Going Over The Top

It’s not just SIP trunks that provide network overlay features and services as we report on the market for inbound call services.

You could say that the market for inbound call services really kicked off when primary rate ISDN (ISDN30 is the BT product name) was launched in the early 1990’s and provided a user feature that was hitherto unavailable, calling line identity  (CLI).

CLI showed, on compatible phones and phone systems, the telephone number of the calling party and so spawned a whole new market for computer telephony integration (CTI).

It all seems a long time ago now but if I recall correctly the first PBX to have ISDN30 interfaces in the UK were the SDX Business Systems Index and the Tie\Communications Onyx. Ascom had already launched their Ascotel ISDN system but this only had an ISDN2 interface and no one then was using basic rate ISDN for voice.

ISDN capability for phone systems pre-dated the Y2K rush/panic for sales but was never the less a great little earner for the PBX resellers of the day. Post Y2K CTI became much more established. but quite frankly ISDN offered little else other than CLI.

When SIP trunks were introduced as an alternative to ISDN the game changed significantly. Once the connectivity element of SIP trunks was ‘stabilised’ in the form of robust and reliable fast pipes CTI began to develop faster and become more widely deployed. Today ISDN is far from dead but it is starting a smell a little and this year it was announced that BT would ‘end of life’ the product in 2025 by which time the telco says we will have completely transitioned to an all IP network in the UK.

CTI is very different today as well. Back in the day the computer element was most definitely based on user premises and plug in PC interface cards provided a good living to the channel. IP networks and communications platforms – a new name for PBX, have obviated the need for much of that hardware but more significantly the deployment of cloud based services and applications is, according to many observers, set to replace the whole customer premises computing and telephony model anyway.

Adding intelligence and functionality to inbound calls is a growing market. If you can, for example, add call recording, then why buy an expensive CPE-based call recorder? If you can add a bit more functionality then why buy an expensive PBX in the first place?

Paul Taylor of Voiceflex notes that his company has been supplying SIP Trunks for 10 years seen the market change considerably,

“It’s not enough to rely on the traditional sales approach. When ISDN was the only option, it was the experienced sales person who explained the features and benefits of the PABX.

Now you have to understand the features and benefits of the PABX, the ISP and the SIP providers, as they are all equally as important as each other. There will always be a need for a PABX; the option is where that PABX is housed – either on-site or in the cloud and whether it’s an individual or multi-tenanted application.”

According to Martin Taylor, Director at Content Guru, adding new applications to inbound SIP trunks is easy via the cloud.

“It doesn’t matter if an organisation is currently using on-premise systems or cloud-based communications services.  Using cloud services, call recording, customer callback and multichannel queuing can be added/removed as required and there’s often no capital expenditure required.

SIP trunking suppliers such as Content Guru can also provide skills and resources to integrate services to existing CRM and back office systems, ensuring a seamless and high value service.”

cti-devicesMartin Taylor says that end user costs range from under £10 to several hundred pounds per user per month dependent on the complexity of the cloud service.  Reseller margins on value-add applications will typically range from 25% to 40% of sale price dependent on the service and sales volumes.

Services that can be offered via SIP are indeed wide ranging and continually being updated and added to as Voiceflex and Content Guru point out.

Paul Taylor of Voiceflex considers the following features for SIP trunks to be ‘table stakes’ for a SIP trunk provider.

Number porting: Not only can the customer port UK numbers; we are porting numbers from around the world.

Number provision: Online access to the provision of telephone numbers UK and worldwide.

Calling line identity (CLI): Voiceflex provides three options: fixed CLI, no CLI or CLI pass through. Any CLI number can be sent providing the user owns the number or has the authority to use the number. For example, if you are selling products and services in Germany you can use a German number for outbound calling and any customer calling you from Germany will use that same number and only pay the local rate from landline or mobile.

Fraud detection is vital for any business with call traffic. Dealing with fraud has never been straightforward and the focus must be on prevention and to ensure the available controls are in place. Voiceflex has those controls, its Advanced Behavioural Based Analysis (ABBA) application detects and stop fraud.

Re-routing: Should users have a problem with data connection or their PABX, via the online portal they can automatically set up inbound numbers to be routed to any telephone number in the world. If the user has 100 DDI numbers, then each number can be routed to an individual number or grouped. An additional option is we provide access to two data centres, so if there’s a problem with the connection to data centre A we will automatically route in and outbound calls from data centre B. Add to this dual data connectivity with dual telephony applications which provides no single point of failure.

Analytics: With the need for information growing Voiceflex’s new integrated analytics utilisation tool provides simple but efficient statistical information on inbound traffic, calls answered, engaged calls and unanswered calls, along with the amount of outbound calls made, all simply accessed via the Voiceflex Partner Portal will help resellers and their customers to monitor, report and fully understand call usage and network capabilities.

Call Recording: The ability to record all in and outbound calls means all calls can be stored on our network.  Users can download and access all calls via a secure online portal, simply and effectively.

Taylor says the sales opportunities are enormous.

“You shouldn’t take the applications as standard, SIP carriers differ on the applications offered and reseller engagement. Fraud protection is paramount, you and your customers should be protected – you would be very surprised to know not all SIP and hosted providers have fraud controls.

