Thus pulls out of VoIP and leaves customers to fend for themselves

Had this link sent to me via the industry grapevine today.  Basically Thus  is closing its “Pipecall” voip service and appears to be leaving customers to their own devices.  This isn’t just a case of people going off and finding an alternative provider.  They need to be able to port their numbers. Typically only BT has porting agreements with absolutely everyone so in this case  Thus’ beleaguered customer base is probably stuck with whatever solution (and pricing) BT might be able to offer them. And it might not be a VoIP solution.

Thus is particularly a special case as the company likely hosted its own numbers on its own interconnect to the BT network.  THUS is not a member of industry trade body ITSPA and does not therefore adhere to the ITSPA Code of Practice in which members endeavour to offer porting to other members.  

The Pipecall user base would almost certainly have had more choice had they been dealing with an ITSPA member company.  Many ITSPA members use wholesale partners to host their numbers and interconnects to what is after all a declining network (ie the PSTN – it doesn’t make sense to invest in “old fashioned” network infrastructure). Thus (not very good pun intended) migration between Communications Providers on a wholesale platform is a lot easier.

As it stands Pipecall customers probably now need help with their comms. If anyone wants to get in touch for advice feel free to contact me  directly. I’ve pasted below the content from the Thus/Demon website on this subject for ease of reading. Oh and by the way Timico is just investing in a major VoIP platform infrastructure upgrade.  Watch this space.  We are in it for the long run.

Why is my account being cancelled?
THUS has made the decision to close the platform which carries the service you are currently using.

Why are you putting an end to the service?
The platform has reached the end of its serviceable life. It is not possible for THUS to effectively maintain it and deliver acceptable levels of reliability, performance and security and as such, the decision has been taken to close it.

What are you putting in place or what are you offering to do with our numbers?
There will not be a directly comparable Voice Over Broadband service available from THUS. See below on how to port your numbers to an alternative provider.

What is being done with my details that are held in your database / system?
These will be deleted.

How do I port my numbers?
Customers wishing to port their numbers should contact BT. If they select an appropriate product from them, BT will port the numbers over themselves when the service goes live.

What will happen to the personalised IVR on my service?
As the service is closed all IVR functionality will be lost. Customers will need to replicate what they had with their preferred new service provider.

What will happen to my stored faxes etc on the control panel?
This functionality will be lost with the service termination.

Will my hardware work with any provider?
We can’t guarantee that it will. However the Voice over Broadband service was built using industry standards, so should your new service also be SIP based, your hardware should still function.

What if I need to collect previous CDR data or invoices post the closure date?
These will be available for 3 months afterwards.

When will the system close?
The system is due to close at the end of September.

I’ve heard about the cease of service but I haven’t received my letter of notice?
The letters were all sent out to our customers registered addresses at the end of August.

While the numbers are being ported, will that cause any downtime to my service?
No. Should your new provider follow the correct procedure there should be no downtime.

Will support still be available after the closure date?
As the service will no longer be operational support will not be available.

I am still within my 12 month contract, will that cease also?
Yes

I am in credit on my account, will that be paid to me in full?
Yes – Please contact Customer Services by email via [email protected] or via telephone on 0845 009 0080 (Contactable between 9am-5:30pm Mon-Fri) so that we can arrange for any outstanding payments to be made to you.

How long does it take to port a number?
You will need to speak to your new provider to find out the timescales.
The minimum lead time is 5 working days but your new provider may take longer.

Published by Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of trefor.net, writer, poet, philosopherontap.com

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  1. Trefor Davies

38 Comments

  1. Your Communications legacy or did Thus take on voip itself? I think the whole thing was just a shambles from start to finish. Another waste of public funding when all it did was enable BT exchanges and still there are many areas of Lancs and Cumbria with no internet access at all.

  2. It was originally developed based on open source platforms by Pipemedia who were bought by Legend who were bought by Thus. I couldn’t quite understand why Thus kept the Pipemedia platform when they had an all singing all dancing leading edge Nortel platform to play with (or so I understand). Cable & Wireless also have the same Nortel platform but I guess aren’t interested in the small businesses that signed up originally with Pipemedia. Being a homemade platform it was probably to difficult and costly for Thus to support.

  3. My business is unfortunately one of these “small” businesses that signed up to Thus’s hype of VoiP being the future and plied all of our telecommunications into it to the extent that as from 30th September we will have no phones unless we change our ISP and hosting to BT (they say they cannot port the numbers without using their broadband???) or change to another provider and change numbers plus stationery, business cards, website and notify all contacts.
    Is there no other solution to this whilst keeping our existing numbers (we have 2 lines and will need to expand to more)?
    Thanks.

