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What Is Call Forwarding?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Sometimes referred to as call diverting, call forwarding is a process that allows incoming telephone calls to be routed to another point of termination. That point of termination may be another extension in the office, a handheld device such as a cell phone, or to any other landline desired. The main benefit is that it allows people to not miss important telephone calls when they are unable to remain at the location where the telephone number usually terminates.

Early examples of call forwarding were in the form of an internal function found in a number of business telephone systems. The feature allowed users to redirect phone calls from one extension to another extension that was on the same internal network. This made it possible to easily re-route calls away from the desks of employees who were out or away for a period of time. Doing so meant that callers did not have to leave messages or redial another exchange in order to speak with someone in the office.

By the latter part of the 20th century, enhancements in telephony made it possible to offer call forwarding to residential customers. No longer a feature requiring special equipment at the point of termination, the feature could be activated by pressing a specific succession of keys on a touch tone telephone. After entering the code, the user could enter the telephone number where any inbound calls should be forwarded. The new point of termination could be any active number exchange, making it easy to forward a business line to a private residence, a hotel, or any other number of termination points.

Over time, call forwarding services became a popular option for people who traveled a great deal. As the technology continued to advance, it became possible to use remote forwarding features to route calls anywhere in the world with relative ease. Generally, the service provider would determine what limits, if any, existed in the ability to use forwarding to reroute calls to other countries or to areas where analog phones remained the norm.

Today, forwarding is often included in basic packages for most residential and business landline services. Cellular call forwarding is also a popular option, and can be initiated by the subscriber. In the event of a problem with the cell phone, service providers can also reroute inbound calls to another point of termination at the request of the customer until the service issue is resolved. Providers of land line telephone services also have the ability to reroute inbound calls in the event there is a problem with the phone equipment or the wiring at the point of termination, such as in a disaster situation.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By RocketLanch8 — On May 14, 2014

The biggest problem I had with using call forwarding services was remembering to deactivate them when I returned to my usual landline phone. I'd find a good call forwarding number and go through all of the steps, but I wouldn't cancel them. Some days I'd go hours at a time without getting a single phone call at my desk, then realize they were all going to the other number.

By Inaventu — On May 13, 2014

Back in the days of dial-up Internet access, I used an online answering service that took advantage of call forwarding. If I was using the modem for Internet access and a call came in, it would be automatically forwarded to a toll-free number. The answering service would play a recorded greeting, and I would see the incoming call on a pop-up window.

I believe the service was called "busy call forwarding", and the phone company only charged a dollar a month for that call forwarding feature. The online answering service charge a small fee on top of that, but it was reasonable.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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