Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Video Demo of how Wholesale SIP DIDX Routing Works



Listen to Aptilo's CEO Torbjorn Ward talk about Broadband Connectivity, too. Thank you for this opportunity to guest blog.
Suzanne Bowen
VP of Techistan and Muntwo social media.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Mobile Service Alerts .....Bill or Regulation Shock?

From Neil Ende, Managing Partner, Technology Law Group

The FCC recently proposed rules that would require mobile service providers to provide usage alerts and information to assist consumers in avoiding unexpected charges on their bills. Specifically, the FCC’s proposed rules would require mobile service providers to inform their customers about their usage, such as by voice or text alerts when a subscriber is approaching or begins incurring overage or roaming charges, and provide clear disclosure of the available tools subscribers can use to limit usage and review their usage history. The FCC’s recent Bill Shock Survey found that 30 million Americans have experienced unexpected increases in their monthly bills that are not caused by changes in their service plans.

Predictably, industry commenters contend that mandatory usage alerts and cut-off mechanisms are unnecessary because ....

1) the wireless industry currently provides consumers with usage controls and alerts, text messages, and dialing shortcuts to check account balances to avoid bill shock,

2) an industry-wide regulation will harm consumers by limiting choice and diminishing incentives to develop additional tools, and

3) it would be costly to adjust existing billing systems to implement any new usage alert requirements.

State and consumer commenters contend, however, that mandatory requirements are necessary because currently available tools are limited by additional fees, self-enrollment requirements, active monitoring requirements, and they are applied inconsistently.

The FCC seeks comments on the scope and limits of the proposed rules.

For example, should prepaid mobile services, in which customers pay in advance, be exempt from any usage alert requirements?

Should the rules apply to all communications services provided by mobile wireless providers, including voice, text, and data services?

Should exclusively mobile data service providers be exempt?

Does the FCC have the authority to establish the proposed rules? For example, several Title III provisions of the Telecommunications Act authorize the FCC to establish license conditions in the public interest. Even if the FCC does have the authority to implement such regulations, should it do so? Are such regulations appropriate or even necessary for competitive mobile services? Will they avoid mobile service bill shock or just shock the competitive mobile service industry with costly regulation?

We welcome your thoughts! Please feel free to comment at our interactive blog at blog.tlgdc.com.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

How A T1 Line Works

When trying to convince your boss that your company needs T1 bandwidth to help solve a network issue and meet business function requirements …. it comes in handy to know just how a T1 line works. Without that understanding you’re more likely to lose the argument and remain stuck with whatever dinosaur set-up you’re trying to move away from. As your company’s go-to IT person … you can’t afford to lose those battles.

You already know that there are many flavors of T1. But you need not go into that with your boss. If necessary you can adequately describe in simple terms the difference between fractional, full, and bonded … as well as the general aspects of point-to-point and MPLS architecture. For the purposes of making your main point … just stick with describing the basic single point-to-point T1 line.

For a generic point-to-point T1 circuit, part by part, generically speaking it works like this from the premises back.

Your router CSU/DSU DS1 signal connects to a SmartJack aka a Highcap Remote Unit (HRU) mounted in the Network Customer Terminating Equipment (NCTE) also known as the mounting which converts the DS1 signal to a T1 for transport.

From there it is connected by either a single pair or two depending on the technology utilized to the central office repeater shelf where a Highcap Line Unit (HLU) is installed which converts the T1 signal back to a DS1 and also provides 186 or 130 volts over the copper pair(s) to power the HRU.

From the CO repeater shelf the DS1 signal along with 27 others are passed to a Digital Access Crossconnect System (DACS) or muxed up to a DS3 and then to the DACS which provides mapping of the DS1 signals and remote testing capabilities.

Out of the DACS the signal is most commonly a DS3 or higher and passed to another MUX along with other DS3’s for conversion to an OCx for interoffice transport.

At the other end the process is reversed.

As far as a T1 switching device at the provider end … depending on the type of circuit, there are fast packet switches, frame relay switches and routers.

Now your boss may turn glassy eyed halfway through your technical diatribe above …. but that’s alright. You have shown a thorough knowledge of the workings behind what you want … a T1 line based network. That should be enough to impress upon him or her that you know what you’re talking about from the technical side. From there … all you need to do is address the cost benefit. For that simply show the impact of your current poor performing network on the core functions of the business …. compared to the improvement(s) gained with the network architecture you’re recommending.

If you need assistance with setting up the right solution for your voice/data network applications …. take advantage of the free help available at DS3 Bandwidth. They can guide you through the process whether it’s T1 line based, DS3 circuit, SONET, Business Ethernet, or wireless …. including MPLS, Point-to-Point, bonded, burstable, and more.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Will The Sprint – Clearwire Venture Survive?

Many saw this coming years ago when Sprint dumped their broadband wireless division and the $1B of spectrum they had (old MMDS). But Craig McCaw's wealth and deep pockets were/are behind Clearwire. He was behind Teledesic, the expensive low earth orbit adventure-flop. These things apparently are more like expensive hobbies to him!

The one to ponder is Sprint. My own opinion is that before Sprint bought Nextel, it was near collapse. The acquisition gave them a honeymoon with the investment world. Then Sprint needed another dodge. Their merger with MCI flopped, and good thing it did, as Mr. MCI went to prison. Now the WiMax adventure by Sprint, XOhm tries to apply the $B debt they have on the books from the MMDS spectrum acquisitions of many tiny licensees. MCI had the rest of the spectrum in the US, for WiMax in 2.5GHz.

