Calls are usually placed through a network (such as the Public Switched Telephone Network) provided by a commercial telephone company. If the caller's wireline phone is directly connected to the calling party, when the caller takes their telephone off-hook, the calling party's phone will ring. This is called a hot line or ringdown. Otherwise, the calling party is usually given a tone to indicate they should begin dialing the desired number. In some (now very rare) cases, the calling party cannot dial calls directly, and is connected to an operator who places the call for them.
Some types of calls are not charged, such as local calls (and Internal calls) dialled directly by a telephone subscriber in Canada, the United States, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Ireland or New Zealand (Residential subscribers only). In most other areas, all telephone calls are charged a fee for the connection. Fees depend on the provider of the service, the type of service being used (a call placed from a landline or wired telephone will have one rate, and a call placed from a mobile telephone will have a different rate) and the distance between the calling and the called parties. In most circumstances, the calling party pays this fee. However, in some circumstances such as a reverse charge or collect call, the called party pays the cost of the call. In some circumstances, the caller pays a flat rate charge for the telephone connection and does not pay any additional charge for all calls made. Telecommunication liberalization has been established in several countries to allows customers to keep their local phone provider and use an alternate provider for a certain call in order to save money.
A typical phone call is placed by picking the phone handset up off the base and holding the handset so that the hearing end is next to the user's ear and the speaking end is within range of the mouth. Headsets are becoming more and more common, especially in car headsets, thus changing the way that people are conducting telephone calls in modern times.
In addition to the traditional method of placing a telephone call, newer ways today enable various methods for initiating a telephone call. The technology of Voice over IP VoIP allows calls to be made through a PC, like with the service of Skype. Other services enable callers to initiate a telephone call without exchanging their phone numbers through a third party.
Preceding, during, and after a traditional telephone call is placed, certain tones signify the progress and status of the telephone call:
Unsolicited telephone calls are a modern nuisance. Common kinds of unwanted calls include prank calls, telemarketing calls, and obscene phone calls. Caller ID provides some protection against unwanted calls, but can still be turned off by the calling party. Even where end-user Caller ID is not available, calls are still logged, both in billing records at the originating telco and via automatic number identification, so the perpetrator's phone number can still be discovered in many cases. However, this does not provide complete protection: harassers can use payphones, in some cases, automatic number identification itself can be spoofed or blocked, and mobile telephone abusers can (at some cost) use "throwaway" phones or SIMs.