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In digital telecommunications, where a single physical wire pair can be used to carry many simultaneous voice conversations by time-division multiplexing, worldwide standards have been created and deployed. The European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) originally standardized the E-carrier system, which revised and improved the earlier American T-carrier technology, and this has now been adopted by the International Telecommunication Union Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T). This is now widely used in almost all countries outside the USA, Canada and Japan.

The E-carrier standards [1][2] form part of the Plesiochronous Digital Hierarchy (PDH) where groups of E1 circuits may be bundled onto higher capacity E3 links between telephone exchanges or countries. This allows a network operator to provide a private end-to-end E1 circuit between customers in different countries that share single high capacity links in between.

In practice, only E1 and E3 versions are used. Physically E1 is transmitted as 32 timeslots and E3 512 timeslots, but one is used for framing and typically one allocated for signalling call setup and tear down. Unlike Internet data services, E-carrier systems permanently allocate capacity for a voice call for its entire duration. This ensures high call quality because the transmission arrives with the same short delay (latency) and capacity at all times.

E1 circuits are very common in most telephone exchanges and are used to connect to medium and large companies, to remote exchanges and in many cases between exchanges. E3 lines are used between exchanges, operators and/or countries, and have a transmission speed of 34.368 Mbit/s.



An E1 link operates over two separate sets of wires, usually twisted pair cable. A nominal 3 Volt peak signal is encoded with pulses using a method that avoids long periods without polarity changes. The line data rate is 2.048 Mbit/s (full duplex, i.e. 2.048 Mbit/s downstream and 2.048 Mbit/s upstream) which is split into 32 timeslots, each being allocated 8 bits in turn. Thus each timeslot sends and receives an 8-bit PCM sample, usually encoded according to A-law algorithm, 8000 times per second (8 x 8000 x 32 = 2,048,000). This is ideal for voice telephone calls where the voice is sampled into an 8 bit number at that data rate and reconstructed at the other end. The timeslots are numbered from 0 to 31.

One timeslot (TS0) is reserved for framing purposes, and alternately transmits a fixed pattern. This allows the receiver to lock onto the start of each frame and match up each channel in turn. The standards allow for a full Cyclic Redundancy Check to be performed across all bits transmitted in each frame, to detect if the circuit is losing bits (information), but this is not always used.

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