Then the march to LTE by everyone except Sprint (and Xohm/Clearwire) came to light.

Poor Sprint - they are CDMA as is Verizon. But Verizon doesn't want to pay much for Sprint's network or spectrum- Verizon doesn't need it unless it was a a fire sale price. Which it may be.

If Clearwire tries a metamorphosis from WiMax (16e) to LTE, they would recapitalize their WiMax system to LTE before even finishing a national launch! This sounds like how AT&T Wireless (SBC-renamed) has operated since deregulation: Technology du jour.

So don't rush out and buy any Sprint stock.

For more on this situation check out this article at MuniWireless:

Clearwire In Deep Financial Trouble …. May Not Survive

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

DR, Redundancy, Backup, Fail-over: What does it all mean?

So many customers when choosing a new phone system always ask about redundancy and disaster recovery, but they really are asking about back or fail-over.  Most have no concept of true redundancy and DR entails or how you can implement in a communications systems.   Start with trunking.

If you look at your trunking, how do you have redundancy at any level when most connections come in through a single LEC, even though you may have separate CLEC’s.  One option is SIP but you still have data that usually is single LEC-based copper or a fiber connection.  If you can divide your services between wireless, copper, and fiber, you have better chance of redundancy, but fail-over is then an issue as most secondary carriers will not be able to send the original DNIS digits to you as the original carrier.  Having a single carrier will allow this across different trunks, even in separate locations, so that is an option as is SIP over different carriers, but retargeting SIP trunks is not easily accomplished with most providers.  Some customer believe that if they put all their eggs into a data center, they are protected and don’t need to think about redundancy, but the question arises of business continuity when the MPLS to the data center fails.

Phone sets are another issue.  If you are still deploying digital sets and haven’t moved to SIP – good luck!  While there are systems out that can redirect calls to other units in a network, for DR, not having IP sets is the same as expecting agents to take their computer with them to work at home if the corporate site is down.  SIP sets offer the ability to register to multiple locations, meaning if your main site goes down, sets can use alternate routing to other servers or even be taken to other sites and brought up on the DR servers.  With soft phones and remote number login, all you need is a web browser and a phone line or cell phone to stay connected to the office and your customers through a secondary DR server.

Phone systems of the past was not very redundant or able to provide full DR.  Some had simple fail-over and most offered backup, but instantaneous redundancy with full mirroring of information has only been around for a few years at most.  Today’s servers can be stacked, dispersed, and stored (virtually) anywhere and be able to take over automatically or with very little intervention from system administrators.  One important factor to look at when choosing a phone system is if they applications servers like voicemail, IVR, or speech servers have full redundancy that work with the DR capabilities of the actual phone system  -- though with systems like the ININ CIC server, all applications are in one box, so there consistent and replicated databases and functions no matter what server you are on.   If a switchover to a backup server does occur, planning must be in place to redirect trunks, re-register phones, and allow clients to reconnect to the new server.  Without this, no amount of DR work will work.

At a hardware level, DR and redundancy includes insuring good, off-site backups, RAID configurations on the hard drives, redundancy power supplies, dual-NICS, and all the other protection you can give your servers to survive the longest in a disaster situation.   If you look outside of the actual phone platform, what about the networks – do you have dual switch fabric in place?  Do you use spanning between multiple switches and routers?  Do you have dual routers in place with complete capabilities to route your inbound and outbound traffic. 

Obviously thinking about DR to this level can give any IT manager an ulcer in not time at all.  It is important to include experts at all levels in your DR plan, starting first with your phone vender since telecommunications is the life-blood of any company – no one can survive without communicating to the outside world and customers.  It is far more important to have people answering questions on the top of there head for an inbound call center than to have a web site up in the middle of a disaster.  So many companies take the other approach – build Fort Knox for their data silos and plan for complete redundancy at a DR site, but still count on their single PRI, single voicemail computer, single phone system to get them through a disaster or major outage. 

There are many consultants that can help you think through your DR and redundancy plans, but don’t go overboard.  Remember that people in a disaster will not be thinking about how they should be answering the next call, but how to reached their loved ones the fastest.  Plan all you like but remember the people factor in the equation.

Robert Wakefield-Carl, QoS Telesys

Thursday, November 18, 2010

FCC Investigating Google Wi-Fi Screw Up

At the tail end of last month, the FTC dropped their inquiry into the Google Wi-Fi Street View kerfuffle, satisfied by Google's argument that their collection of user Wi-Fi data was a screw up, the data wasn't particularly useful, and that Google had made changes to prevent this from happening again. That supports studies from earlier this year showing that Google vehicles were moving too quickly, and changing channels too frequently, to really collect much useful information from the unsecured hotspots passed.

You can learn more as well as weigh in with comments at Broadband Reports:

Google WiFi Privacy Issue

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ethernet, M&A, Data Center Expansions Sum It All Up

Each week I take stock on the major headlines hitting the wires in the world of telecom. The news this past week has been chock full of companies announcing global Ethernet deployments, data center expansions and a variety of partnerships including some interesting M&A activity. A few companies jumped out in the headlines this past week - so I will use this space to tell you a bit about what they are doing.