  4. Trefor. I have come across http://www.tpad.com, who are able to assist customers who have been left in the lurch with this announcement. The service is able to port existing numbers, replicate IVR’s and route over IP. Worth a try for anyone needing to get sorted quickly and within minimal impact to their business.

  5. James
    I’ll speak with BT for you tomorrow. It may be we can do something through their wholesale division. Their physical porting of the number will not be dependant on you using their broadband.Although it is usually better to use the same supplier for both broadband as voip it isn’t absolutely necessary – it’s just that support becomes easier – voip provider can’t blame broadband provider in the event of a problem – also it is easier for a single supplier to control quality though the hundreds of voip only providers out there will probably not agree with me.
    Tref

  6. Hi Tref,

    I know that aql can port Thus/C+W/C+W(Energis) numbers, so we should be ok to help move anyone that gets stuck.

    Because it’s not business as usual, best thing to do is to phone direct in on 01133 20 30 30 and we’ll do some digging and try and help.

    Cheers

    Adam

  7. Thanks everyone for your replies.
    BT have since got back to me to say they may be able to simply port the numbers over.
    I wait with interest!!

    Cheers

  8. Similarly to all others we received notification on the 12th Sept a Saturday of termination on the 31st September. The issue here is not the VoIP service, can can procure and setup SIP/IAX trunking for many vendors and it’s quick and simple. The impact is with the inbound Non Geographics Numbers (NGN).

    It seems the only person that Pipecall has a porting agreement with is BT, in discussion with BT they advised that the porting may well take up to 20 days, they also have an amassing charging structure of £10 per number per month and something like 3.5p per minute for all inbound 0845 numbers. Clearly a finacial burden that the majority of SME will not except especially if they have multiple 0845 numbers.

    The situation gets even more perverse,

    The range owner for our numbers is THUS not Pipecall, having discussed this with the THUS porting team it appears they are unable to port the numbers to THUS from Pipecall, even though they own them and are the range holder.

    I have tried to call the so called Product Director a Dan Cole, who’s name the letter came in and he is being screened by his PA and voicemail, he has not returned my calls. I have raised a complaint through the Pipecall help desk, this was defined as their customer complaint escalation process again I have not received a response. It is typical of a C&W managed organisation that their management is of such poor calibre that they are not prepared to defend their decisions and hide behind their secretaries skirts and front office staff. I can say that with some experience having worked there for 10 years.
    C&W has a long and sordid history of poorly implemented acquisitions and failed integrations, these have almost without exception led to loss of shareholder value and enormous customer dissatisfaction.
    It is imperative that C&W/THUS take a more customer centric approach to the ceasing of the Pipecall NGN services, if there are others who would like to join us in urgently putting pressure on C&W/THUS to re-structure the closure of the Pipecall platform please contact me, I have posted contact details below.

    All we are asking for is that the numbers can be ported to the THUS NGN platform prior to the Pipecall platform being decommissioned, this does not sound unreasonable.

    Justin Millner – DSM Systems
    [email protected]

  9. Justin,

    I too have been offered the same ridiculous package from BT which defeats the whole point of VoIP.

    However I did contact OfCom who surprisingly knew nothing of this so maybe the more people who contact them the more pressure they will be under to do something about this.
    Their perception is that it is up to the gaining provider to contact the losing provider and set up a porting agreement.
    Should the losing provider (in this case Thus/C&W) refuse then OfCom would investigate them due to uncompetitiveness and trying to tie up a market share.

    I also contacted Thus on a service I had not seen advertised by them before “VoiP and WebConnect” however I was informed that this is also not being continued (only set up last month I am led to believe?).

    They also informed me that the VoIP department had asked Thus/C&W to extend the termination date by at least a couple of weeks due to the lateness of letter receipts and were told emphatically it could not be done.

    I feel that Thus/C&W should delay the termination until they have at least resolved the porting and service migration issues.

