Business security surveillance & privacy voip

Why are the Major Telcos Afraid of encrypted voip?

A significant disconnect exists between the reality of today’s IP communications and the security concerns and needs of the customer (read encrypted voip). welcomes VoIP Week guest contributor Peter Cox, UM Labs Ltd. Founder and CEO.

One of UM Labs’ long-standing customers is using our product to provide encrypted VoIP connections from remote users (mostly home workers) and to encrypt calls they make and receive on their SIP trunk. Their motivation is simple: They are in the USA and their business makes it necessary for them to work closely with federal government, a connection that subjects them to security and compliance requirements. This customer’s view is that applying encryption to all VoIP calls — including those made and received on their SIP trunk — is an essential step towards meeting these requirements. Even if some SIP trunk calls are then relayed in clear text, as is the case for PSTN calls, the encryption applied on the connection to their trunk provider protects their network and ensures the confidentiality of SIP trunk calls on the connection between the service provider and their office. This effort demonstrates that they are taking all reasonable steps to secure the network connections under their own control and is thus a significant step towards meeting the compliance requirements.

Recently, our customer’s existing service provider announced that they were considering discontinuing encrypted SIP trunk connections, and being unable to find an alternative they asked me for some alternative service provider recommendations. I posted the question to the SIP Trunking & Enterprise VoIP LinkedIn group and received a number of helpful replies. My question also sparked some interesting discussion. A number of the participants gave spurious reasons why encryption was too difficult or not needed on a SIP trunk. What surprised me most was that representatives of two very large and well known telcos weighed in against encryption. One claimed that providing an encrypted SIP trunk connection was incompatible with legal intercept requirements, while the other tried to claim that since enterprises trust their data on “private” networks shouldn’t they trust their voice as well?

Addressing the claim that SIP trunk connections are not compatible with legal intercept requirements, I submit that when properly implemented and with the appropriate systems encrypted VoIP does not prevent legal intercept or call recording for compliance purposes. What it does stop is unauthorised call monitoring. The risk of unauthorised call monitoring is not confined to VoIP, as there is a significant risk to calls on cellular networks (see my recent blog at Encryption also has a role to play in controlling other threats, including call fraud.

Regarding the comment about enterprises trusting their data on private network connections to service providers, this I found even more surprising. I have spent many years in network security and this is the first time I have heard a connection to a 3rd party service provider classified as sufficiently private to trust for data transmission without some form or additional security. While connection to service providers may be more controlled than the open Internet, they are not private. Most enterprises will naturally want to protect their data with a VPN, so it makes sense to do the same for voice.

Part of the problem is that part of the telecoms industry is stuck in the past, back in the days when the phone companies owned and operated the networks. Things have moved on, and a significant proportion of all communications now runs on IP networks, much of it on the Internet. The move to IP has spawned new applications such as presence and IM and is the driving force behind convergence. The use of IP networks, and specifically the Internet for voice and UC, is a big step forward, but we must recognise that a different set of security rules apply. We have the knowledge and technology to address the security issues. Rather than finding reasons to avoid implementing VoIP and UC security technologies, the industry needs to embrace them and promote their implementation.

I won’t name the two telcos, but if you are interested in seeing them incriminate themselves you can follow the full LinkedIn discussion at

This is a VoIP week post on 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

Business voip

SIP Trunks go mainstream

I went to my first VoIP meeting in (as far as I can remember) the summer of 1999. It was a “Executive Retreat” located at the ETSI HQ in Sophia-Antipolis near Cannes in the South of France. It’s a tough life but someone has to live it.

Since then we have been through a couple of recessions and a long hard climb for VoIP technology to become accepted. I knew the day would come but VoIP is now so mainstream that businesses think nothing of installing “VoIP only” voice solutions with no legacy ISDN or analogue lines as backup.

They are doing this because of two things:

Business internet mobile connectivity voip

What are ISPs doing about Voice?

