Vilas Uchil, Director of Network Engineering, BullsEye Telecom
For more than a decade, we have seen Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems getting widely accepted inboth residential as well as commercial space. As compared to the legacy-based plain old telephone service (POTs), VoIP provides feature rich capabilities along with better quality of services, feature management and advanced integration with other applications. With the sun setting for POTs services, all forms of telephony communication will be migrating to VoIP systems. The FCC document from 2015, however, reported that there would still be around 65 million switched access lines or POTs services in the United States. Businesses are concerned about performance of VoIP, and have resulted in slow migrations from POTs to VoIP but with mainstream implementation of SDWAN solutions, the issues with VoIP are definitely getting mitigated. Inclusion of millennials in the work force and the current trend towards digital transformation have pushed the innovation to integrate VoIP with collaborate applications as well as backend customer relationship management tools.
Legacy Systems and VoIP
The legacy POTs system had copper wires terminated all the way from the service provider’s network into the customers premise. On the other hand, VoIP services uses the broadband circuits provided at the customer’s premise for other data communications. Typically VoIP technology involved phones converting analog signals into digital packets which are routed from the customer’s local area network (LAN) via the Wide area network (WAN) through the internet into the service provider’s network. There have been challenges with voice packets competing with other data traffic through the network. This results in impacting the performance of the services leading to degraded service. VoIP providers have managed this issue by prioritizing the Voice packets, tagging them for the highest quality of service and also by ensuring the customer’s WAN network is tweaked to provide the enhanced quality of service to Voice traffic.
The human skillset required to manage and tweak the customer network is expensive for small to medium businesses in the United States. The Broadband circuits on which VoIP packets rides has become cheaper recently with increased bandwidth. Even though it is cost effective they are single-threaded and disruption in broadband services can directly impact VoIP services for businesses. Using redundant circuits at the customer site solves the single point of failure challenge but it does introduce disruption during circuit fail over. The introduction of Software Defined Wide Area Network (SDWAN) technology has provided answers to all the challenges for VoIP.
VoIP with SDWAN Leads the Way
The SDWAN technology separates the control and data plane layers. The SDWAN Control plane hosted by the VoIP carrier allows the carrier to manage the WAN parameters for Voice traffic effectively. Hence specialized human skillset is not required at the customer location to manage the WAN for optimized VoIP performance. SDWAN allows multiple broadband circuits to be deployed at the enterprise network. It allows seamless failover of voice traffic during broadband circuit disruption. The SDWAN node also known as edge forms an encrypted tunnel known as overlays via each of the circuits. The virtual tunnel allows the customers to have end to end quality of service monitoring capabilities. Just as the traditional POTs system had the last mile all the way to the customer’s network, the SDWAN technology provides end to end quality of service visibility for the customer’s voice traffic. For true end to end quality of service to be delivered for VoIP, customers should ensure that the SDWAN voice gateway is hosted in the service providers Voice carrier infrastructure network.
The introduction of millennials in the work force and push for digital transformation industry wide is driving innovation on the VoIP segment
VoIP Trends and Millennials
The introduction of millennials in the work force and push for digital transformation industry wide is driving innovation on the VoIP segment as well. There has been a strong trend to move VoIP from traditional plastic phones to virtual desktops and mobile clients. The demand for collaboration has stretched into the VoIP segment with innovative products been deployed show casing integration between Voice and video calls, instant chat messages, SMS, file sharing, ad-hoc voice conference rooms and desktop screen sharing capabilities provided using a single client application. Businesses are noticing significant return on investment in sales acquisition for VoIP services that integrates with back end CRM systems. This allows business to track their internal processes and customer behavior patterns. Not all the user base is comfortable with Voice calls been attended by soft clients. The users that rely on plastic phone systems have to deal with adjusting to the advanced feature sets (Key system functionalities, Shared call appearance, Call Park, call pick up) provided by VoIP solutions. In some instances they have resulted in users been dissatisfied with several key pushes required to use these advanced features. Few carriers in order to bring about better customer experience have worked with phone equipment manufacturers to build specialized configurations to minimize these button pushes for several of the advance features. The customers should ensure that VoIP carriers are nimble and open to work with customers to build solutions that best fit their needs.