Leading the pack with at least three different announcements was AboveNet. The company had consecutive announcements regarding market expansions in Chicago, London and the Baltimore/Washington DC corridor. All announcements touted the company's Carrier Ethernet capabilities. AboveNet is offering low-latency, high bandwidth connectivity within these key markets and beyond. The company is also connected to a number of Ethernet Exchange providers which further extends its reach and accessibility to the market.

Another interesting announcement came from Tata Communications. Tata has announced that it has launched a next-generation Ethernet network. Their announcement had a few differentiators. Tata is using PBB (Provider Backbone Bridging) Technology across its network globally. Powered by Cisco, they are offering scalable Ethernet worldwide. What makes this interesting is that PBB technology is not new. And while Ethernet Exchanges continue to make a splash, Tata is looking to get to market on its own. Tata may be the first provider to use PBB technology globally, but back on June 25, 2009, PacketExchange (then Mzima Networks) announced its deployment of PBB technology using Ciena's Carrier Ethernet Service Delivery pack. PacketExchange's announcement was not global, but was one of the first to deploy PBB-TE.

Finally, to complete the Ethernet news highlights, Neutral Tandem announced that it has completed the integration of its network with Tinet, creating the largest global Ethernet exchange. This news came out at Light Reading Ethernet's Expo held at the beginning of November 2010, but worth noting again.

Moving on to data center expansions - a lot of news highlights to share!

Net2EZ , a managed data center provider expanded its footprint into New Jersey at Dupont Fabros' NJ1 data center in Piscataway, NJ.

CyrusOne expanded its colocation footprint in Dallas, adding 65,000 square feet of data center space.

Facebook announced it is building a new, $450 million data center facility in North Carolina. Just think of all of the live feeds, pictures, videos and messages that will be stored here!

Finally - big news from Apple. You think $450M is a lot? Apple plans to build a massive new $1 billion data center as a hub for an all-streaming broadcast network. Now that's big - on a variety of levels!

With Ethernet network expansions, Data Center build-outs the market is still seeing quite a bit of M&A activity. I'm going to touch on a few before I go a little deeper into the announced acquisition of Arbinet by Primus.

- EMC to buy Isilon
- Windstream Corp to acquire Hosted Solutions
- Softlayer finalizes its acquisition of The Planet, becoming the third largest host of web servers
- Cbeyond acquires MaximumASP
- Carlyle to acquire Syniverse

and more - including - Primus Telecommunications intends to acquire Arbinet Corporation in a stock-for-stock transaction. The acquisition by Primus makes perfect sense for both companies. The acquisition will allow each company to leverage the assets of the other to become a much larger entity, better able to compete in the increasing competitive carrier market. We all know minute rates continue to fall at the same rate that demand for VoIP is increasing - companies need to find a way to compete more efficiently. Together, the companies will be able to lower their cost structure, provide enhanced product and services (including leveraging Arbinet's IP data exchange which provides a cost-effective quality service ideal for VoIP providers), and expand their international reach - collectively. The fact of the matter is that 1+1=3 in this scenario - which will make for a more interesting global carrier marketplace increasing the value and quality of services for all.

I have left out a lot as there is no way I can cover it all. I still have a lot to say and will continue my coverage on Telecom News Now. I'm preparing a thanksgiving blog that will give you something to feast on! Until then....

Monday, November 15, 2010

AT&T Strikes Settlement Over Wireless Taxes ….. Directs Users To Settlement Website

AT&T has settled a class action lawsuit claiming that the company charged wireless users certain Internet taxes on their mobile service bills that were in violation of the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act and other laws. On Thursday November 11 AT&T contacted customers, sending them to a website that states users may be eligible for refunds if they paid for smartphone or mobile data services between November 1, 2005 up to and including September 7, 2010. According to the wording of the settlement, AT&T has agreed to prepare and process tax refund claims with the various impacted states and counties.

But don't hold your breath for the money …. It could be a LONG wait.

You can learn more as well as weigh in with comments at Broadband Reports:
AT&T Settlement On Class Action Lawsuit

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November Broadband Vendor News From Telarus

November Telarus Vendor News

1. AboveNet

* AboveNet has selected ancotel's Frankfurt facility to expand its network in Europe beyond its existing locations in London, Paris and Amsterdam.

* AboveNet has announced that the Core Wave services are available for carrier and enterprise customers in the New York metro area. The core wave services offer customers a cost-effective, dedicated and versatile data transport solution for connections in major metro business centers.

* AboveNet announced it is expanding its network into the Baltimore Washington Corridor. Three new fiber optic loops will specifically serve enterprise and carrier customers in and between the Columbia Gateway, Annapolis Junction and Maryland's National Business Park.

2. AT&T - AT&T Inc., through its financing subsidiary AT&T Capital Services, is providing loans to small businesses looking to deploy new wireless solutions or upgrade existing ones.

3. Broad Sky Networks - Broad Sky Networks announced their Enterprise HX. This new satellite service is available on Horizon's 1, SatMex 6 and Galaxy 16. Broad Sky Networks also announced the launch of their new iBeam service capable of point to point speeds of 100MB to a full 1GB for distances with direct line of sight up to 1 mile.

4. Broadview Networks - Broadview Networks announced a partnership with Callfinity to integrate its ContextIP contact center and call recording technologies with Broadview's silhouette hosted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system. As a result, silhouette service provider customers can make use of Callfinity's industry-leading call routing, queuing, recording, and reporting functionality as an integrated solution for their small-to-medium business customers.

