A universal gateway is a communication device that has the capability of moving data from a point of origin to multiple points of termination, even if those termination points do not make use of the same protocols. By utilizing this type of gateway along with various types of communication software, it is possible to establish reliable communications between multiple points, regardless of what type of equipment or signaling is being used by each participant. It is not unusual for a universal gateway to be used in conjunction with the bridging software and hardware commonly employed in audio, video, and web conferencing applications, allowing people from all over the world to access and participate in meetings of this type.
One of the easiest ways to understand how a universal gateway functions is to consider an audio conference call that involves participation by individuals who are located in various parts of the world. Depending on the configuration of the telephone systems in use in those different countries, attendees may dial into the conference using phone systems that make use of older analog signals carried on copper wires, fiber optic systems carrying digital signals, or even networks that make use of Voice over Internet Protocol to carry the phone signal across the Internet. When a universal gateway is co-located with the teleconference bridge that serves as the hub or point of termination for all the locations dialing into the call, that gateway will assess each signal, convert it into a signal that the bridge will recognize, and terminate the connections on the conference bridge.
When the universal gateway is functioning properly, the attendees will each clearly hear and be heard in the meeting, with no attendee experiencing any type of lag time in the conversation or any chopping of the audio communication. Depending on the type of connections involved, the overall sound clarity may be as clear as if all the attendees were calling from locations around the same city and going through the same local switches. The efficiency offered by a universal gateway makes it possible to engage in communications that once took a great deal of effort to establish and were considerably more costly in terms of long distance charges and other fees.
While a universal gateway may be co-located with a communications bridge, the device can also be placed at what is known as the point of presence. This is simply the location in which the bridge is directly connected into the local telephone switch and one or more long distance carriers. With both arrangements, the ability to communicate with relative ease in spite of differences in telephone and other communication networks is simplified, allowing people to come together no matter where they happen to be located.