pri vs sip

PRI vs SIP: What’s the Difference?

Did you know that there are more than 30 million small businesses in the United States alone? 

The competition is tighter and you need to stand out. You need the right technology to stay ahead in the industry. For telecommunications and network sectors, the two powerhouses you need are either PRI or SIP trunking.

But which one is worth the money? Which one works better for your needs?

When it comes to PRI vs SIP, you need to consider some factors that ensure you get the right one for your business needs. Read on and find out more today.

What is SIP?

SIP stands for Session Initiated Protocol. It’s the method that enables you to send voice communications using a data network like the internet. The types of communications you can do include instant messages, voice calls, video chats, and data transfers.

Experts consider SIP as network technology, not telephone technology. The simple reason is that the entire process happens through the use of a data network instead of telephone lines. What this means is that you won’t need telephones since all you need are internet-ready devices that can process SIP communications.

Each SIP communication channel is a trunk, thus the phrase “SIP trunking.” This process can help in delivering almost an unlimited number of channels to your business.

What is PRI?

PRI stands for Primary Rate Interface. It’s a digital, end-to-end connection that enables you to do multiple voice, data, or video transmissions in a simultaneous fashion. The process achieves this through the use of a physical line or circuit.

The physical circuit is a cable that has two pairs of copper wires. It can give around 23 channels for data and/or voice. What this means is that up to 23 conversations can happen at any given time, regardless of whether it’s video, chats, and the like.

If you need more than 23 transmissions, you’ll need more PRI circuits. These will need a physical, on-site installation process. The length of installation depends on how many circuits you need to satisfy your requirements.

It’s worth noting that PRI technology started several decades ago. With that, it’s considered as an older technology compared to SIP trunking.

PRI vs SIP: What is the Difference?

Both of these technologies are phone systems, but they have their own differences despite letting you make voice calls to another person. Having the right system in your business is important—you don’t want to end up like the 80% of businesses that fail within the first year and a half.

Here are some of the differences based on specific criteria:

1. Hardware

When it’s hardware, you need to keep some factors in mind—the costs, maintenance, and the space required. Depending on the system you choose, hardware price will differ, as well as the associated upkeep costs needed to maintain it. It also determines whether your premises can accommodate the system.


You have two options when choosing this system—hosted or on-premise. The advantage of the former is that it has lower upfront costs and has minimal maintenance and hardware space requirements.  In most cases, all you need is to have is a physical phone or a softphone application and you’re set.

Hosted solutions will let your provider handle almost everything. That’s why it’s highly recommended, especially if you’re starting out as a business. You save in almost everything—hardware costs, maintenance, and space.

On the other hand, on-premise solutions enable you to have physical servers on-site. The connections are virtual, regardless of the type. That means you won’t need to install additional cables, wires, and other hardware.


This type of system needs physical connections to function. They’re actual cables installed on your business premises. Take note, the number of circuits installed depends on your business demands since a single circuit can only handle 23 channels.

Due to its physical nature, PRI hardware can become costly. If you need more lines, you’ll end up paying the installation costs once again. It’s one of the major drawbacks of this type of system.

2. Backup and Redundancy

A lot of events can happen, leading to your phone service to get disrupted. It might be due to extreme weather conditions, power outages, internet issues, and the like. That’s why it’s important for your phone system needs the means of handling these situations in the best way possible.


Each trunk has an easy means of rerouting without making huge impacts on performance. In emergency situations, you can reroute the calls to predetermined destinations such as third-party answering services. The best part is that you can carry on with your business until you solve the problem and reroute the calls back to your office.

It’s important to remember that businesses lose a total of 545 hours of staff productivity due to IT outages. With that in mind, estimates show that businesses can lose about $1.55 million each year due to this reason alone. That makes SIP an attractive system since it minimizes downtime.


You can use more PRI circuits to help with redundancy. But you’ll be in a bad situation if your PRI system goes down. After all, the calls on this type of system aren’t reroutable, making it inconvenient for your business.

3. Cost

If you’re a numbers entrepreneur, this is one of your major considerations. As with anything, your phone system’s costs will depend on your business’s specific needs. Here are some considerations:


With this system, you won’t need a lot of extra equipment. That means you’ll save a lot more when looking at the setup and maintenance costs. It’s especially the case when you’re opting for a hosted system.

The ongoing costs only cover the monthly access to your providers’ services. In common situations, you’ll get charged per channel or per minute used. To get more accurate pricing, check out our prices and learn what suits you best.


Due to its technology, PRI circuits are physical, regardless of provider. That means you’ll need to pay for the hardware, installation and upkeep costs. The worst part is that it’s charged on top of the service access fees each month.

It also becomes more expensive the more PRI circuits you install. This isn’t a great choice when you’re trying to scale up your business.

4. Flexibility and Upscaling

If you’re planning to expand your business, you need to ensure that your phone system can keep up. Rapid upscaling and expanding to different locations need considerations. Always think of the long-term effects since it’s impractical to change phone systems every few years.

Forecast your future growth to help arrive at the right decision.


Do you need more users for your SIP system? If so, make a call to your service provider to request for more lines. With this simplicity, it’s easier and quicker for you to scale up, especially when your provider is amiable and responsive.


Again, PRI circuits will only support 23 communication channels. If you need to expand and add more users, you’ll need to buy a new circuit for another 23 channels. It’s pretty slow since a technician needs to visit your office to install these expansion circuits physically.

5. Quality

Another deciding factor, quality can affect the effectiveness of your business operations. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you have the right system choice. Here are the differences between PRI vs SIP:


Transmissions from this phone system are in HD, so its quality has the means of becoming excellent. But it’s important to remember that your network bandwidth will play a big part. If you have poor bandwidth, your calls will have a less desirable quality.

As a general rule, your call quality gets stronger the better your bandwidth is.


Transmissions from a PRI system aren’t in HD. In general, the calls are stable, but it isn’t a standard experience in today’s network communications quality. You can compare PRI calls to the old school, analog telephone calls since they both have low-frequency range transmissions.

6. Best Use Cases

Most businesses will recommend a SIP system, but it depends on the type of business you have. Your goals also play a part when looking for the phone system that works best for you. Here’s how each system can benefit you:


This solution works best if you’re trying to save a lot of money on phone service. If you’re a business that needs a lot of long-distance or international calls, this system is for you. It’s also a great system if you’re in need of mobile support.


This solution is best if you have little to no access to a reliable fiber network. If you don’t have the bandwidth to support IP phones and equipment, a PRI system can help fill in the gap.

PRI vs SIP: Get the Best For Your Business Today!

Hopefully, this PRI vs SIP guide helps you pick the right system for your business. That way, you won’t have to spend more on services and features that won’t benefit you. Keep this in mind if you’re choosing a phone system.

Do you need a SIP system? If so, contact us today.

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