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METHODS AND SYSTEMS FOR PROVIDING
AN EXTENSION SERVICE TO WIRELESS
UNITS AND WIRELINE UNITS
RELATED APPLICATION 5
The present application claims priority to and the benefit of the prior filed copending and commonly owned provisional application entitled "Method and Apparatus for Integrating Wireless and Wireline Centrex Services", filed in the United 1° States Patent and Trademark Office on Jun. 30, 1998, and assigned Application No. 60/091,260.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The subject matter of the present invention relates to telecommunications, and particularly, relates to telecommunications systems, networks, or services that allow units operating in the systems to contact each other by using a shortened form of a directory or unit number or other substitute for the direc- 20 tory or unit number.
Specialized telecommunications systems and services have been developed to serve particular telecommunication needs. An example of such a specialized telecommunications system is a Centrex telephone network, which may also be referred to herein as an extension service. Generally stated, a 3Q person using a telecommunications unit in a Centrex network may call another person in the same Centrex network simply by using a shortened dialing number such as a shortened form of a directory, unit, or extension number or other substitute rather than using the complete directory or unit number. For 35 example, assume a business such as Tarheel Mfg. subscribes to a Centrex network that assigns a four digit extension to each of the telecommunications units used at Tarheel Mfg. An employee of Tarheel Mfg. may call a co-worker simply by dialing the co-worker's four digit extension. Advantageously, 4Q the employee does not have to retrieve and input any more than four digits in order to reach any other co-worker at Tarheel Mfg. In addition, the implementation of the Centrex network may save Tarheel Mfg. money over the cost of conventional telecommunications service provided to the tele- 45 communications units used at Tarheel Mfg.
FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a Centrex telephone network 100 operated by a local exchange carrier ("LEC"). The network 100 includes a plurality of individual telephone lines 110-124. The telephone lines 110-124 are assigned to an 50 organization or group of organizations. The LEC assigns each line a seven digit calling line number including a three-digit NXX prefix, and a four digit XXXX suffix, where "N" is a numeral between 1 and 9, and "X" is a numeral between 0 and 9. In addition, each line within the network is located within 55 a geographic area, with several lines within a single area being assigned a Numbering Plan Area code ("NPA"). Thus, to call a line within the network from outside the network, the caller dials the NPA-NXX-XXXX of the particular line. Certain calls also may require an additional prefix of 0 or 1. 60
Although the lines 110-124 are part of a single organization, the lines need not be located in a single geographic location. For example, lines 110-116 may be located in Atlanta, Ga. Lines 118-124 may be located in Washington, D.C. Calls from lines 110-116 are switched through switch- 65 ing equipment, such as a computer, located in an end office 140. Calls from lines 118-124 are switched through switching
equipment located in a second end office 142. The end offices 140,142 may be coupled through one or more tandem offices 144.
Within the Centrex network 100, callers need not dial the entire NPA-NXX-XXXX to reach an internal calling line. Instead, internal callers dial only the four digit XXXX suffix (also referred to herein as "extension"). When the extension is dialed, callers are automatically switched to the calling line within the network containing that suffix. To prevent duplicate switching, all four digit XXXX extension within the network are unique.
This "automatic" connection between callers within the network is performed by one or more end office switches 140, 142. Each end office switch includes switching technology that connects calls from one group of calling lines to other lines connected to that switch. For calls to other calling lines, an end office may switch the call to another end office that is coupled to the destination calling line. Additional networking components may be involved, including Signaling System 7 ("SS7") elements and Advanced Intelligent Network ("AIN") elements. For additional information on the public switched telephone network ("PSTN"), SS7 and the AIN, the interested reader is referred to the commonly assigned patent to Weisser, Jr., U.S. Pat. No. 5,430,719, which is incorporated herein by reference.
The LEC assigns all of the lines 110-124 to a single "Class of Service" ("COS"). A COS includes a table or group of tables within a switch that specify how calls are to be switched from calls made from lines within the COS. For instance, lines 110-124 would be assigned to a single COS. All calls made from those lines would be assigned to a table or group of tables within the end office.
FIG. 2 illustrates a sample COS table 200 stored in an end office. The table 200 contains information for switching calls within Centrex network 100. The table 200 includes two fields. The dialed number field 220 contains a four digit XXXX suffix dialed by a caller within the Centrex network. The calling line number field 240 contains the full NPANXX-XXXX (orNXX-XXXX for areas where ten digit dialing is not required) corresponding to the directory number (DN) of the calling line. A directory number is also referred to herein as a calling line number. For example, referring to FIG. 2, a caller within the Centrex network dialing an extension of 4453 is connected to the party within the Centrex network, who has been assigned the extension of 4453, but whose calling line number is 404-555-4453. The table 200 may store additional information as well, such as the name of the party having the calling line number indicated in field 240.
Centrex networks or extension services have been welcomed by subscribers who enjoy the benefits of: (1) shortened dialing numbers for use in dialing others within the network or service; and (2) cost savings over conventional telecommunications services. These subscribers have sought ways to extend their Centrex networks to keep up with their changing telecommunications needs. A relatively recent change in telecommunications is the increased use of wireless units. A wireless unit may be a cellular phone, a personal communications system (PCS) device, pager, or the like.
