Business voip

VoIP number porting – telecom industry needs to sort it out

VoIP number porting as a problem has been brought to the fore this year as Cable & Wireless and Tesco closed down their services. In the case of the former it was the service of one of its acquired businesses and Tesco were let down by Australian provider Freshtel who retrenched to their home market.

Both sets of customers had a torrid time trying to find new homes for their services and numbers. This was because there were no porting agreements in place for either service provider.

At the recent Parliament and Internet Conference a C&W/Thus customer Gareth Jamie of eoffice turned up to tell the audience of the problems he had had. It took him 45 days to find a new home for his VoIP and £10k of credits for unhappy customers of his managed workspace business.

This is a measurable effect of the problem which is that whilst the larger telcos will happily port numbers between themselves there are a further 300 or so small operators with their own number ranges with who they don’t have

Business UC voip

ITSPA Awards move to BT Tower in 2011

BT Tower (source Wikipedia)I was at a busy IP Expo yesterday for an Internet Telephony Service Providers’ Association (ITPSA) council meeting and launch of the ITSPA 2011 Awards. ITSPA is sponsoring sister event UC Expo which is being held at Olympia on 8/9 March 2011.

The ITSPA Awards have attracted growing interest in the VoIP community since their inception 3 years ago. We have traditionally held them at the House of Commons – in one of the members bars. The venue has been a big part of the attraction.

Unfortunately (or fortunately – depending on how you look at it) the demand for space has meant that the room we have used in the past is not big enough so a move is called for.

The 2011 Awards ceremony will be held in the BT Tower. I am lucky enough to be a frequent guest of BT at the tower and it must be said that this is a terrific venue. The quality of the catering is also outstanding and I think this a very suitable new home for the event.

The awards, renamed this year “ITSPA Awards in association with UC Expo” will be promoted by event organisers Imago and will be held the evening before the start of the show.

We have in past recognised equipment vendors and service providers for their achievements this year the categories have been extended to cover real world implementations.  These include Best Public Sector UC Implementation, Best Private Sector UC Implementation and Best Small Business UC Implementation.

If you want to know more or to enter the 2011 ITSPA Awards you can visit the website here. Whether you enter or not if you have an interest in VoIP you will want to come along.

Video of the view from the top.

There is more on YouTube of you look for it.

Business voip

ITSPA event just two weeks to go #VoIP #polycom #microsoft

It’s only two weeks to the Internet Telephony Service Providers’ Association (ITSPA) Summer Forum due to take place on Tuesday 13th July at the Polycom offices, Old Broad Street, London.

These events, chaired by yours truly, have become “must attend” occasions for ITSPs in the UK. On this occasion we have a Keynote Speech from Microsoft, an update from BT Openreach on their NGN VoIP plans, a talk from Polycom and a panel discussion on “Wholesale “VoIP. There is also an update from Matt Townend from Illume on the “State of the Union” in the VoIP market.

The wholesale panel has representation from the leading wholesalers in this space: Gamma, Magrathea, BT IP Exchange and X-Connect.

If you want to come there are still some places left though these things usually sell out nearer to the day so you need to be quick. Email [email protected] for more info.

Business voip

Sonus Networks SBCs and the South of France

It either makes me feel old or says how long I’ve been in the VoIP business when I say that I first met the founder of Sonus Networks, Ruben Gruber at a Executive Retreat in the South of France in 1998. I don’t think they even had a product at that time.

Sonus was Ruben Gruber’s 13th startup. 11 of these companies either floated or were sold privately and the two that didn’t make it were absorbed into the parent. That was an impressive record. 

Business voip

#VoIP SNOM #SIP and the Football #WorldCup

When I first started looking at SNOM phones, perhaps 9 years ago, they were not very impressive. The handset was easy to knock off its cradle and the voice was tinny.

The phone firmware was impressive and the fact that SNOM was a very early runner in the SIP market is to their great credit.  SNOM is an entrepreneurial business.