  10. Please follow link below to Thus’ exciting new product press release dated 12 August 2009 although told will also cease ?????
    If you read the article you will see my scepticism – “no need for expensive BT ISDN????
    So why can’t Thus transfer us over after all it is still SIP based?
    I have asked the question – let’s see their excuse!!

    http://www.thus.net/media-centre/latest-news/302212/120809_thus_cuts_costs_through_single_connection.html

  11. Has anyone posting here found an alternative supplier that is able to take on old Pipecall numbers?

    AQL told me this morning that numbers that were originally ‘Pipemedia’ can not be ported over to their service. They said this was a development they learned of this morning. They can, however, port over Thus numbers.

    I’ve also contacted a number of other companies today, including Timico, and whilst all of them knew about the situation, none of them have phoned me back with an answer as to whether or not they can help. It’s not looking good 🙁

    Si

  12. I have just telephoned Thus to see about this exciting new product VoIP and Web Connect and after informing them of our current setup (Demon Broadband both home and office and 2 Pipecall VoIP lines) guess what? – a dedicated business manager is going to be in touch to discuss transfer!
    I will post my discussions as soon as I find out what can be done but it would appear Thus/C&W are being a little economical with the truth here.

  13. Hi all,

    We have 3 NGN 0845’s which we use on an asterisk box within our office, we too recieved this Monday 14th of Sep “30 days” (my ar*e) notice regarding the discontinuation of pipecall service.

    I have in the past tried to see if we could port our numbers to another provider and hit the “minefield” that most googled companies actually no “sod all” about being SIP compliant nevermind PORTING agreements.

    That was 2 years ago and in the end we just stuck with pipecall/legend/demon/thus/c&w!!!

    It seems our options are all leading to a far from “yellow” brick road all ending up at the foot of “lets stifle future technologies” with uncompetitive prices BT!

    I dont want to end up with BT as frankly and from what Justin Millner states they are expensive and defeat the whole idea of deploying VOIP in the first place.

    I didnt spend hours and hours (and hours) learning to use asterisk after giving up on NCH of australia onto FreePBX asterisk based software deployed from the PBX-In-A-Flash environment to have to listen to some knobhead at BT trying to con me.

    Please advise me if you can, as we need a supplier whom offers:-

    1. SIP trunks.
    2. Might be able to port our 3 NGN’s (formally pipecall).
    3. Allows DOD’s to be masked as long as you have a range with them.
    4. Allows multiple outgoing calls over same SIP registration.
    5. Allows multiple incoming calls over same SIP registration.
    6. Offers a fallback diverts via online control panels in emergencies!
    7. Sensibly priced or free/PAYG NGN lines if possible like pipecall had!

    Aside from that thank fu*k we just held back on our rebranding printing and customer update with new catalogues etc!

    There is a recession on and these as*holes have taken the proverbial biscuit and broke it off in the tea!

    Please, please, please and please help,

    Chris Martin – Teccom Ltd – 0845 8900 844 (but not for long!!!!)

  14. If anyone does contact Watchdog it would be worth pointing them tio the comment trail on this blog post – there’s quite a bit of interesting information in here

  15. Chris Martin – your post might as well have been written by me – your experiences with VOIP, NCH of Australia and Asterisk, plus your feeling towards BT are uncannily similar to mine!!

    Back on topic – I’ll happily go on Watchdog too 🙂

  16. Hi All,

    Can anyone post some information regarding the headings or a ref number perhaps where we can all join in the Watchdog complaint?

    James Carrick, whats the Ofcom complaint number you have so that we too can perhaps contact Ofcom without playing the old broken record?

    Thanks all,

    Chris

  17. Hi

    We may be able to help you guys out.

    We are a VoIP specialist who work mainly in the SME market. We are not a massive company, but a small one that believes that good products and great customer service rewards us with good referrals and happy customers.

    We can supply SIP and IAX connections to any of you that have Asterisk boxes in house. If anyone has hosted services that need replacing and just need to replicate your IVR and supply extensions then we can also do this for you.

    We have a range of plans including 3 users and 500 minutes free for only £20 per month including the IVR services, but call us and we will try and match anything else that is out there at the moment. Look for us on ebay – “the voip shop” or search for “voip telephone systems”, and you can see much of what we can do for people. We have lots of very happy customers and we are more than happy for you to call them and get their own experiences.

    We can also arrange port ins for those of you who are stuck at the moment. My recommendation to you however would be to start moving across to an 0844 number as quickly as possible as 0845s are being dropped by most suppliers now because of the lack of revenue under the new regs. We can supply 0844 numbers free of charge, and have a range of very good numbers available if anyone needs them.

    If theres anything that we can do to help or if you need any advice then please feel free to give me a call during working hours.

