A telephone company , also known as a telco , telephone service provider , [5] or telecommunications operator , is a kind of communications service provider (CSP) (more precisely a telecommunications service provider or 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 ). [8]

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 . [9]

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. [10]


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 . [11] [12]

See also