The question is being asked “what are ISPs doing about voice?” This is particularly relevant as the market consolidates and B2B ISPs not only seek economies of scale but additional sources of revenues.

Timico was founded as a fully converged ISP from the outset. Early on we had to decide whether to simply white label services from other ISPs and ITSPs or do “get into manufacturing” and do it all ourselves.

At the outset there were no real white label VoIP options. You had to do it yourself. However there were plenty of ISPs providing Virtual ISP services.

Business voip

ISDN problem & what to do about it

I love it when our ISDN line develops a fault, as it seems to do once a year with the month chosen at random. It’s happened to day. The reason I love it of course is we also have SIP trunks coming into the office so normal service doesn’t have to be resumed – it doesn’t stop in the first place. Hooray for ISDN faults 🙂  (hooray for SIP trunks).

I don’t have access to the numbers but it would be interesting to see the BT Openreach figures for exchange line faults. As reported last week the equipment is getting fairly mature.

Business voip

ISDN problem & what to do about it

I love it when our ISDN line develops a fault, as it seems to do once a year with the month chosen at random. It’s happened to day. The reason I love it of course is we also have SIP trunks coming into the office so normal service doesn’t have to be resumed – it doesn’t stop in the first place. Hooray for ISDN faults 🙂  (hooray for SIP trunks).

I don’t have access to the numbers but it would be interesting to see the BT Openreach figures for exchange line faults. As reported last week the equipment is getting fairly mature.

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 voip

Recession = opportunity

You have to have been in a coma to have not noticed all the noise in the media regarding the banking crisis and looming recession. There is an element in me that thinks it is all over my head, not being a banker with million pound bonuses to lose.

Clearly though it is affecting business confidence and a prudent manager will nurse his cash through this period of uncertainty. What the forward thinking manager will also do is to look at how he runs parts of his business to see where the use of technology can provide real savings.

One such area has to be in the use of VoIP to connect the different sites of a business. This effectively eliminates internal telephony charges and likely reduces the line costs because some existing ISDN or analogue lines can be dispensed with.

The technology to do this, known as SIP Trunking, is now pretty mainstream and most PBX vendors provide SIP interfaces to allow the interconnect. Old PBXs are not precluded from this efficiency measure with the use of media gateways.

This is one area of our business that has already been snowballing and I expect to see it grow further with the increased levels of economic uncertainties.

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. 

Business voip

Webinar on Linksys LVS2.0

The Linksys LVS2.0 is a voice system (ie PBX) for small offices. It’s pretty amazing how compact and low cost these systems have become. This one is being sold through KeConnect channels into the small business market.  Timico subsidiary KeConnect has partnered with Linksys to jointly offer a solution to their combined channels which number between 1,500 and 2,000 resellers specializing in the small business market.

Linksys will provide the system and KeConnect the communications. KeConnect was the first company to offer support for SIP Trunks for the Linksys product in the UK.

For the uninitiated a SIP Trunk is effectively a telephone line that runs over an IP connection such as ADSL. The beauty of a SIP Trunk is that you can run multiple calls/lines over a single broadband connection. The underlying analogue line can of course only support one call at a time.

A SIP Trunk can be used for both inbound and outbound calls. The LVS2.0 allows the use of both traditional analogue lines and SIP Trunks thereby giving small businesses a level of resiliency in their communications that they haven’t seen before.

Linksys is of course a Cisco brand and the LVS2.0 represents part of Cisco’s push into the SMB market. The Timico Group also supports Nortel and Avaya PBXs and has its own hosted Unified Communications service that is ideal for distributed offices and remote workers.

The Webinar takes place on Monday 14th July at 3pm via Webex. Anyone interested in attending should leave a comment and I’ll send them the login and access details. I won’t publish the comment.

In my bit of the Webinar I’ll be talking about best practice for SIP Trunks.

For more information on the LVS2.0 click here.

For more information on KeConnect click here.


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.