    Alan
    Storm
    0844 4414444

  18. The Ofcom complaint reference is 1127504269 although they said unless Thus refuses to allow a porting request there isn’t much they can do.
    The ref no. has been held in case this or something else crops up so if anyone has hard evidence that Thus are refusing a porting agreement from a gaining provider then they will act as uncompetitive means.
    The heading I gave my email to Watchdog was simply Thus/C&W.

  19. I thought I’d supply a few additional comments here.

    BT Wholesale have told me that they can port Thus numbers into IP Exchange which is their wholesale voip platform. I have asked them to clarify whether they can specifically port the Pipecall numbers – they came originally from Pipemedia and lilkely don’t sit on Thus’ main infrastructure, hence the difficulty for service providers who thought they had a porting arrangement with Thus.

    I’m hoping that BT will confirm on Monday in which case I will update all concerned. Whether the lead times associated with a port would allow this to happen before the end of the month I doubt but we shall see.

    Secondly if you are looking for new numbers as an alternative there are a few things to be wary of. VoIP providers originally provided their customers with free 0845 numbers because they could make some money on the inbound leg. This isn’t much money but a bit more than they can on geographics.

    Then the market evolved and we were able to supply geographic numbers which, unsurprisingly really, is what most companies want. Part of the rationale for this is that non geographic numbers are not included in mobile minute bundles that the Likes of Vodafone,O2, Timico et al now provide. So it makes your mobile bill more expensive if your office phone is an 08xx number.

    Next Ofcom has clamped down on 0870s because people, me included, thought they were getting ripped off when calling such a number. Actually I didn’t mind callign an 0870 as long as someone answered the phone. It is when I am put into a long queue or a complex IVR tree is when I objected. The clampdown was originally going to be for 0845s as well but Ofcom held back on this so service providers still offer these and make their reasonable margin on them.

    0844s have not been affected by the Ofcom ruling either. Typically (though not always) 0844s are more expensive to call than an 0845 so this could also be a factor for a customer in chosing a number.

  20. One further comment in this trail. I have been contacted directly by a number of Pipecall customers and for those who are able to take new numbers we are already starting to provision services.

    Although I keep this blog independent from my day job at Timico I think that in the interest of fairness, and seeing other providers have been doing so, I should plug our VoIP service.

    Timico is one of the oldest established Internet Telephony Service Providers in the UK. It was a founder member of ITSPA, the industry trade association, one of the few service providers to date to achieve the ITSPA Quality Mark, and winner of the ITSPA Award for the best Unified Communications VoIP provider in 2008.

    If you want to chose a VoIP partner you can trust then call me on 0845 258 0235 🙂 If I’m not in the office I’ll pick it up on my mobile.

  21. Hi All,

    We have decided to make the leap in losing our NGN’s and move to standard local geo’s.

    To be honest when we started our company back in 2001 we moved office 3 times upto 2005 and finally planned another move as each time we outgrew our office space, the issue was PSTN didnt allow a STD to move with us so we decided to deploy VOIP and use a NGN which enabled us to keep our number for good.

    Well them days are gone, probably as a THUS commercial decision more to do with 0845 than any of the reasons they have peddled in their letters!

    Our experience is also since having the NGN’s a lot of our customers wont answer their phones thinking its just a non-faced call centre cold call, so with the advent of geo STD’s which can move with you forever via SIP/IAX trunks we will be doing just that, the benefits to our customers is also a bonus.

    Dont go the 0844 route unless you are a company that can handle it, in other words if OFCOM decided to hit 0844 like they did 0845’s then its a no-brainer, steer clear, we cant handle this as we are a traditional service based company (Air-Con, CCTV & Fire etc) who need to keep numbers, not launch new ones everytime we take a new ad out!

    Regards to BT we are very annoyed as they are the “architecture” of telephony but totally crap, they have no need to offer you a decent VOIP service and want to charge for anything and everything as do some of the other alternatives out there.

    If you have the gual go to PBX-in-a-flash and build yourself a little Asterisk box, you wont regret it, what kills me is the hosted systems out there and their offerings, per extension, voicemail, conference costs, if you want something the be prepared to pay a per-bolt-on monthly cost!

    Most of this stuff is free really, thats right free, you can potentially do anything with Asterisk and these guys like BT want to charge you hundreds each month before you make a call!

    Regards to adverts on this page I havent given Storm a go but have tried multiple others and from someone who has looked and hopefully without blowing my own trumpet technically savvy, I will be going with Timico.

