Despite the well publicized benefits of making the leap from traditional telephony, the trepidation that has plagued the VoIP industry is still prevalent. This is particularly true among SMBs, who are still fearful of the poor call quality suffered by VoIP users during its early years. Certainly, some of this can be attributed to the traditional enterprise focus of early providers and vendors, but in recent years, a tremendous focus has been placed on the SMB space, with solution providers seeking to leverage their industry relationships to offer simple, yet high quality VoIP to their SMB audience.
In addition to providing a line of IP phone systems designed for SMBs — it’s Strata CIX family, which also includes enterprise systems as well — Toshiba (News
) America Information Systems Inc., Telecommunication Systems Division (Toshiba) is working with carriers to certify their SIP Trunking services with its CIX line. The idea is to create an end to end solution that makes the transition to VoIP as simple as possible.
Certification with SIP Trunking providers effectively ensures that when customers install their Strata CIX systems, they will work seamlessly with the provider. It’s true that, in theory, SIP-based telephony is designed to work easily with any other SIP platform, but the fact is that the SIP RFC leaves many aspects of implementation open to interpretation by providers, vendors, and customers. Therefore, in order to ensure reliable service, vendors must ensure their equipment works with various service providers.
“We want to make sure the customer has a smooth experience when they buy SIP Trunking from a service provider,” explains Eric Abing, product manager, TAIS – TSD. By certifying with a provider, Toshiba is able to tell its customers, “We know it’s going to work because we spent months making it work for you.”
Earlier this year, Toshiba announced it had certified SIP Trunking services from cBeyond, American Broadband Systems (ABS), and PAETEC, and now, it has added to its list of certified carriers IPtimize and AT&T (News
). Customers now have access to SIP Trunking services from both carriers through the Authorized Toshiba Dealers from whom they buy their Strata CIX systems.
Abing confirms he frequently hears that customers are fearful of transitioning to VoIP, and explains that Toshiba’s mission is to instill in them an understanding that VoIP is a mainstream technology, not a new technology with questionable value. By working with its carrier partners, Toshiba has done all the legwork, ensuring that, once the SIP Trunk is delivered by the carrier, customers can be up and running in less that 30 minutes.
With certifications in place, Toshiba assure its customers they are not buying a service that will give them VoIP over the public Internet kind of quality.
“They are buying VoIP over SIP Trunks on T1 circuits. These are dedicated private networks where QoS is controlled, says Abing. “This is not a situation where the packets bounce from router to router from Miami to Texas and back. Every single call is directed on a private network so carriers can guarantee QoS. When we certify with ATT, PAETEC, IPtimize, and others, our customers know their call quality is guaranteed by these major carriers.
In addition to ensuring quality service for its customers, Toshiba also is keen to offer them as much carrier choice as possible — particularly important since many businesses have existing relationships with providers whom they trust.
With the certification of IPtimize and AT&T, Strata CIX customers now have additional flexibility in choosing the carrier that is best suited to serve their IP Communications needs.
“Since IPtimize does not require that end users be equipped with special CPE equipment, its services will operate in virtually any network environment, helping our users to optimize their Toshiba IP voice communications,” said Brian Metherell, vice president and general manager for TAIS – TSD. “And the Toshiba-AT&T IP solution gives our customers the reliability and investment protection of Toshiba equipment coupled with the voice quality, affordability and business-class performance of the AT&T IP Flexible Reach service.”
In order to certify its carrier partners’ services, Toshiba runs a long series of rigorous test scenarios — more than 100 different scenarios, according to Abing — to ensure every possible scenario is accounted for.
When most customers test services, says Abing, they merely look for a dial tone, dial a long distance number, and make sure the call goes through and that the call sounds good. That’s not enough for Toshiba.
“We want to make sure that, for any kind of instance for which customers would use a SIP trunk, the same quality exists,” he says. “When we say we’re certified with a carrier, all our customers should have to do is buy the SIP Trunking service, the card, and the licenses.”
For each carrier, Toshiba creates both a video and an illustrated, step-by-step installation guide, guaranteeing that if customers follow those instructions, the service will work.
This approach has worked for Toshiba.
Abing says the way he determines the effectiveness of a solution is by talking to Toshiba’s support teams. When a new carrier certification is released, he wants to know how that impacts inbound tech support call volumes.
“Since we released IPtimize, calls have not gone up, but license sales are,” he notes.
The only instance where Toshiba runs into service quality issues is when customers choose services from non-certified carriers. Toshiba makes it clear that it can only guarantee services from its certified partners, but the fact is that, once customers buy the licenses, they can opt for whichever provider the want.
That dilemma is one of the reasons Toshiba is looking to certify as many carriers as possible. When it first announced certifications with cBeyond and ABS (News
), Toshiba found that some customers opted for alternate carriers with coverage areas more suitable for their needs. With the addition of PAETEC and AT&T, along with IPtimize, Toshiba now has certified carriers that can effectively canvas the country coast to coast, though it is still working with other carriers to provide even greater choice for its customers.
The simple fact is that if the major carriers can’t provide service to an outlying area, it’s not likely many smaller providers can either, since most of them ride on the major carriers’ lines. Still, Abing reiterates Toshiba’s commitment to partnering with as many SIP Trunking providers as possible to offer maximum choice.
The process is only going to get easier, since there are a finite number of carrier-grade switches capable of SIP Trunking. Once Toshiba certifies carriers with all of them, they’re no longer going to have to adapt the Strata CIX software when certifying additional providers, since they’ll be using the same specs as AT&T, or PAETEC, or cBeyond, or IPtimize, or one of its other partners.
In the future, Toshiba may look to enter joint sales and marketing relationships with many of its certified carriers, as it now has with PAETEC, but for now, its goal is to offer its customers a choice of reliable SIP Trunking services guaranteed to work with its Strata CIX phone systems, while continuing to demystify SIP Trunking through its simple approach: It just works.
Learn more about SIP Trunking at Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. ITEXPO (News - Alert) will take place in Los Angeles, California, September 16-18, 2008, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss, including a SIP Trunking Workshop. Don’t wait. Register now!
Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Managing Editor of TMCnet, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to nearly 3,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.