When Considering VoIP, Carefully Choose the Proper Gateway

By John Pope

Over the years, I have talked to many call center owners and managers that have migrated to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and then regretted not considering the proper gateway for both their current and future needs. Here is a scenario that has been played out over the years countless times:

The VoIP provider and gateway is installed without any issues, runs smoothly for months, and then one morning the call center begins receiving complaints that calls are not coming in thru the VoIP gateway. A call is placed to the VoIP reseller, and they in turn place a trouble ticket with the VoIP provider. Several hours later, the determination is made that the gateway needs to be updated due to a new network RFC (Request for Change) that was implemented during the night, and changes must be made in the gateway for it to work again. Several more hours pass, waiting for a certified technician who charges an hourly rate to repair or change the gateway so it will work with the new RFC. By the end of the day, the call center is finally back up and running, but with many upset clients to deal with – and a bill from the technician that fixed the problem.

Does this sound familiar?  Don’t be too surprised, because this could happen more frequently in the future. While SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) offers better pricing and a larger audience of potential customers, consideration must be given to who is going to support the site when SIP changes occur in the future – and these changes will happen. Many call centers do not have an answer to that question, but it’s a good question to be asking now.

Even new users considering VoIP need to carefully consider the entire “package” before switching to VoIP. While SIP is mostly used today to replace the traditional telephone connections via gateways, it is important to consider what is likely coming in the next few years in terms of SIP-specific technology changes, such as:

  • Video conferencing
  • High-definition audio
  • SIP nationwide one number
  • SIP calling party identification and routing
  • Color JBIG fax
  • Peer-to-peer intelligent time of day routing between call centers (client sharing)
  • Click-to-talk
  • Future request for changes (RFC) to the SIP protocol

The list goes on. What many people do not know is that numerous gateways that have been purchased over the last few years – and possibly even today – might not support these features or capabilities. This could affect service to new markets or requirements in just a few years. Therefore, the intended savings in converting to SIP might be offset by having to purchase new gateways with new features and capabilities.

While SIP is just starting to become mainstream, it is important to consider the package that is being purchased to support it. Shop around and don’t always take what is recommended by VoIP providers; they are often commissioned salespeople and don’t really care about the future ramifications of what they are selling. Choose a company that works closely with VoIP providers, one that anticipates changes prior to them happening in the field and causing widespread outages.

In fact, during the last few weeks there have been two new RFCs that have just been approved for SIP. While these changes take months before they are implemented in the field, one of these RFCs will require a gateway change for it to work.

Moving forward, carefully choose a company with experience and a good record of accomplishment in the SIP markets. Make sure the company directly sells and supports the gateways and can make changes quickly when they occur.

John Pope is the president of CenturiSoft and can be reached at john.pope@centurisoft.com or 800-866-1929 x124.

[From Connection Magazine November 2010]

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