volumes.

Music on hold (MOH)

Music on hold (MOH) refers to the business practice of playing recorded music to fill the silence that would be heard by telephone callers who have been placed on hold on your switchboard telephone system. It’s especially professional to use this feature in situations involving customer service.

Night Service

In general, a night service is any service that operates at night, such as a night-time public transport service or a 24-hour telephone support service.

Night Service in telecommunications in particular is also a feature of switchboard telephone and business telephone systems, whereby for a set period during the day (usually those hours outside of normal office or work hours, when normal operator services are not provided), incoming calls are automatically redirected by the switchboard to particular telephones or other equipment, such as: an answering machine, a voice mail system, or the duty station of a night watchman.

Voice Mail

Voice Mail (or Vmail or VMS) is a centralized system of managing telephone messages for a switchboard telephone system. A voice message used to be recorded onto an answering machine, but with modern switchboard telephone systems there is a built in voice mail box.

Voicemail systems can be much more sophisticated than answering machines in that they can, among other features:

  • Answer many phone calls at the same time;
  • Store incoming voice messages in personalized mailboxes associated with the user’s phone number;
  • Enable users to forward received messages to another voice mailbox;
  • Send messages to one or more other user’s voice mailboxes;
  • Add a voice introduction to a forwarded message;
  • Store voice messages for future delivery;
  • Make calls to a telephone or paging service to notify the user a message has arrived in his/her mailbox;
  • Provide message notification by SMS and/or e-mail, a special dial tone, or using Caller ID signaling;
  • Transfer callers to another phone number for personal assistance;
  • Play different message greetings to different callers.  

Voicemail messages are stored on the switchboard telephone systems hard drive. To retrieve messages, the extension user calls the system from any of the switchboards telephone extensions, logs on using the phone keypad to dial his/her own code (security code) and their messages can be retrieved immediately.

Voicemail systems are often associated with office switchboard business telephone systems and may also be associated with public telephone network services such as residential phones or cellular phones.  

Types Of Switchboards

Switchboards or PABX (PBX) systems, (Private Branch Exchanges) are available in a variety of different technologies. The traditional analogue switchboards are slowly being replaced with digital, IP, VoIP and hosted switchboard technology. IP telephony allows for a much quicker installation and deployment and has many advantages including remote service and support.

What Is The Difference Between A Switchboard and PABX?

A switchboard telephone system or private automatic branch exchange (PABX) is an automatic telephone switching system within a private business. Originally switchboards were called private branch exchanges (PBX), which required the use of a live operator to manage and transfer telephone calls.

Switchboard Handsets

Our switchboard telephone system range includes switchboards with analogue or IP desk extension telephones or analogue or IP wireless extension telephone handsets. The main switchboard handset is used by the operator/receptionist and has an LCD screen to view incoming callers telephone numbers (CLI) and internal extension numbers. It also has a set of DSS keys along the side of the switchboard handset which is programmed with the business extension telephone numbers to allow the operator to be able to view an extension when it is busy or idle.

Switchboard Installations

We employ trained technicians who install our switchboard telephone systems and provide maintenance and service on our switchboards. Our switchboard telephone systems installations can be done within 3 working days from date of payment.  We provide and install PABX/PBX switchboards in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Midrand, Centurion, Randburg, Edenvale, Boksburg, Germiston, Sandton, Rosebank, Nelspruit, Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and throughout South Africa.

Switchboard Makes And Brands

South African Telecoms is an authorized dealer of leading switchboard telephone system brands such as Samsung, NEC, Siemens, Panasonic, Telkom second hand when available, Alcatel, Yeastar, Yealink, iServ, VoIP and IP telephone systems.

Switchboard Prices

South African Telecoms offers switchboard telephone systems on rental/hire as well as cash purchase payment options. We sell new and second hand switchboards when available. Our new switchboards range from R399.00 excluding vat per month on rental and R3,751.53 excluding vat for cash purchase. At times we also have second-hand refurbished switchboard telephone systems which are only available on a cash purchase payment option.

Switchboard Quotes

You can request a quote from us for a switchboard telephone system by calling our offices on our contact telephone numbers, 0102860455 Johannesburg, 0212860104 Cape Town, 0312860007 Durban, 0120350217 Pretoria, 0130130080 Nelspruit, 0513470200 Bloemfontein or 0839007518 national for other areas. Or click here to view our contact telephone numbers. You can also send us an email to service@solutions4business.co.za  requesting a switchboard telephone system quotation. Or you can complete our online switchboard telephone system quote application request form by clicking here.

Switchboard Purchases

You can also purchase a switchboard telephone system from our online store by clicking here.