Confessions of a Telecommunications Provider. Five things you MUST know about Global Voice over IP (VoIP) Providers

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1 Confessions of a Telecommunications Provider Five things you MUST know about Global Voice over IP (VoIP) Providers 1

2 Contents 3 Introduction 5 Aren t all VoIP networks the same? 6 Delivery is everything! 7 Show me the money! 8 What happens when things go wrong? 9 Size matters questions to ask your prospective provider 12 The Tata Communications journey Five things you need to know about Global Voice over IP This ebook is meant to guide anyone interested in evaluating VoIP providers. You will walk away with greater insight into five key areas to help in your assessment. The end of this paper includes specific questions to discuss with any global VoiP provider in order to ensure you acquire the solution that best fits your needs. 3

3 Aren t all VoIP networks the same? Providers, global and regional, have a tendency to state they are a VoIP (i.e., Voice over IP) provider. While this may be true in a particular country or region, there are very few providers that are actually 100% VoIP. The extent of a carrier s VoIP infrastructure is essential to understand because VoIP has two main advantages over its predecessor, Time-Division Multiplexing (i.e., TDM): Greater flexibility for connectivity, routing and disaster recovery Tata Communications has the world s largest global 100% VoIP network with VoIP switches on five continents. An important factor to consider is how a VoIP provider delivers premise-to-switch connectivity. Most global VoIP providers use MPLS as the protocol of choice. However, the critical piece is where the access circuit is physically terminated. Some carriers will terminate the access circuit directly to the switch to gain better latency figures through direct connectivity. Make sure to ask them what happens if the card or the VoIP switch you are connected to fails. In almost all cases, voice services for this location will be lost. The preferred method for access termination is for the provider to connect the last mile circuit on its MPLS network Provider Edge (i.e., PE) router. With this approach, if the switch does fail, the provider has the ability to automatically reconnect you to the next nearest VoIP switch with little to no downtime, essential for disaster recovery planning. You should ask how calls are routed from region to region throughout the areas of the world where you need coverage. If the provider is not 100% VoIP worldwide, packet routing will vary from one location to another resulting in different qualities of service based on the originating and destination locations. In a 100% VoIP environment, calls should traverse as few hops as possible. By keeping the calls on the MPLS network as long as possible, the quality of the end-to-end call will increase. Greater cost efficiencies Cost efficiencies can be realized in both the network and access layers. In the network layer, cost efficiencies are achieved by smoothly scaling switch-to-switch connectivity and reducing the actual number of connections required. In a TDM environment, switchto-switch connectivity uses traditional speeds like T1, E1, DS-3, and STM-1. This produces a scalability slope very much like a stairway, flat for a while with a vertical rise to the next step or functional speed. This is very different from Ethernet type circuits typically used in a VoIP network, where scalability is a steady slope. This allows you to purchase bandwidth that is closely aligned with your usage without having to purchase more than you would like. Larger economies of scale can also be realized in the access layer. Typically the protocol used to transport VoIP packets to a voice switch from customer premises is MPLS. By combining data and voice on a single access circuit to customer premises, cost efficiencies can be realized. This single circuit can also be scaled up in much finer increments than is possible with TDM circuits. 4 5