5. Level 3 Communications

* Level 3 Communications announced that, in response to increased demand, it will now offer uncompressed high-definition (HD) video transport services between Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and New York City, giving customers in these cities the ability to transmit live video with a previously unattainable level of clarity and quality.

* Level 3 Communications, Inc. announced the introduction of its Converged Business Network service, offering its enterprise customers a comprehensive solution to handle all their voice, Internet and data networking needs through one carrier, one circuit and with one bill.

* Level 3 Communications, Inc. welcomed President Obama's announcement of his intent to appoint James Q. Crowe, the company's chief executive officer, to the position of Chair of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.

* Level 3 Communications, Inc. announced that it has enhanced its managed services capabilities through a new agreement with Presidio Networked Solutions, a leading provider of professional and managed services solutions. Working with Presidio, Level 3 will leverage equipment from industry hardware vendors such as ADTRAN, Cisco, Fortinet, and Riverbed Technology in support of its managed services solutions.

* Level 3 Communications, Inc. announced its work with London-based Stream UK to offer a joint live-streaming solution for enterprise customers using the Adobe Flash Platform with support for HTTP. The solution allows business customers to stream live events within corporate environments while eliminating previous issues with firewall configuration and strain on the business's network.

6. MegaPath - As MegaPath begins to integrate the assets of the former Speakeasy and Covad into its fold, the new managed service local exchange carrier is offering a free Cisco SPA 303-3 IP phone to any new business customer that signs up for its unlimited or global Hosted Voice calling plans.

7. PAETEC - PAETEC has announced an Ethernet Expansion in Seattle, WA, Tuxedo, NY, Braselton, GA, Jefferson, GA, Colorado Springs, Oxford, Maine, Sacramento, California and Norfolk, VA.

8. Smoothstone - Smoothstone announced the launch of Mobile Connect, an application designed specifically for Apple's iPhone. Enterprises, through the newly launched application, will be allowed to extend the reach of their corporate communications services to mobile employees.

9. Telx

* Telx announced that it has nearly doubled the footprint of its data center at the 111 8th Avenue facility in New York City.

* Telx announced the deployment of the Telx Ethernet Exchange service at five U.S. locations: 60 Hudson Street and 111 8th Avenue in New York City; 350 East Cermak Street in Chicago; 56 Marietta Street in Atlanta, and 200 Paul St. in San Francisco. These locations, combined with the 14 Ethernet Exchange locations offered through the Telx relationship with Neutral Tandem (NASDAQ: TNDM), gives customers the largest Ethernet Exchange coverage in the U.S. Charter Customer participants include KDDI, Expereo, FiberLight, Intelepeer, Intellifiber Networks, IPNetZone, OneSource, Packet Exchange and RRSat.

* Telx announced that it has launched its enhanced Web-based customer portal, enabling colocation, interconnection, Internet Exchange, Dedicated Internet Access and Ethernet Exchange users to manage services and view highly-detailed inventories of their space, power, connectivity and bandwidth.

10. tw telecom - tw telecom and Louisiana Optical Network Initiative (LONI) have teamed on providing metro network resources needed to build a powerful network called SCinet. This network has been designed to deliver more than 260 gigabits per second (Gbps) in bandwidth.

11. Windstream - The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it has given Windstream $7.3 million to extend broadband Internet access into unserved areas of rural Arkansas. Windstream will match the grant with $2.4 million of its money.

12. XO Communications

* XO Communications has expanded its network coverage across Charlotte, N.C., more than doubling its addressable market across the metropolitan area.

* XO Communications surpasses a million business VoIP users.

* XO Communications announced that it is offering advanced IP-based communications, managed network and hosted IT services to businesses across the Rochester and Buffalo metropolitan areas.

To take advantage of any of the above offers simply request assistance and a free quote at:

Deals On Dedicated Bandwidth Solutions

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

TDM to SIP - no savings until consultant engaged

This video will provide you with a list of GREAT questions to ask your potential SIP provider that will help you find a qualified provider from amongst the hundreds out there. You also get an email with an attached list of questions to ask to qualify a SIP provider

It will also prove that relying on SIP providers for an appropriate solution is a wish.

The video (results are shown on slide 6 at 3 minutes) reviews the initial results of a mid sized business requesting pricing for SIP Trunks to replace their existing LD T1s and Local PRI. After the inital round of quotes none saved money with SIP. Consultant engaged and average price of quotes dropped 25% and final offer saved the client 35% from existing telecom costs.

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What is a USF Charge

There is a lot of confusion about USF. The FCC does not require companies to charge USF. Many companies are required to pay into USF and are allowed to recover their contributions from customers. Companies pay into USF based on information included on their quarterly and annual FCC 499 reports. If your client is paying into USF, then it is a business decision whether to pass the cost on to customers. The FCC was scheduled to release some proposed rules this quarter on changes to the USF contributions and might require more companies to contribute. It would be months and maybe years before the proposed rules become effective. Hope this helps.

Thanks to Jerry Weikle at Weikle & Co.

Great explanation

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How To Get The Best Pricing On Dedicated Bandwidth For Your Business

You're looking for pricing on dedicated bandwidth for your company's voice and/or data network. It may be T1, DS3, OC3 or ethernet based. It could be for fractional, bonded, burstable, point-to-point, PRI, integrated, or MPLS. Whatever you're need is ... the search experience can be frustrating and painful.

