What is a Conference Bridge?

A conference bridge is like a conference call in that it allows a group of people to participate in a single phone call. A conference bridge is simply a device or application that is used to connect large numbers of people participating in a conference call.

The most common form of a conference bridge allows participants to dial into a virtual meeting room from their own phone. Meeting rooms can hold dozens or even hundreds of participants. This is in contrast to three-way calling, a standard feature of most phone systems which only allows a total of three participants.

The bridge is a server that acts like a telephone and can answer many calls at the same time. The bridge has other software-based capabilities so that it can do more than just connect callers. For instance, callers might be instructed to enter a special code to connect to the call. Sometimes businesses have their own conference bridge or use a service that provides teleconference hosting.

A proctor or operator can man conference bridges or they can be supervised. There are stand- alone conference bridges and conference bridge functions built in to some PBXs (Private Branch Exchange). Most conference bridge systems allow the administrator to assign DID numbers to conference rooms. In some cases a single DID number connects callers with an IVR application that prompts for a room number.

These systems have circuitry for summing and balancing the energy (noise) on each channel so everyone can hear each other. More sophisticated conference bridges have the ability to “idle” the transmit side of channels of non-speaking parties.