4 Delivery is everything Show me the money Today Tata Communications can provide Toll-Free services in over 100 countries and Toll (DID) services in 50+ countries Tata Communications owns a round-theworld fiber ring that accounts for nearly 25% of all the lit undersea fiber capacity in the world. While having a large global VoIP network is a great starting point, knowing how the call is delivered either to the caller from the VoIP network (inbound calling) or from the VoIP network to the final destination (outbound calling) is just as important. In most cases, large Multi-National Corporations (i.e. MNCs), maintain two voice infrastructures. The first is the internal network used for the day-to-day operations of the corporation. This network usually encompasses all of the MNC locations and has the ability to make and receive calls using connectivity to the local PSTN. The quality of the network that receives the call from the originating caller or delivers it out to the final destination is what counts. If you receive price quotes that are substantially less expensive to others, be sure to ask who their PSTN provider for the call will be. The provider can probably deliver on the price quoted, but the quality of the call will, in most cases, be much lower than the Tier-1 or Tier-2 carriers in that country. If call quality is important, it is not always best to select the cheapest option without additional due diligence. A MNC may have a second external network to carry voice traffic to and from contact centers or help desks. In these cases, focus on the ability to get the call from the caller to the right contact center or help desk. A VoIP provider can have a large global network, but if they do not have the ability to provide toll and/or toll-free services in the locations where the customer base is located, the advantage of a large global network is questionable. Ask for a list of the countries where the carrier can provide both of these services. Moving to a VoIP network from a traditional network using the same carrier should result in immediate 10% - 30% cost reductions depending on the calling patterns from your locations and where in the world you operate. These savings are made through the more efficient utilization of access circuits. Additional cost reductions can be realized on your voice service by 1) handling calls between sites on-net, and 2) by purchasing off-net calls centrally through the VoIP provider instead of negotiating contract on a site-by-site basis where only local minutes can be leveraged when requesting discounts. There can also be economies of scale savings on network access. Most service providers with the ability to provide SIP and data services can use the same physical access circuit for both. In regions like Europe, where centralized SIP services are available, PRI lines to the incumbent carrier in each country are no longer needed. Centralized services allow the global SIP provider to interconnect with local service providers at a few central points and provide you with local inbound, outbound and emergency dialing capabilities without sacrificing the efficiencies realized by the removal of existing PRI lines. And finally, as with an internal network, it is prudent to be wary of a carrier whose costs are significantly cheaper than competitors. 6 7

5 What happens when things go wrong? Size matters Outages In a perfect world, there would be no issues with natural disasters affecting backbone networks and last mile circuits. In our imperfect world, outages will occur and therefore you must prepare for them by understanding how they affect your business. Your carrier must recognize, identify and mitigate all issues on your behalf. Request your provider to share with you how the affected services will be restored at another location through re-routing and the amount of time to resolve the outages. It is important to comprehend the relationship the VoIP provider has in the local environments in which you operate, and who has responsibility for the restoration of these outages. There is nothing worse than getting caught in the middle of a dispute between your provider and their partner while your locations are out of service. The back-and-forth between multiple parties only adds to the delay of fixing your problem. Because Tata Communications network is 100% VoIP the ability to reroute calls between cities, countries and continents is easily accomplished. When assessing the various voice providers, consider their ability to service your traffic. This derives in part from the size of their network and the source of their network capacity. If, for example, a provider has to purchase capacity on the open market, it must try to recoup costs by running switch-to-switch trunks at a very high average utilization. Under normal circumstances this is fine, but what happens if one or more of those inter-switch trunks fail? Your voice traffic will be safer with a provider that operates at lower utilization levels who can allocate additional switchto-switch trunks from capacity that they own. This is why it is imperative to gain clear insight as to where the provider s capacity is obtained and its capacity management guidelines for the network. Items such as the average and peak inter-switch trunk utilization, and the average time to upgrade inter-switch trunk circuits should be factored into the decision-making process when choosing VoIP providers. It s always best to look for sustainable prices based on economies of scale rather than special introductory prices. That way you can be confident that prices will remain lower over the long-term. Tata Communications has direct relationships with over 1,000 carriers globally, enabling great price points and first grade service. Re-routing calls It is vital you have a clear understanding of your VoIP provider s automatic re-routing capabilities. This point is especially important for contact centers and help desks where outages can affect the perception of your brand and your ability to generate revenues. Any downtime at these locations will adversely affect your bottom line. While essential to wrap your arms around problem resolution and service restoration in the event of outages, it is also important to know how to access the VoIP providers Service Assurance (i.e., SA) resources. Does the VoIP provider provide support round the clock 365 days per year? Is there a single number to call for the outage regardless of the problem from last mile to voice quality issue? Do the people who answer the phones have the ability to solve the problem or do they just receive your information, generate a ticket number and pass along the issue to another VoIP provider center that eventually calls you back? A VoIP provider who has a SA center dedicated to voice services and has the ability to handle most data issues, like last mile outages, is a provider worth a second look. Every Tata Communications SA staff member is CCNP Cisco Certified. 85% of issues reported to our Enterprise Voice support center are resolved during the 1st call, by the 1st respondent. If the VoIP provider you are talking to is truly global, not only will it have sufficient voice minutes with which to trade with the various carriers around the world, it will also have minutes to terminate in virtually every country and territory on earth. This allows for direct interconnects with more countries and territories, instead of having to access them through another VoIP provider. Direct connects to a country or territory will allow a VoIP provider to resolve local issues in a more expedient manner thanks to its direct relationship with the carriers. International Wholesale Market Share of Major Carriers 18.0% 16.0% 14.0% Market Share 12.0% 10.0% 8.0% 6.0% 4.0% 2.0% FY09 FY10 FY11 8 9