The traditional method of finding a price on bandwidth is to call all the carriers individually, play telephone tag trying to find the right person, get pricing in several days, then compile all the information. This process can literally take WEEKS. Or alternatively, simply call the LEC (Local Exchange Carrier, aka the phone company) and get a price.

Are you seeing the two major problems with this traditional approach?

The first problem is that the price being quoted is most likely "sticker price". Argh! If you are shopping for a car, do you base your purchase decision on the price tag in the window? Hopefully not, because that is RARELY the price you need to pay to get that car!

The other problem is TIME. Where or how are you going to "write off" the 40-80 hours of time that you spend just trying to get pricing from multiple carriers, where the pricing is not going to be "bottom line" pricing anyway?

Here's the solution .... get real time quotes from multiple providers (over 30) all at the same time. With our low price guarantee. INCLUDING additional in depth research and support to ensure you're getting the most cost effective solution for whatever application requirements you're targeting.

An official pricing proposal can be generated within minutes with down-to-the-nickel pricing, including detailed information such as the cost of IP's, installation charges, loop costs, per-minute costs for intrastate and interstate calls (if a voice or integrated circuit), router (if not included), etc.

TIME IS MONEY, and any astute business person realizes this. So if you trade 40-80 hours of non-billable manpower without a low price guarantee for a few minutes of time with us, and end up with a pricing proposal that contains detailed information complete with a Low Price Guarantee which states that this is the lowest price that these carriers will offer for this circuit, are you seeing the benefit this has for you?

We're talking the base definition of "no brainer".

So .... simply request your quotes via the link provided below.

DS3 Bandwidth

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Movistar New Player In Mexico Telecom

Movistar has obtained a concession to operate a public telecommunications network nationwide, to offer pay television and satellite data services.

This came as part of the decision of the Ministry of Communications and Transport (SCT) to deal with 18 issues in telecommunications. It awarded 10 grants of public telecommunications networks, 8 to provide pay television services to benefit communities in the states of Baja California, Chiapas, Estado de México, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, Querétaro and Veracruz, and one more satellite data services at national level and an additional allowance with basic telephony services and the provision of long distance capacity to cover people in Aguascalientes, Jalisco and Guanajuato.

Moreover, modified 7 concession titles, among which are authorizations to provide additional services in towns of the State of Mexico, Queretaro and Tamaulipas. Lastly, awarded frequency bands for official use to the National Institute of Historical Studies of Revolutions in Mexico, a body within the Ministry of Education.

To CPE or Host–That is the Question

I have many customers asking me about virtualization, virtual desktops, and hosted solutions, but when it comes to phone systems, there is not much choice for any of these.  While this will most likely change and even reverse in the next 3 to 5 years, there is still not a big advantage to hosted solutions and most systems don’t support virtualization at this point.  There are several reasons for this and why you should be careful when looking at hosted solutions.

Control and responsibility

The biggest different between having CPE and Hosted phone systems is control and who takes responsibility for the equipment and programming upkeep.  With most hosted solutions, vendors will give web access to the programming to allow for small changes like phone assignments, user names, passwords, and workgroup assignments.  For the business that does not want to spend resources getting trained on the system, this is ideal, because any workgroup leader can make changes.  The hosted company is responsible for the server, updates, backups, and billing.  Responsibility is two-fold in a hosted environment – the vendor takes responsibility for the reliability of the server and the customer is responsible for connectivity and local equipment.  On the flip side, having CPE means you are in charge of everything, meaning if you can’t pay your bills, you still can make and receive phone calls – not so with the stinted hosted vendor.

Flexibility

This comes in two flavors – flexible environments and customization.  A hosted solution gives you the ability to change the number of phones very quickly or move people from one office to another without redeploying much more than a phone or gateway.  Also with most hosted solutions, you usually have access to a the full functionality of the product without any upgrades or much investment on your part.  CPE however gives you much of the same flexibility, but only after some up-front purchase.  You can still move people around, re-deploy phones to other office, and grow or shrink your system as needs arise, but you usually get the added feature of customizing your system more than the vendor would allow in a shared environment.  Imagine if a vendor allowed customization of the server for 100 customers.  Next update to the system software would mean testing it against each of those 100 customized environments before deploying to the server farms hosting the applications.  Now extend that to 1000’s of customers and you can see why most hosted vendors only give you limited control and access to the server software.  If your company has not changed much in 5 years and you were happy with your old key system, then hosted might be your preference, but if you see unknown growth or applications and need specialized functionality, then CPE is a must. 

Price

Sales people with that “is is only $25 per month per phone” routine make hosted solutions sound very cost-effective.  Not bad when you have 20 phones, but if you have 100, that means $2500 a month in fees perpetually.  A lease on a similar CPE system would probably be about half that and you own the stuff in the end.  Why is it nice to write off the monthly as a business expense rather than a capital expenditure, it is usually a decision about whether the company has the up-front investment for the equipment or if the company is eligible  for a lease.  No matter what the choice, it is important to look at an overall ROI including investment, monthly recurring costs, annual maintenance, and upgrade costs.

Who to Turn To?

