The Basics of Trunking

The purpose of trunking is to provide a shared connection between two entities. For example, a trunk road would be a highway that connects two towns together. Railroads used the term “trunk” extensively, to refer to a major line that connected feeder lines together.

Similarly, in telecom, trunking is used to connect two systems together. Carriers use telecom trunks to connect their networks together, and in a PBX, the circuits that connect the PBX to the outside world are commonly referred to as trunks (although the carriers themselves do not generally consider these to be trunks). From a technical perspective, the definition of a trunk is not as clear as it used to be (PBX trunks used totally different technology from station circuits), but as a concept, trunks are still very important. For example, with VoIP, everything is actually peer-to-peer (so from a technology perspective there isn’t really such a thing as a trunk anymore), but it is still useful to be able to differentiate between VoIP resources that connect to the outside world and VoIP resources that connect to user endpoints (such as SIP telephones).

It’s probably easiest to think of a trunk as a collection of circuits that service a route. So, in an Asterisk PBX, you might have trunks that go to your VoIP provider for long-distance calls, trunks for your PSTN circuits, and trunks that connect your various offices together. These trunks might actually run across the same network connection, but in your dialplan you could treat them quite differently.

While we believe that VoIP will eventually completely replace the PSTN, many of the concepts that are in use on VoIP circuits (such as a “phone number”) owe their existence more to history than any technical requirement, and thus we feel it will be helpful to discuss using traditional PSTN circuits with Asterisk before we get into VoIP.

If the system you are installing will use VoIP circuits only, that is not a problem. Go straight to the VoIP section of this chapter,[68] and we’ll take you through what you need to do. We do recommend reading the PSTN sections at your convenience, since there may be general knowledge in them that could be of use to you, but it is not strictly required in order to understand and use Asterisk.

[68] But do not collect $200.