6 Conclusion - remember this! When you are talking with prospective VoIP providers they may initially seem similar. By asking questions like the ones below, you may better distinguish key differences among them to determine which can best install, monitor, and manage in the areas of the world where you need services. 10 questions to ask your prospective VoIP provider 1. If calls at your contact center become unavailable for any reason, how will your customers calls still reach a location with skilled people to handle those calls? 2. Does the VoIP provider have the ability to route failover calls intra-regionally and inter-regionally? 3. Are there any additional costs on either per unit call or per minute basis for these re-routed calls? There shouldn t be! The Tata Communications journey In 2008, Tata Communications reviewed its voice business to determine how Enterprises and Carriers would be utilizing voice networks in the future. After consulting with external sources including analysts and customers about the future networking requirements like collaboration and usage of smart devices, Tata Communications concluded that it needed to overhaul its entire voice infrastructure by replace the existing TDM-based network with Voice over IP (VoIP). The replacement of a global voice network would not be an easy task, especially for the world s largest provider of international voice minutes. This challenging undertaking would involve moving over 1 million active voice ports connected to the existing TDM network to a new 100% VoIP platform, and investing millions of dollars with no expectation of revenues until the entire project was completed. The implementation and migration took almost 2 years. By early 2011, the last customer was migrated and all of the TDM equipment turned off. Today the Tata Communications network is not only the largest international VoIP network; it is the largest international voice network of any kind, based on the number of international switched minutes. This new network now handles over 1 billion minutes of voice traffic weekly, which accounts for over 18% of all international voice minutes. Tata Communications carries more minutes than the next two carriers combined. 4. How are the last mile circuits connected to the provider VoIP network, directly or via MPLS? 5. How is Region-to-Region routing handled? 6. Does the provider use Ethernet connectivity for it s last mile connections to your premises? 7. In what geographic locations can the provider sell you Toll and Toll-free access for your Contact Centers? 8. Who are the partners the providers works with in each of the countries in which you need voice services? 9. What are the circuit utilization metrics that they provider use for both customer access and trunk circuits? 10. In the event of a failure, how is the outage handled and from what locations? 10 11

7 Tata Communications Limited 2355 Dulles Corner Boulevard Suite 700 Herndon, VA Contact us Web: Phone: About Tata Communications Tata Communications Limited along with its subsidiaries (Tata Communications) is a leading global provider of a new world of communications. With a leadership position in emerging markets, Tata Communications leverages its advanced solutions capabilities and domain expertise across its global and pan-india network to deliver managed solutions to multi-national enterprises, service providers and Indian consumers. The Tata Communications global network includes one of the most advanced and largest submarine cable networks and a Tier-1 IP network with connectivity to more than 200 countries and territories across 400 PoPs, as well as nearly 1 million square feet of data centre and collocation space worldwide. Tata Communications depth and breadth of reach in emerging markets includes leadership in Indian enterprise data services, leadership in global international voice, and strategic investments in South Africa (Neotel), Sri Lanka (Tata Communications Lanka Limited) and Nepal (United Telecom Limited). Tata Communications Limited is listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India. 12

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