One other strong factor for your decision should be ongoing support and maintenance.  Are you going to have the people on staff to train new individuals or will the hosted vendor do this?  Do you have to keep up the software at the desktop or will the hosted system do this automatically?  Who is responsible for your local phones and gateways and insuring good quality on your local LAN?  If you have CPE, you know you can turn to your phone vendor for all of this.  How much do you want to invest in time and effort to keep your phone system running efficiently?

Final Word

Whether you choose hosted or CPE for your next phone system is a hard choice since any option for most companies means changing out their entire phone system, but in 3 years time when most companies have already purchased SIP gateways and industry-standard phones, switching from CPE to Hosted will be a simple and more-likely option.   Whatever your decision, make sure it is based on your company’s needs and a good ROI model, not on sweet talk from a sales guy!

Robert Wakefield-Carl, QoS Telesys

Monday, November 08, 2010

How To Determine The Best Solution For A New Voice/Data Network

Follow this process when designing on a new, upgraded, or replacement voice/data network. Gather information addressing each of the points listed and go from there ....

First .... start with what you have, what it does well (and what it doesnt).

What does the current system cost?

Is there something coming that will change your requirements? Any network change is much easier to justify if your current network will not do the job.

Any "weird" requirements (OK - wrong phrase) - non IP protocols, attached devices which are not natively IP such as ATM machines, tills, IBM controllers and the like.

External comms - extranet links, external CC authorisation are sometimes an issue in a bank network.

Reliability, availability, worst case down time, need for backup link, disaster recovery......

That helps set the parameters for what you might want from a new network.

The following assumes you are planning to rent a carrier type MPLS IP type service rather than L2 or build your own...

Find a good provider or two with the right footprint to provide roughly what you want and ask for some budgetary numbers - they will do a much better job with the info you have collected.

It is also worth asking your current T1 provider if they can supply an MPLS network if you are still happy with them - migration is often easier when the same people support old and new networks.

When it comes to tradeoffs then a lot depends on where you operate (e.g. North America).

For example these are the basic positives when selecting MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching).....

MPLS has lots of access link choices - conventional T1 / DS3 etc type circuits also including DSL and Ethernet.

More flexibility - MPLS by default gives you an "any to any" topology, but it can be set up to force traffic thru one or a few hub sites if you need that.

The service could include managed routers at your sites, or you can provide and look after those. You might want to run these yourself - e.g. to encrypt traffic so the provider cannot snoop on your financial info.

Cost effective international links (relative to international T1 at least).

Service "break out" in the MPLS cloud - typically data centre access, IP Telephony external access, Internet access.

Multiple logical networks on one set of physical links - partition different department traffic, or an internal network from an extranet and so on.

One flip side that hasnt been mentioned is that your provider will need to co-operate in managing the IP addressing of your WAN. That may be an advantage or the opposite depending on how you run the current network.

Migration of a big network can be complicated and operational changes like this are always an issue - I prefer to start with planning (as above), as sometimes how you get there defines the best compromise for the final design.

If you'd like free assistance with the entire process ... including finding the provider offering the best fit solution for your applications and specific locations .... simply request help here:

Dedicated Bandwidth Solutions

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Friday, November 05, 2010

Telecom Earnings and the Week in Review



The week ending November 5, 2010 was a busy week in the Telecom world. Some of the earning reports indicated that service providers are experiencing both growth and churn - as buyers seek 'higher' ground for services in a growing competitive market. This week earnings week, Internap (INAP), tw telecom (TWTC), PAETEC (PAET), Cbeyond (CBEY), Cogent (CCOI) adn Abovenet (ABVT) all had their earning calls and releases. The good news is that ratings from industry analysts, such as Cowen state neutral to outperform - showing a net-net positive affect for growth opportunities.

In other news round-up, M&A activity continued as Windstream Corp (WIN) annonced that it has entered into a definitive agreement with ABRY Partners to acquire managed hosting provider Hosted Solutions in an all-cash transaction valued at $310 million.

Global Crossing (Nasdaq: GLBC) also announced its recent acquisitoin of US video fiber network operator Genesis Network. The company expects to lever Global Crossing's international IP connectivity network to build a solid presence in the video transport arena.

Interesting news also came from Telx, the interconnection company. While at FIA in Chicago, the company shared a booth with Interxion, a European-based colocation provider. This week the two companies announced a partnership for global financial colocation which will help colo customers easily locate expansion space on either-side of the Atlantic.

A sweet spot this week was also the Light Reading Ethernet Expo. The picture indicates a packed room for the keynote presentations. Each presentation arena sat over 350 people and were both nearly at capacity for the duration of the 2-day event. The buzz was tremendous and companies explored Ethernet technologies, Ethernet Exchanges, Ethernet delivery solutions, ntework providers and more. A variety of news releases associated with Ethernet were also announced during the Ethernet Expo in NYC this past week. Some of the headlines read: AT&T Gets to 40G Carrier Ethernet, Neutral Tandem and Tinet Connect, Forming Largest Global Ethernet Exchange, Colt connects TO CENX's Carrier Ethernet Exchange in London and New York. Leading industry bloggers such as Telecom Ramblings (Rob Powell) and Data Center Knowledge (Rich Miller) picked up on the bevvy of news as well. Of course the 4 leading Ethernet Exchange providers; CENX, Equinix, Neutral Tandem and Telx all had to turn-up the mic. One of the most impressive announcements came from Neutral Tandem. Just one month after it closed its acquisition of Tinet, a global tier-1 IP backbone provider and wholesale Ethernet and MPLS network operator, the company announced its network integration completion. The combined entity now offers over 100 Points of Presence on its global Ethernet Exchange network solution, propelling the company into the #1 spot in the global Ethernet Exchange Market.