The fact that SNOM is still around is also hugely to their credit and their handsets have come on in dramatic leaps and bounds. The quality of the plastics has improved and their expertise in software still comes clearly to the fore.

Business internet mobile connectivity

Fixed Mobile Convergence needs a philosophical change amongst the mobile operator community

FMC is really the nirvana where all networks finally converge. We are already experiencing it with internet connectivity – I keep up to date with facebook, twitter (and, ahem, of course work and email) via the internet connection on my mobile phone. We use both WiFi and 3G/GPRS to do this and whilst service can be intermittent it does work and is reasonably ubiquitous.

Convergence of voice over fixed and mobile networks is really the final piece of the jigsaw. Since Timico started selling VoIP services around 5 years ago we have been looking at FMC solutions. These have all been based on WiFi for the mobile piece.

Engineer internet UC voip

VoIP QoS monitoring stuff

VoIP QoS should not be an issue if the network is managed correctly.  This means the LAN, the WAN link and the core network of the service provider.

If the WAN link is an ADSL then it can be susceptible to congestion at the exchange though in my experience this very rarely happens, even at times of extreme network usage such as the Olympics or last summer’s cricket. Problems here typically stem from underprovisioning of bandwidth.  An Internet Telephony Service Provider should also be operating an uncongested core network and a properly designed LAN should never give problems.

Problems do still occur but if you have the right tools these should be straightforward to detect and sort out.  One of the ways we manage our network is by using probes embedded at key point in the network.

The diagram below shows the output of one such probe earlier this morning.  We are looking at connection downtime, lost packets or packets arriving in the wrong order, jitter and latency or delay. It can be seen that latency is almost the only measurable effect.  All the other numbers are too low to count. Even the worst case latency figure seen here of around 46ms is not going to be noticed by the human ear and most of the calls are below 20ms.

This is a very useful tool for IT managers having to run multiple services over a multi-site Wide Area Network and allows them to spot problems before anyone notices and starts to complain.

VoIP QoS network monitoring screenshot

End User internet

Halo3, VoIP and the kids

My two youngest  kids are just playing Halo3 on the X-Box against two of their friends – also brothers. They are talking to the other kids through headsets – the younger lads in one team and the older siblings in another.  Using VoIP over the internet!

I understand there is some echo on the voice (by the tone of the conversation) but they are plotting strategy.

I’m just flabbergasted by this.  I know I knew this was doable but when you see it in action it is amazing.

Doesn’t stop their mum coming in and sending them upstairs to get into their pyjamas though.  Some things never change!

End User internet UC

Weather what weather?

I love this weather.  I’m a big kid really. I want it to snow so much that I get stuck in the house and can’t make it into the office. This isn’t just me talking.  I bet that most people in the UK are saying it right now.  Some of them will be stuck at home and those poor unfortunates, like me, will actually have made it in and are busy making cups of tea, talking to customers, running the internet (delete as appropriate).

Staying at home of course doesn’t mean that the world of commerce has to grind to a halt. I was quite thrilled as I wandered around the Timico sales floor talking about colours (this is topical – if you don’t know I’m not telling you) when one of the team mentioned that they had had a customer cancel a visit on them but had replaced it with a Meet Me Now web conference session.  What’s more they had pretty much closed an MPLS network opportunity during the call.

2010 – memorable for the best winter in (some people’s) living memory and the expansion of the VoIP online web collaboration market.

PS if you call me you won’t know whether I am at home or in the office anyway – 16 x 7 x 330.  Stack those snowballs up ready!

Business voip

Job vacancy for VoIP network operations engineer – please retweet

I’m looking for a VoIP network engineer to join our expanding VoIP team.  The job entails assisting with the running of our Nortel A2E SIP platform, the development of new services, interoperability testing with vendors and other service providers, 3rd line support and, I’m sure, a plethora of other interesting and challenging tasks as we think of them.

VoIP is an important string to the communications bow these days. Timico is a VoIP operator rather than a White Label service provider reselling soneone else’s proposition. We probably don’t lead with VoIP in a large percentage of deals but the ability to provide VoIP services is becoming an important part of winning corporate Wide Area Network business.

For example it is fairly typical for a company to outsource the management of a few hundred sites’ connectivity to us.  They will then take advantage of the fact that  they now have an MPLS network and run VoIP between sites and to all their homeworkers.

If you want to join a company that is going placesdrop me a line with your CV or take a look at the Timico website.

PS it is always a risk posting a job ad on the blog – I get inundated with calls and emails from recruitment organisations! It is the cheapest way to advertise though.  Please retweet 🙂

Business datacentre voip

Discussing VoIP Strategy and Solutions

We were discussing VoIP strategy today.  Timico supplies a mix of hosted VoIP and in-premises equipment based on what is best for the specific customer need. In looking at PBXs it occurred to me that there should be a standard platform that will run anyone’s PBX software just like it is in the PC world.

Then I realised that this is where the world has been for some time now and that platform is actually the PC. With the advent of SIP trunks replacing the need for analogue or ISDN line cards all you need is a PC running a PBX software application plugged into your network somewhere (or at one of our datacentres).

I’m sorry if this is stating the blooming obvious to most of you but the fact is it has crept up on us to the point that most PBXs are now really just PCs and the vendors are trying to exit the hardeware game.  No longer do you need the specialised modules that handle conversion of IP traffic to outmoded devices and services.

The vision that came with SIP when I first started working with the protocol almost ten years ago has finally come to fruition.  You can now buy an off the shelf piece of hardware (ie the PC), run a wide variety of PBXs on it – take your pick, the choice is yours – and choose from hundreds of different handset  types at all sorts of price points and feature sets.

The problem now is that actually at the moment this choice still introduces a level of complexity to the game that will take some time to go away.  It still doesn’t make sense for a service provider such as Timico to offer a huge range of PBXs and handsets to our business customers.

When they go wrong, and this they are certainly going to do, you out there running your businesses and concentrating on what you do best need us to come and fix the problem. Or at least to send a replacement PDQ so that you can get on with life.  Nobody can do this if they have a hundred telephone handsets in their product range.

I’ll keep you posted on my exploration through different handsets and solutions. It is where I started in this game  and is a fun part of the job.

Business voip hardware

Ideal mobile VoIP client runs on a Blackberry

  1. Runs on a Blackberry. In my experience Microsoft push email isn’t reliable enough and I am seriously thinking of changing back to RIM
  2. Can call using any available network – wifi, GSM or 3G – deally can detect least cost route or allow you to set preferred network connection
  3. Has the same inbound number as my work desktop phone so I can seamlessly take the same calls wherever I am – this realistically has to be a fixed line number as you have to be a mobile operator to do it otherwise.
  4. Detects the presence status of my friends and allows me to send Instant Messages to any network.
  5. Active directory lookup for corporate users to avoid having to store all the numbers locally.
  6. High definition voice codec available for use on wide bandwidth connections (ie wifi)
  7. High quality speakerphone.
  8. Multiple VoIP subscriptions so that I can have both work and personal services on the same device.
  9. Front and back facing video (I’m not sure whether I’m kidding myself here!)
  10. All the usual touchscreen/music/GPS/integration with Twitter/Facebook and other social networking websites gadgetty stuff.
  11. Unlimited battery life (hey – I did say ideal mobile VoIP client 🙂 )

If anyone wants to add to this list feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.

Business voip

Credit crunch bad news/good news

One of our account managers told me in passing that a customer of his had just shut up shop. Bad news I thought. Is this going to be the way of it in 2009?

The good news though is that what they have actually done is closed the office and moved their 5 members of staff to work from home to conserve cash. Their VoIP subscriptions, which they were already using flexibly from both office and home, will just follow them.

Business is still there to be grasped when times are hard.

Business voip

Heavy snow stops staff coming to work – business unaffected

The Timico car park is emptier than usual this morning as heavy overnight snow has prevented some  staff making it in. In fact most of the country seems to have ground to a halt. In London the buses aren’t running, some airports are closed and the train service is limited. We are just not used to snow in the UK and the official advice is not to travel.

Of course the newpapers have the usual dramatic headlines. “UK business loses £600m a day due to weather.”  The weather, I must say, has not made a blind bit of difference to Timico as most of our staff are already geared up for flexible working.

They can work from home just as easily as from the office (in some cases more effectively !!) because the business is fully IP enabled. Access to telephony (VoIP), intranet – CRM, billing and support platforms. In fact this infrastructure also makes it easy to offer a 24 x 7 round the clock support service.

It also means, and excuse me here I’m on a bit of a roll,  we have lower absence due to sickness and with a high number of female staff can be much more flexible in our approach to maternity leave.  So I don’t think the snow will have affected us at all.

My kids on the other hand are extremely disaffected. They had tuned in to the local radio station at the crack of dawn to listen out for school closure announcements. It seemed that practically every school in Lincolnshire was shut except for those of the Davies offspring!  Bummer.

Timico car park this morning
Timico car park this morning
Business voip

Nortel Has Filed For Chapter 11 – Bankruptcy Protection

The hot news this afternoon is that Nortel has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the USA. This, as I recall, gives them a year to restructure their business under protection of the US Government without having to “worry” about action from creditors. There were  noises on the airways for some weeks regarding the company taking advice over Chapter 11. It goes to show there is no smoke without fire.

Nortel’s asset levels of around $1Bn are dwarfed by their liabilities of $12Bn. With debt due for repayment in 2011 they will have found it difficult to reschedule this debt under current market conditions. I understand that $107M was due tomorrow.

Speaking to staff at Nortel the whole company is affected and an interim “committee” has been appointed as an adviser to the board.

The biggest problem the company was facing, aside from the repayment of debt, was the funding of R&D moving forward. In particular in the enterprise and carrier VoIP space. The Metro Ethernet business, where Nortel is market leader but which is no longer core to their future VoIP plans, has been for sale for some time in order to provide working capital to fund R&D. I understand that some (unspecified) bits have been sold but a further announcement regarding this will be due in a couple of days.

Life is never boring. Nortel expects to come out of Chapter 11 as a new debt free entity. The brand is strong and the company itself is one of the oldest in the telephony business, if not the oldest. I can’t see it disappearing.

Bloomberg’s comment on the news is here.

Business voip

Fast moving times – fast moving installations

Timico completed a 25 seat installation for a VoIP customer on Saturday 11th October. The whole process of finding the customer, taking the order and completing the contract happened with lightning speed.

The reason for the haste was that the customer was moving into new offices and had left it late to get their communications sorted. The old phone system was completely unserviceable. There was not enough time to order ISDN lines for the new office and to buy a new PBX.

The solution was to install internet connectivity and to go for a hosted VoIP solution. Timico received the order on 1st October and proceeded to order analog lines and an SDSL connection which were then expedited in order to be available the weekend of the move.

An engineer installed the network and handsets on Saturday. The customer moved in on Monday (this morning) and is now up and running. The whole job took 7 working days from initial order to completion. That’s impressive for what was effectively a greenfield site. I guess had Timico not been the service provider for the analogue lines, the SDSL and the VoIP this would have been a lot harder to achieve.

Business UC voip

Real Life Example Of Geographic Integration Using VoIP

Timico is a classic case study of a business that has expanded by both organic growth and acquisition.

When the company began, 4 very short years ago, almost the first thing it did was buy a Nortel BCM telephony system. On the way up it bought KeConnect which has an Asterisk Open Source PBX and which is a user and reseller of Avaya IP Office systems. At the same time the Timico mobile workforce uses hosted VoIP clients based on the Nortel AS5200 Unified Communications platform. Quite a mishmash of telephony solutions.

In years gone by the business would have probably had to factor in CAPEX to harmonise the phone systems around its various locations around a single vendor in order to be able to adequately connect the sites. Even then the connectivity would have been expensive.

This has all changed with the advent of the VoIP SIP Trunk. Using SIP Trunks all Timico sites can talk to each other over a low cost IP connection. What’s more salesmen on the move are able to demonstrate the technology from a customer’s premises using a local wifi connection. 

Just as impressive, Cisco and KeConnect resellers showcasing the Cisco SPA9000 iPBX with the travelling demo kit, are able to connect in to the office technical support using SIP. The same applies in respect of the Nortel SCS500 Unified Communications system, Samsung IP telephony systems and Cisco Call Manager Express and a variety of other manufacturers’ systems.

The point of this name dropping is to highlight that it is a great example of what SIP technology was intended to achieve – seamless connectivity using open standards. Timico’s site to site telephony costs are now tending to very low or zero. I can’t say that SIP interoperability has achieved universal ubiquitous status yet but it is getting there.


Business UC voip

ITSPA Autumn Dinner

A very enjoyable evening was spent at a restaurant in Westminster last night as ITSPA held its Autumn dinner. Yours truly was asked to chair the after dinner debate of which, unfortunately, I can tell you nothing because it was held under Chatham House rules – what goes on tour stays on tour 🙂 .

What I can tell you is that the Sponsor of the evening, Telecoms Consultancy Illume now quotes the market for business hosted VoIP seats to be around 300,000 subscribers. Illume conducts a quarterly survey of the ITSP community to come up with their figures.

Interestingly VoIP players have seen the need to move away from selling VoIP as cheap telephony and are now looking at different added value angles such as Disaster Recovery and also the productivity benefits brought about by Unified Communications.

The ITSPA dinners are open to both members and non members and are not only a great networking opportunity but a wonderful source of information. If you want to know more about forthcoming events visit the ITSPA website or its Facebook Group or just drop me a line.

Business internet voip

September 11th

It is 7 years to the day when the 9/11 tragedies happened in the USA. The event has different memories for us all.  I was attending a SIP Summit VoIP conference in Austin Texas and Tuesday 11th September was the first day. The conference was abandoned after the first day and most Americans hired cars and drove home. In some cases it was a 3 day drive.

The experience of overseas attendees was a strange and highly stressful one as noone knew when they would be able to go home. I eventually made it out on the Saturday on a very nervous flight. The barman at the airport hotel where we were staying said that we were the first regulars he had ever had.

The event was quite significant from a technology perspective. The mobile networks in New York stayed working although it was virtually impossible to get a line. The fixed line network did not work – the Central Office (telephone exchange) in the area had burnt to the ground.

What did remain up was the internet and students at Columbia University, which is where Professor Henning Schulzerinne did much of the development of VoIP signalling protocol SIP, were able to call home using their University VoIP accounts.

Internet Protocol, the IP in VoIP, was designed to run over networks resilient to nuclear attack. 9/11 was a good, if terrible, real life test bed for this. 

Business UC video voip

Tesco’s new VoIP telecommunications infrastructure

Tesco has just announced a new investment worth £100m over 5 years in a new next gen telecommunications platform connecting 1,800 sites over 14 countries. What the announcement doesn’t say is that it is based on Nortel technology. Specifically the multimedia collaboration features are based on the Nortel AS5200 platform. This is the same platform used by Timico for its multimedia Unified Communications based VoIP services. Tesco is using video conferencing and Instant Messaging as well as file collaboration and VoIP.

The Tesco network is big enough to justify it’s own platform. However Timico provides partitions on its Nortel platform so that smaller organisations than Tesco can benefit from the same feature set (without having to spend £100m).

This is a big milestone for the Nortel platform and an endorsement of Timico’s VoIP strategy.

Business UC video voip

Tesco's new VoIP telecommunications infrastructure

Tesco has just announced a new investment worth £100m over 5 years in a new next gen telecommunications platform connecting 1,800 sites over 14 countries. What the announcement doesn’t say is that it is based on Nortel technology. Specifically the multimedia collaboration features are based on the Nortel AS5200 platform. This is the same platform used by Timico for its multimedia Unified Communications based VoIP services. Tesco is using video conferencing and Instant Messaging as well as file collaboration and VoIP.

The Tesco network is big enough to justify it’s own platform. However Timico provides partitions on its Nortel platform so that smaller organisations than Tesco can benefit from the same feature set (without having to spend £100m).

This is a big milestone for the Nortel platform and an endorsement of Timico’s VoIP strategy.

Business security voip

Disaster recovery in action – Timico style

It’s not very often I get excited about an ISDN line going down. This is what happened today at Timico Headquarters in Newark. Apparently becausewe are currently going through normal summer weather (that’s normal hot not normal British wet) the BT telephone exchange in Newark began to overheat. The BT response to this was to switch off some kit includiong our ISDN lines. Uhuh.

However fear not dear customer. When you called in you probably didn’t notice because our Disaster Recovery plan kicked in and the ISDN numbers were diverted to VoIP ensuring continuity of service. Hooray!

It is not true to say that this was seamless. It did take us a few minutes to realise that the lines were down and then switch over but the time lost was minimal.

The outage happened at around 14.20 and normal service was resumed at just before 17.00 hours, presumably because the sun had gone over the yardarm and the BT engineers wanted to get away for a cooling thirst-quencher.

Business dns voip

Nominet ENUM launch

It isn’t often you go to a meeting which launches a new industry. This is essentially what happened at the Radisson SAS Hotel in London today as Nominet launched their ENUM registration service.

The presentations gave a basic training in ENUM for those who needed it and then offered an open forum for discussion as to how the market would be developed.

For those that don’t know, ENUM is a means for VoIP users to connect with other VoIP users without having to pay for calls, assuming that you have the IP bandwidth. It assumes that calls are going to become free and that service providers will have to find other ways to make money. The more registered ENUM subscribers the morecalls will be free.

The reality is that it will still take a long time to happen. VoIP to VoIP interoperability is a long way from being straightforward and the service will rely on using the internet for connectivity with all the quality issues that that entails. VoIP providers such as Timico typically use high quality private IP network connections as opposed to the internet for their call traffic. This is important for businesses.

The near term pitch is the ability to connect multiple islands of VoIP such as multi site businesses (retail, police, NHS etc). VoIP providers can however do this today. Nominet rightly responds to this saying that this is not currently being done with standard scalable solutions such as ENUM. They are right but the solutions in use today exist and work and come from reputable market leaders such as Nortel and Cisco.

Timico has been involved as a pioneer in UK ENUM from its basic beginnings when it was down to volunteer efforts. With a DTI sponsored commercial activity it may well be that ENUM will eventually start gaining ground although all the building blocks are not yet quite there. Nominet has a good team but it is still going to be a long haul. Nominet recognises this and has assumed that it will take at least five years to break even.

Its going to be interesting to see what happens. Timico will participate when it believes the market, that does not yet exist, is ready.

broadband video voip

The Bunk Inn

In my travels around the Timico empire I try to avoid staying in hotels. When I visit Twang in Newbury I stay at The Bunk Inn in Curridge. Home from home, good beer, good food and friendly staff.

The downside of the Bunk is that to make a mobile phone call you have to walk to the end of the road – the coverage is non existent. I know that in the past I have pitched this as a good point but when you want to stay in touch with home it is a different matter. There is a phone in the room but over the years I have had this ingrained feeling that in room phones = expensive hotel bills. In my globe trotting days the hotel phone bill would usually be bigger than the cost of the room. 

In the Bunk Inn this is not a problem because it provides internet access. Calling home is just a matter of firing up my PC and clicking on my Timico VoIP client. I can even have a video call.

Short and sweet – the blog entry not the phone call which was long and sweet.

Business events UC voip

The ITSPA AGM and Summer Reception

The annual ITSPA bash went ahead yesterday. Numbers were down a little, I suspect because of the encroachment of the holiday period. However once the formal proceedings were over we had a great set of panel debates and a talk from VoIPWatch blogger Andy Abramson.


I was down to moderate the Unified Communications panel. However due to illness I was stitched up with moderating the SME panel as well. This worked out ok because I was in two minds in the first place which one to go for. Timico’s sweet spot is SME but the sexy market leading stuff is Unified Comms (for the SME market in Timico’s caseJ ).


Interestingly of the fifty or so attendees the four panellists (Steve Mackenzie of ICU Global, Andy Abramson, Andrew Penn of Siemens Enterprise, Tony Cocks of Microsoft) and myself represented 5/6 of the organisations in the room involved with UC. I therefore invited Mark Owen of Nortel up to the stage to fill a spare chair and take part in the debate.


The fact that there were no other ITSPA members claiming to offer UC services is interesting. They are either offering straight dial tone products as is the case with the likes of Tesco and Orange Home (they may disagree with me) or are in the PBX replacement business.


There is an argument that says that the business market doesn’t want UC. However my take on this is that demand for UC is just about to take off as environmental and financial pressures come to the fore.


Key takes from the day?


Some big SIP trunk deals happening –  one company was spending £50k a month on call traffic with one ITSP.


Microsoft is launching a hosted version of OCS and is looking to locate one of its servers in Ireland. This is a direct service being launched by Microsoft. Not a partner play. Obviously the concern is that Microsoft’s marketing dollars can heavily influence their market share here. However after some debate the team came to the conclusion that this is an opportunity. Microsoft will make the market but a substantial number of customers will not want to deal with the big behemoth.


Also when it comes to selling communications to the SME market, which is a substantial chunk of the opportunity in the hosted space, customers like the direct touch. They need the confidence of knowing that they can trust their supplier and know who to call when they have a problem. Accessing support via an anonymous call centre won’t work for everyone. 

broadband Business security voip

Supernode Discovery

I am quite excited because I think I might have discovered a Supernode. A Skype Supernode that is.


Skype doesn’t have it’s own network infrastructure. Instead as a peer to peer technology it takes data from Skype clients around the world and identifies which users have plenty of bandwidth and processing power available. This user then becomes a Supernode which handles some of the Skype network signalling functions.


Being a broadband Supernode is not at all super as what you are effectively doing is  letting other Skype users use the broadband bandwidth that you are paying for yourself.


This customer was complaining that his quad bonded ADSL was underperforming. He was right. He was getting 1Mbps instead of his normal 9Mbps. We sent an engineer onsite and found that the customer had taken it upon himself to do some internal rewiring and had laid the ADSL cables on top of his ring main power cable. The interference from the main was causing the poor performance.


We moved the cables away from the main and hey presto the original high speed returned.


As part of the debug process we did some traffic sniffing on his network and found serious levels of peer to peer packets which turned out to be Skype.


I’m not saying that Skype in this case caused his broadband connectivity to slow down but business users should be aware of the problem. It should also be noted that Skype traffic is encrypted, at least the IM part. This means that virus scanners can’t pick up potential problem packets coming into the corporate network. Look out sensitive competitive information! Don’t keep your bank details on the network!

Business UC voip



It is important to be in control of your lives. Technology can help. For example with my Unified Communications service I can dictate who can reach me and when they can reach me.


I can specify for example that during family mealtimes the phone always goes to voicemail. Moreover this voicemail message can be caller dependant. ie the message you leave for your wife can be different to the one heard by work colleagues.


The greeting could even inform the caller that you are having a meal and give them the option of leaving a message or pressing a button to continue with the call. Clearly, armed with the information that you are eating, the caller can in this case decide whether his call is important enough to disturb you.


I’m sure that there will also be times when you absolutely would not want to be disturbed and this too is an option on the same system. You are in control.


Sometimes though it is better to exercise the ultimate control and that is done by pressing the “off” button.


This is what I did yesterday when I took the kids to the Lincolnshire Show. This is the annual agricultural festival that is the highpoint of the social calendar in Lincolnshire. If you have never been you should try it.


The Lincolnshire Showground is blessed with a natural off button. In other words there is no mobile phone coverage worth shaking a stick (or a handset) at.


No calls. No emails. All this happened on the day following the night of a major network capacity upgrade. It might have been a nervous time. Engineers don’t like change because it introduces risk. The Network Operations team were in control. The upgrade was perfectly planned and perfectly executed.


Not that the Lincolnshire Show was devoid of technology. The picture below shows one of the earlier innovations to hit the county.

 tref with traction

This second picture is nothing to do with technology.

It’s about good beer. As long as you stay in control …

Business video voip

Will petrol price itself out of the market?

I had my first £80 tank of petrol today. It seems to me that now is the time to start investing in public transport stocks.

I also has to be time to look at ways that a business can cut down on its travel spending and Unified Communications and online collaboration is the way forward. We recently had an architect approach us for a video conferencing solution so that his business could conduct video conferences with their London office. Historically they took the train and spent the day in the office. Travel time was 2 1/2 hours each way for the two Lincoln based partners. That’s ten man hours (at whatever the going rate is for an architect) plus over two hundred pounds for the trainfare.

The video conferencing solution used was Timico VoIP for Business which cost them £10 a month per site plus a few hundred pounds for high spec telephone handsets. The broadband connectivity was already in place at each end. The service will have paid for itself on it’s first day of use. That’s a serious rate of return. 

Engineer voip

SIP trunks as part of a DR plan

DR is a hot topic these days as more and more firms rely on data that is not stored as hard copy. Virtual Servers are a great way of implementing a DR strategy for a business.


Another area that is gaining ground is in the use of SIP Trunks as part of a DR plan. Rather than completely replacing ISDN or analogue telephony connections with an IP equivalent companies are running with both.


The company will typically keep its inbound traffic running over ISDN and use SIP, with its typically lower cost call charges, for outbound. The beauty is that if the site loses its ISDN connection for any reason the business, with an appropriate level of support, can reroute its inbound numbers to an alternative destination which is has been pre-setup as an inbound SIP trunk. Likewise if the IP connection drops then the business can temporarily use the more expensive ISDN lines.


For a multi-site organisation this is a no brainer as remote locations can also be connected to the company headquarters using the same SIP trunks. The IP interconnect can be an ADSL line, or for larger organisations requiring more trunks and perhaps a higher level of Service Level Assurance, over leased lines.




Business voip

How will 21CN affect my telephone line?

We had an enquiry from a customer this morning:

“I am persistently being contacted by David from ***** who has advised me that with 21CN BT are changing every business line from Analogue or ISDN to a SIP network and that there is no choice in the matter”.

David was trying to get the customer to move to a SIP service by telling her that she would need to do it soon in anycase so she might as well preempt it by doing it now. As a SIP provider I am not averse to selling SIP services but this has to be approached ethically.

From the customer’s perspective BT aren’t getting rid of analogue lines or ISDN. What they are doing is changing the connection at the exchange so that all calls will run over voip between exchanges. This will make the network more efficient/cheaper to run and potentially allow for the introduction of new features in the future.

So any kit the customer has should still work and they will still be ordering new lines as they do now. They needn’t worry about having to re-equip their office.

Potentially there will be new products such as the ability to order broadband and voice as a single line. This is effectively what LLU operators do today though some may sell it as a free broadband line (comes with notoriously “cheap” quality and customer service etc).