    The ultimate reason for me came down to two factors after approaching multiple companies with the questions I originally posed in my first post:-

    1. In/Out calls over a trunk, Timico has no limit, only bandwidth will potentially stop a call in or out, most providers want you to buy more trunks and limit your calls artificially against the number of trunks you subsrcibe to, this really is a nonsense as UDP allows multiple connections.

    2. PPM (pence-per-minute) – Wow there are some rip-offs out there, when we started using VOIP I remember local numbers starting a fractions of a penny, the last few years however a penny per min should be average, however there are providers ask for 5PPM!

    The only thing I was a little dissapointed about Timico with was a lack of a http admin panel, its not really crucial as we have CDR’s etc build into our Asterisk box, but its nice to have a failover.

    If anyone wants any advice then I advise they contact me on my old number below.

    All the best,

    Chris Martin (0845 8900 844 for 10 MORE DAYS ONLY!!!!)

  22. I’m pleased to say that Voipfone can port Pipecall’s numbers, can do it for free AND provide a better an cheaper service.

    Info here:

    http://www.voipfoneuserforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=3736

    Voipfone has been in service for over 5 years and is a founder member of ITSPA, the Internet Telephony Services Association.

    ITSPA has about 70 members including BT, Google, Vonage and Orange. ITSPA has a Code of Best Practice which allows the porting of numbers between them at the request of a customer or the failure of a company – so you know your numbers are safe.

  23. I have had a few discussions with them however they appear to really only offer a hosted route:-

    …Start Quote..
    Dear Chris

    Thanks for taking the time to contact Voipfone.

    Our service is a hosted PBX service and not designed to work with DDI’s on an asterisk system as such. It will work, but needs seperate trunks for each number.
    …End Quote…

    That said there seems to be a work around, I like however the fact that they dont limit simultaneous calls and their minimum call charge is only 1PPM.

    But compared to Timico they charge twice the amount per number monthly which for us equates to around 300-400 calls under 1-2mins to make a difference based Timicos 3PPM min call charge.

    What again cemented it for us is the mobile calling costs as we often have to ring key people in our client organisation on the mobiles, we choose to do this from the office phone so they get used to calling our office not mobiles, these costs were just under 30% cheaper PPM with Timico.

    We are attempting the free 0845 transfers at the same time though as a back up and very kindly they are offering this service for free which is normally £20 per number.

    Chris

  24. I called Timico last week and was promised a call back but have not heard anything?

    We’re looking at transferring at least 2 Pipecall 0845 numbers, ideally we’d like to transfer all our numbers (about 8 i think) but realistically that may not be an option. We’d like to eventually move over to geographical numbers, but this is a process that will take time! We just want a basic sip trunk (as basic as it comes – as provided by Pipecall!) for incoming and outgoing calls, and with no PBX features (we’ve got Asterisk for that)…

    Tref – or anyone at Timico, is this something you can offer? 🙂

  25. We are a small business and totally miffed that a company can only give 2 weeks notice that they are withdrawing the numbers!

    It sounds like Ofcom doesn’t really care…surely they can’t just withdraw the service, but it looks like they can!

    It’s going to be a tough couple of weeks trying to get all new paper printed etc…..

    Darren

  26. Hi All,

    We are currently in the porting process for the pipecall 0845’s x 3 which we had now with Voipfone, they are offering this for free.

    No discredit to Timico as until this morning I was going with them (DD Mandate signed!) but ultimately we ended up with Gradwell for the new Geo numbers we have taken.

    But we will keep Voipfone on for the incoming for 3-6months why we gradually get our customers used to the new numbers.

    I agree with Darren this whole thing stinks and with sales guys standing around wondering how we contact our customers without giving them a long standing number we have lost an absolute packet.

    Chris

  27. Voipfone have offered to port the numbers for free.
    We have moved our service to them and hopefully will be all sorted by the end of the month.
    Has anyone heard back from Watchdog because even though it now looks like most of us have an alternative at the end of the day it has still been left to us to sort out Thus/C&W’s mess?

  28. Well, we’re in a mess with this. Having agreed to port our 020… Pipemedia/Legend/Thus number to Sweet Telecom, they called me half an hour ago to say they couldn’t do it for some unknown reason and I had to try BT. I’ve tried BT who insist that they cannot port a VOIP number because it does not exist in an exchange.

    Any advice about where to go from here would be appreciated as no one will be able to call us on Monday.

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