Other news came from Chicago, where the FIA show (as mentioned earlier in association with the Telx/Interxion announcement), Futures Industry Association educated global financial traders on better ways to transport their trading data. Hibernia Atlantic announced that its Transatlantic Cable has seen quite an uptake in Global Financial companies utlizing its network due to its low latency guarantees, quality, uptime and quick delivery.

A busy week indeed and I promise you that this post didn't even cover half of it. A lot is happening out there and I can guarantee you there is more activity to come. The weeks before Thanksgiving are going to continue to be a whirlwind as companies position themselves for the year-end as they plan for the new year.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

More On The Pros And Cons Of MPLS Migration

Cons or Negatives ....

1) First of all you won't find too many "cons" but let me share a few with you that we had run into. First off SOMETIMES the pricing on Frame is so low it's very difficult to justify on price alone to make such a change. Of course when you see the "pros" they typically outweigh a hundred bucks a site or whatever.

2) Typical pains of migration might be your 2nd "con". Anytime you are making a move from one technology to another there will be some issues. Anyone who says there will be no issues is a salesperson in a bad way. The fact is you are installing a new circuit, new equipment, etc. Did they tell you the dmarc had to be extended at EVERY site?

3) The third and I think final issue is having to negotiate a new contract. You are probably out of contract and are feeling free as a bird, aren't you? Well if you want MPLS you are going to have to recommit to more than likely a standard 24 or 36 month agreement. If you are getting free equipment and free activation more than likely you'll be looking at 36 months with most carriers.

Now let's talk about the "pros" or the positives. There are many and I guarantee you I am going to miss many positives just because I am writing off the cuff here.

Pros or Positives ....

1) Pricing is often a huge plus. Yes, I know I said pricing is sometimes a negative. But typically you'll save money on converting a large Frame network with all the PVC charges and outdated Frame bundle pricing to a slick MPLS network. Especially if you are coming off Frame from your typical carriers like Qwest, for example.

2) Better communication between sites. MPLS is fully meshed so each site can communicate to the other site! There's much more to this positive and would take a book to explain it all.

3) Faster internet, more bandwidth, more "throughput" are all benefits of converting to MPLS from Frame Relay. Most of my Frame Relay customers had 1.5 Mbps with a CIR (committed information rate) often of half of that rate or less. That means the carrier will NOT guarantee a full T1 speed of 1.5 Mbps. So on an oversubscribed and congested network, for example a bank, users were complaining that getting into their terminal servers and such was time consuming. They figured they were losing tens of thousands of dollars a month on this alone. This is a common irritation among Frame Relay customers.

4) You now have the option of converging your voice and data network. Converging your networks is the latest thing to do for many reasons. For exampleoing to SIP eventually to save big bucks on your voice network. MPLS is necessary to do this effectively.

5) Fully Meshed Network.

6) QoS.

7) Brand New Equipment.

8) Fast Re-route.

For additional assistance specific to designing just the right MPLS architecture for your network .... go to:

Design An MPLS Network

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Ethernet Peering - The Carrier Quest For Geography Is Over

There has not been a lot of hub-bub about the fact that for the first time carriers can peer their etherent networks instead of using carrier to carrier network to network interfaces called E-NNI.

Why is this important? As a network or internet backboone provider, in order to connect to another carriers network, I used to have to buy a set bandwidth (usually large bandwidth) and cross connect to that single carrier. Using an E-NNI (Network to Network Interface). There was often issues to be engineering out because my ethernet might not be exacxtly the same as yours. Then I would have to sign a bunch of engineering and contract documents. It is very complex. I have to do that for each carrier I want to connect to.

Now I can buy the bandwidth I need and connect to many carriers all through one portal. Ethernet peering is now being offered at seveal telco hotels around the country and the world. Recently the rack and hosting providers have started to expand their offerings with this service.

The game hasn't changed but the field has! Welcome the new little guys to the world and their pricing. It will be interesting.

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BroadBand Nation: Oh The Selection – What Phone Should I Go For Next

I am one of those guys that always has the latest and greatest, meaning living on the bleeding edge – dealing with misconceived GUI’s, unforeseen bugs, and no end of frustration.

When it comes to phones, I have had the latest Windows Mobile device out there, from the old CE and PPC devices to my latest HTC Windows Mobile 6.5 phone.

I have avoided the hyped-up iPhone for one reason – I am am Microsoft geek and never the two shall meet. My friend recently showed me his latest Android phone and I think I might become the latest convert to one of the fastest growing communications interfaces out there.

My questions is, which type of phone is really the best phone for me? I would evaluate the technologies and devices on several criteria, including user interface, speed, application availability, network coverage, and coolness.

1. User Interface

For as long as I can remember, I have had a phone based on Windows, and well it is Windows. Not the slickest, rather slow, and not very inventive, but you have to admit, it takes no training to use the phone if you have ever used a computer. Having full Office apps and access to a plethora of shareware I know and love, makes purchasing a Windows device a safe choice, especially when considering support for my back-end VPN and Exchange servers.

I have dabbled in the Palm and Blackberry technologies, but never really enjoyed the interfaces, so never bought one.