The features offered will be new to customers who have been used to ISDN for the last few decades.

It’s no surprise that the sales person who wins the most sales doesn’t sell on price. The principles of selling have never changed; features and benefits selling will win over price every time. If you don’t explain the features of a SIP service you’re selling to your customer they will never know about the potential benefits to their business.”

The Key to Success

Gamma has had a range of inbound services on the market for several years that complement their market leading SIP trunk offering.

Innovatively named, Gamma’s inbound range of services are  ‘packed with features to help customers manage incoming calls, providing greater business efficiency, resilience, flexibility and better customer service,’ the company says.

Putting aside the ‘marketing speak’ Gamma has in fact a wide range of applications here from simple call routing through to comprehensive call centre services and management tools.

The key to Inbound services is that the customer is in control and not reliant on a network operator to make changes on their behalf. Users can do that themselves, enabling them to securely make changes and get instant access to reports that meet their business timescales, not those of the service provider.

Using the Gamma online portal users can set up call plans then see how many calls their business is receiving, how many are answered and how many are missed. They can improve customer service by better managing callers during busy hours, or when their office is closed.

Inbound also provides a ready-made business continuity solution as customers can instantly direct calls to another location, either manually or automatically, should there be an outage or other issue.

As you would expect from Gamma there is some science and market research behind their product offering. So who is Inbound aimed at?

Well with three different services, the company says there is an inbound solution ideal for any business.

Inbound Contact Point is targeted at sole traders or single site businesses that want to set up and change call routing plans according to opening hours and staff availability.

Inbound Contact Path is for multi-site or multi-department organisations looking to route calls by caller identity, by caller location, to the right account manager or for hunt group routing across particular teams.

Lastly, Inbound Contact Pro offers call centre functionality for businesses that place high value on customer service and want to deal with calls more effectively and without missing any.

Although initially launched some years ago the Gamma services have been continually refined over that period and kept up to date. Today users can download a free app (IOS and Android) to manage Inbound numbers anytime, anywhere on a smartphone. Users get access to all the main Inbound call functions – great for making changes on the move or in a disaster recovery scenario – and see their call history, weekly call trends and much more.

The last mile…

We all want to use Voice products and services that ‘Just Work’ but when connectivity is required, it never seems that simple.

Norwich based Voipex launched a new service, Elixir, at the Convergence Summit South. Elixir is an overlay service that is not dependent upon the PSTN, Broadband or Carrier partner you may be using.

ViBE stands for Voice over Internet protocol Bandwidth Enhancer. ViBE Technology overcomes the problems with VoIP over ADSL by treating voice data as priority traffic.

The Elixir service sits above all of these in the cloud overlaying existing services and delivering results immediately to users of SIP trunks and any users of Hosted Telephony. Elixir not only delivers patented ViBE multiplexing to ensure QoS is delivered at byte level rather than packet level but also ensures bandwidth usage is maximised with up to 100 G729 calls per 1MB of bandwidth.

According to Voipex CEO Jonathan nelson Elixir delivers the best failover possible using RAIN mode (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Networks) ensuring that in the event of network failure calls continue uninterrupted on alternative network.

“Elixir also offers Bonding of up to 8 circuits of any type, encryption, multiple fail-over modes and load balancing of traffic. In addition Elixir’s VPLS service delivers MPLS functionality over any bandwidth enabling standard broadband circuits to prioritise the applications the business depends on.

For converged solutions Elixir can offer service for people wanting to use their bandwidth for both Voice and Data traffic and can deliver all of the features above including prioritisation of different data classes to ensure that your bandwidth is used to support the applications a business relies on.

With ViBE Elixir available over any connectivity type (Broadband, 3G/4G, Wi-Fi, Satellite etc.) it’s possible to deploy to your existing customer base without the pain of migrating them to another provider.

The launch of this service delivers a great opportunity for channel partners to create additional recurring revenue streams whilst enhancing their customer retention abilities as well as finally removing the barriers for those yet to adopt VoIP at a network level.”

Elixir is a managed service provided by Voipex from their cloud-based ViBE servers hosted in the UK and elsewhere assuring communications from the customer site to their managed servers in the UK.

Nelson Concludes, “It is simply an ‘Overlay’ service deployed over the top of existing PSTN and Broadband connections. The traffic from these connections is simply routed through the ViBE tunnel established between user sites and our servers and then onwards to providers soft-switches.

If you are taking a ‘Converged ViBE solution’ then the data traffic is forwarded to the internet from our ViBE servers with the voice element being tunnelled onwards. Importantly using ViBE enables you to benefit from guarantees on the last mile of connectivity as well as using the available bandwidth to its maximum potential.”

Ed Says…

Today the key to inbound call features appears to be based upon having SIP trunks although as Gamma has proved with their own extensive range of Inbound, not at all limited to SIP. And remember ISDN still out numbers SIP trunks in the UK many times over. We tend to agree with Paul Taylor when he says the principles of selling have never changed; features and benefits selling will win over price every time. If you don’t explain the features of a SIP service you’re selling to your customer they will never know about the potential benefits to their business.

 

 

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine