Cheap voip? Get what you pay for says Simon Woodhead.
It has been many years since I had to persuade someone that you got what you paid for with VoIP and that cheap voip routes were not the same as quality voip routes into bona fide networks, even though the transport may be the same. That cost obsessed underbelly of the industry still exists, but the vast majority of buyers of wholesale services now seek quality and have learned from mistakes of the past.
Along the way, those of us who started as pure-VoIP wholesalers have now grown into bona fide PSTN operators with SS7 interconnects into key trading partners. VoIP is the transport, not the product, and the product has improved drastically over the years.
Concurrently, previously pure-play TDM operators have discovered VoIP. Many now use VoIP for the exchange of international minutes, some even insist on it for domestic inter-carrier interconnects. Others have embraced it as an edge interface to an unchanged TDM core. Again, VoIP is the transport, not the product.
However, we’re now embarking on a new phase and I’m finding myself again echoing words of the past when speaking to potential customers. Those pure-play TDM operators who have relatively recently discovered this new VoIP toy are seeing the temptation of it not just as a transport but as a product, i.e. they can sell VoIP but rather than that being an interface to a stable core network and established interconnects, they can buy VoIP routes on the back-end and make extra margin. It is horrific from our position to test routes from global network operators and find them in some cases utterly unusable because they’ve tasted the forbidden fruit, and unlike the rest of us haven’t yet learned what a short-term game that is.
Others are pushing VoIP “interconnects” as an alternative to a regulated interconnect – a managed service outside of OFCOM’s scrutiny – at prices they dictate. Buyers of those products are seduced by the brand, the relative ease of set-up and have comfort that VoIP is the transport to a stable proven network and quality routes. In our experience they quickly learn that this is not the case.
We’ve even heard of established TDM operators dismantling their established TDM interconnects in favour of said VoIP-based managed services. Russian Roulette in many respects, especially with those customers paying for the established quality of a TDM core.
In short, having come from a time of VoIP being the product, learning and evolving to it simply being the transport, we’re sadly back there. Bigger, later, prestigious travellers are now seeing VoIP as a product on both the buy and sell side of their business. Rather like in the bible, it is the serpent urging them to taste the forbidden fruit and some are.
For practitioners this makes “caveat emptor” more applicable than ever. There’s no certainty that brand X represents a single level of service with multiple transports, but rather multiple levels of service at multiple price points. To put it in food terms, Sainsbury’s own brand chips range from premium to economy – you’re not getting premium at economy pricing just because it has their name on. Further, I’m reliably informed that Waitrose actually own their own farms, despite being a fraction of the size.
I have no doubt VoIP will continue to surplant TDM as a core transport for voice. In the interim, while it is luring the naive, be careful out there! Unforgiving consumers expect you to make the right choice. Cheap voip doesn’t necessarily mean good voip.
This is a VoIP week post on trefor.net. Check out other VoIP themed posts this week:
Why are major telcos afraid of encrypted VoIP? by Peter Cox
Emergency calls and VoIP by Peter Farmer
VoIP, the Bible and own brand chips by Simon Woodhead
Why the desktop VoIP telephone isn’t going away by Jeff Rodman
Small business VoIP setup by Trefor Davies
VoIP fraud-technological-conventionality-achieved by Colin Duffy