Analog telephony is almost dead.
In the PSTN, the famous Last Mile is the final remaining piece of the telephone network still using technology pioneered well over a hundred years ago.
One of the primary challenges when transmitting analog signals is that all sorts of things can interfere with those signals, causing low volume, static, and all manner of other undesired effects. Instead of trying to preserve an analog waveform over distances that may span thousands of miles, why not simply measure the characteristics of the original sound and send that information to the far end? The original waveform wouldn’t get there, but all the information needed to reconstruct it would.
This is the principle of all digital audio (including telephony): sample the characteristics of the source waveform, store the measured information, and send that data to the far end. Then, at the far end, use the transmitted information to generate a completely new audio signal that has the same characteristics as the original. The reproduction is so good that the human ear can’t tell the difference.
The principle advantage of digital audio is that the sampled data can be mathematically checked for errors all along the route to its destination, ensuring that a perfect duplicate of the original arrives at the far end. Distance no longer affects quality, and interference can be detected and eliminated.
There are several ways to digitally encode audio, but the most common ...