No one can say the iPhone interface is not cool, and I did have iPhone envy for the first months of the initial release until I discovered SPB and the mobile shell that converts my antiquated Windows interface to something as cool as the iPhone, but with some bells and whistles that only us MS people would adore. Even the latest version of the iPhone doesn’t offer much that my shareware offers, but of course they have it all built into the core interface, which is a big plus when I have to flash my phone after loading some stupid app that I can’t remove properly.

I was a happy camper until I saw the HTC G2, I just about fell over with jealousy for the slick interface, speedy menus, and built-in applications that put my HTC Pro 2 to shame.   The simplicity, yet functionality of the new Android system is exactly what a phone should be.

2. Speed

One thing I could always say about my Windows Mobile devices – they were never speedy. Several times a week, I am rebooting it (got an app on my front page for a soft boot); constantly waiting for contact lookups; and even the interminable waiting for the phone to switch from status to keypad so I can enter my conference ID. I always assumed that when I got the newer phone, that it would be faster, only to discover that the system only got more bloated and the phone was just keeping up with the software size -- not getting any faster. I have not met an iPhone fan that has told me they think their phone is slow, so I have to assume that is only my problem.

I would expect an appliance-based device like the Blackberry to be speedy since you don’t have to deal with tons of apps to slow your device down. The Android seems to have taken an entirely new approach, starting with a slim, quick interface that lets you bloat it yourself and to your own detriment.   I have not seen an Android phone yet that is not fast.

3. Application Support

Who has the most apps in their store – that seems to be the biggest challenging all the developers. While there are numerous sites that offer Windows shareware outside of the Microsoft Store, there is no doubt that Apple’s store far out apps them all essentially 100 to 1 with over 180,000 apps compared to about 30K for Android and 2K for MS. But when it comes down to it, how many of those apps are really useful – I am guessing no more than about 50 %.

Also, the iPhone has a slight advantage of a year or more over Android for developers, so with over 5K apps being added every month, you can be sure it will be a pretty even race in the near future.

One advantage the Android store has over Apple is costs – over 50% of the Android apps are free as opposed to only 25% of the Apple apps.  I am sure that no matter what phone I went to, I could find several time-consuming apps to waste my resources and days.

4. Network Coverage

You might say I live in a cellular black hole – only Sprint works worth anything in my house, and I have tried every carrier out there. That has been the one main reason for not choosing an iPhone sooner (that and the fact that I might be converted).

Making a deal with just one carrier did not seem like the smartest thing for me, especially when the carrier chosen by Apple is horrible where I live. I also could not figure out why Apple would bring out an iPhone 4 that does not work on 4G – then again, I never understood marketing people.

With Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Palm and Android, you get to choose your carrier, not being tethered to a single choice. With Sprint deploying 4G in my area this year, I am all over the possibility of a new Android on the new network for true mobile broadband. It might be fast enough to consider getting rid of my local DSL and just tether my computers to my phone when I am home.

With having multiple carriers and phone manufactures available for wishful owners, there is no wonder why Android growth has been 886%, surpassing iPhones as a percentage of the market in September with 27% as opposed to Apples 23%.

Since I am a long-time HTC fan, I am sure the G2 will fit my needs as long as Sprint carriers it or something similar – but that is the advantage of Android – choice.

5. Cool Factor

Blackberry – nice, Windows Mobile – functional, Palm – slick, iPhone – cool, Android – Superb. I am sure you can supply your own adjectives to this exercise, but when it comes down to it, cool only gets you more people looking at your phone, not making your communications easier! I am sure a Porsche is cool, but with 4 small kids, it is not the car for me.

I see several factors pushing my decision for an Android phone, but will it turn me to the dark side or bring me into the light? Whatever the outcome, I am sure I will be sufficiently “cooled”. Luckily, phones are so cheap, I can try Android without much expense before “upgrading” to a real ‘droid phone like the G2.

No matter what my choice and reasons, feel free to comment or make suggestions. That is what this forum is all about – discussing telecom-related issues and products in an open and interesting debate.

Robert Wakefield-Carl, QoS Telesys

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Monday, November 01, 2010

Pros and Cons Of MPLS Migration

When considering a migration to a MPLS data network from your current architecture .... plenty of info is available on the Web. Some resources are given below ... Bluntly, there is no one right answer, it depends on the requirements of your organization. A few questions you need to ask to arrive at the answer are ...

1. Do you plan to ramp up your network ... scale up the number of subscribers? If yes, this a good option. It allows optimum bandwidth usage and is flexible with T1, T3, satellite, and wireless connections. Huge networks can be managed with lesser number of labels for packet forwarding, such that they scale to corporate firm’s network expansion.

2. Cost savings? I am assuming yes for this one ... Depending on the types of applications, MPLS reduces costs by up to 25% over comparable point to point T1 links. With voice (VOIP - voice over internet protocol) and video traffic (video/web conferencing), savings can rise to as much as 40%.

3.Ensure QoS ... One of the main benefits of MPLS networks is the ability to support QoS/CoS, important for companies that run VOIP, videoconferencing, ERP, CRM, etc.

4. What is your budget ...? MPLS is not cheap. Work out your ROI

5. Security ... An improperly configured MPLS network is hard to troubleshoot and leaks user routes.

These were some random thoughts in no particular order. For more detailed discussion of the process you should go through I recommend that you read this article:

Tips on How to Migrate to a MPLS Network Architecture For Your Business

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