Dual-tone multi-frequency signaling (DTMF) is used for telecommunication signaling over analog telephone lines in the voice-frequency band between telephone handsets and other communications devices and the switching center. The version of DTMF that is used in push-button telephones for tone dialing is known as Touch-Tone. It was developed by Western Electric and first used by the Bell System in commerce, using that name as a registered trademark. DTMF is standardized by ITU-T Recommendation Q.23. It is also known in the UK as MF4.
Other multi-frequency systems are used for internal signaling within the telephone network.
Introduced by AT&T in 1963, the Touch-Tone system using the telephone keypad gradually replaced the use of rotary dial and has become the industry standard for landline service.
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The exchange equipment interprets these dial pulses to determine the dialed number. Loop disconnect range was restricted by telegraphic distortion and other technical problems[which?], and placing calls over longer distances required either operator assistance (operators used an earlier kind of multi-frequency dial) or the provision of subscriber trunk dialing equipment.
Multi-frequency signaling (see also MF) is a group of signaling methods that use a mixture of two pure tone (pure sine wave) sounds. Various MF signaling protocols were devised by the Bell System and CCITT. The earliest of these were for in-band signaling between switching centers, where long-distance telephone operators used a 16-digit keypad to input the next portion of the destination telephone number in order to contact the next downstream long-distance telephone operator. This semi-automated signaling and switching proved successful in both speed and cost effectiveness. Based on this prior success with using MF by specialists to establish long-distance telephone calls, Dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) signaling was developed for the consumer to signal their own telephone-call's destination telephone number instead of talking to a telephone operator.
AT&Ts Compatibility Bulletin No. 105 described the product as "a method for pushbutton signaling from customer stations using the voice transmission path." In order to prevent consumer telephones from interfering with the MF-based routing and switching between telephone switching centers, DTMF's frequencies differ from all of the pre-existing MF signaling protocols between switching centers: MF/R1, R2, CCS4, CCS5, and others that were later replaced by SS7 digital signaling. DTMF, as used in push-button telephone tone dialing, was known throughout the Bell System by the trademark Touch-Tone. This term was first used by AT&T in commerce on July 5, 1960 and then was introduced to the public on November 18, 1963, when the first push-button telephone was made available to the public. It was AT&T's registered trademark from September 4, 1962 to March 13, 1984, and is standardized by ITU-T Recommendation Q.23. It is also known in the UK as MF4.