For example, Tarheel Mfg. may employ a sales staff and equip each of its sales representatives with a wireless unit. Unfortunately, a typical Centrex network is a landline or wireline network, and as such, is unable to include a wireless unit as a terminating unit in the Centrex network. In other words, the president of Tarheel Mfg. is unable to reach the sales representatives through shortened four-digit dialing in the Centrex network. Rather, the president has to dial the complete unit number of the wireless unit of the particular
sales representative the president is trying to reach. This can mean that the president has to retrieve and input up to ten digits to reach the particular sales representative. In addition, the president's call does not benefit from the cost savings that are accorded to calls in the Centrex network. 5
Therefore, there is a need for methods and systems that extend Centrex networks, extension services, and similar networks and services, to keep up with changing telecommunications needs of subscribers.
There is a particular need for methods and systems that 10 extend Centrex networks, extension services, and similar networks and services so as to include wireless units as terminating units in a Centrex or similar network and/or to provide extension or similar services to the wireless units.
Stated generally, the present invention relates to the extension of a Centrex or similar network to include wireless units as well as wireline units, and to the provision of extension or 20 similar services to wireless units as well as wireline units. Advantageously, the present invention allows a subscriber to a Centrex or similar network to include wireless and wireline units so that the units may call each other by using a shortened dialing number. The inclusion of the wireless units in the 25 Centrex or similar network may integrate or otherwise connect the subscriber's previously separate wireline and wireless communications systems. At least one advantage of the integration of the subscriber's communications systems is that the subscriber may save money in terms of telecommu- 30 nications service fees and in terms of costs related to the hardware aspects of the telecommunications service. Another advantage is that a wireline or wireless unit to which extension service has been provided may use a shortened form of dialing to reach another wireline or wireless unit to which the 35 extension service also has been provided.
More particularly stated, exemplary embodiments of the present invention may be used in a telecommunications system including a wireless network having a mobile switching center (MSC), and including a wireline network. The wireline 40 network may include a communications network such as the Centrex network wherein, heretofore, only wireline units operating in the communications network may call each other by using wireline extensions rather than wireline directory numbers. The wireline extension may be a shortened form of 45 the wireline directory number, or the wireline extension may be a substitute for the wireline directory number. Exemplary embodiments of the present invention provide for the inclusion of wireless units in the Centrex or similar network, or extend the extension service previously provided only to 50 wireline units to include wireless units as well.
Generally, to implement the communications network such as the Centrex network, the communications network includes one or more communications elements with access to a table of entries. A communications element may be a 55 private branch exchange (PBX), an end office of the wireline network, a mobile switching center (MSC), a service control point (SCP), an intelligent network element (INE), or an intelligent peripheral (IP). The entries in the table correspond to the units (wireless and/or wireline) operating in the com- 60 munications network. Each entry includes an extension and a corresponding directory number or wireless number as appropriate to a wireline unit or a wireless unit.
The communications element is operative to access the table to obtain the corresponding directory number or wire- 65 less number in response to receipt of an extension (or other shortened dialing form) in association with a call to a unit
operating in the communications network. A unit "operates" in the communications network if it has been accorded extension service or set up to operate in the communications network such that the unit may contact other units operating in the communications network by using an extension or a shortened dialing form. Upon receipt of the extension, the communications element may access a table or other appropriate data storage device to convert the extension or shortened dialing form to a corresponding directory number or wireless number. The communications element routes the call pursuant to the obtained corresponding number. In this manner, the wireline units and the wireless units operating in the communications network may call each other by using a shortened dialing number.
An exemplary embodiment of the present invention provides a method to include a wireless unit of a wireless network in a communications network so that a call from a wireline unit operating in the communications network to the wireless unit may be made by the wireline unit using an extension of the wireless unit rather than a wireless number of the wireless unit. Pursuant to this method, a table accessible to the communications network includes an entry for the wireless unit. The entry includes the wireless extension of the wireless unit and a corresponding wireless number of the wireless unit.
When the wireline unit calls the wireless unit, the wireline unit uses the extension of the wireless unit. The extension is received, and in response, the extension is used to obtain the corresponding wireless number from the entry for the wireless unit in the table. The call then is routed pursuant to the obtained corresponding wireless number. According to this method, the wireless unit is included in the communications network so that the call from the wireline unit operating in the communications network and directed to the extension of the wireless unit results in the routing of the call to the corresponding wireless number of the wireless unit based on obtaining the corresponding wireless number from the entry for the wireless unit in the table.
Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide methods and systems that extend Centrex and similar networks and extension and similar services to keep up with changing telecommunication needs of subscribers.
It also is an object of the present invention to provide methods and systems that extend Centrex and similar networks and extension and similar services so as to include wireless units as terminating units.
That the present invention and the exemplary embodiments accomplish the objects of the invention will become apparent from the detailed description of the exemplary embodiments and the drawings which follow.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a block diagram of an exemplary Centrex telephone network operated by a local exchange carrier ("LEC").
FIG. 2 is a sample Class of Service ("COS") table such as may be used with the exemplary Centrex telephone network of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a Centrex or similar network according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 4 is a block diagram of a telecommunications system according to another exemplary embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 5 is an exemplary COS table such as may be used with the exemplary embodiments of FIG. 3 or 4.