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Wide area telecommunication service (WATS) is a dial-type telecommunication service that allows customers to make outgoing (OUTWATS) calls, receive incoming (INWATS) calls, or use a combination of both services. WATS provides for dial-type telecommunication through the use of a WATS access line, which runs between the customer's premises and the telephone company's central office, and a federally regulated public-switched network.
INWATS provides toll-free services for inbound calls to the customer. OUTWATS provides savings to customers who make large numbers of outbound long-distance calls.
Offerings for fixed-rate inter-LATA and intra-LATA services are measured by zones and hours. In outbound WATS, the country is defined by bands zero through five. Band zero is for intrastate calling, while the other bands are for interstate calls that are increasingly distant from the originating number. Historically, a higher band number carried a higher price per month or per minute. These lines could only be used for outbound long-distance calls. When long-distance rates over regular lines hit historic lows in the late 20th century, OUTWATS service became obsolete.
WATS does not include person-to-person, collect, conference or other calls that require operator handling, although there are some exceptions. Connection of WATS access lines to other services is permitted on a switched basis only.