CRM Daily has recently published a piece examining VoIP as a disruptive technology, threatening incumbent fixed-line telcos, and as a business opportunities for new entrants.
Take ISPs please. Ha ha, just kidding. But if youre an ISP, then VoIP is an opportunity for new market territory. And since youre not tied to the flat-rate model, it could be a lucrative revenue-generator as well. Just an idea.
Could VoIP even be an opportunity for traditional telcos? Hm, maybe. Theyd need to maintain an attractive service portfolio consisting of a mix of voice and data services with high quality and availability, however. Here are seven suggestions towards how they or anyone can accomplish that:
Step 1: Integrated Customer-Service-Network. Any successful business builds on an integrated understanding of: customer needs and behavior; product usage and attractiveness; and utilization and status of internal production resources. VoIP service providers can gain significant competitive advantage by gathering an integrated customer-service-network view. Reliable access to data and performance metrics, combined with powerful tools that make the information available to different parts of the service provider's organization, is the cornerstone to build this integrated business view that is central for the overall business success.
Step 2: Attention on Perceived Voice Quality. The only way to gain a detailed knowledge about the correlation between voice service quality and network behavior is to constantly track both network and service behavior. The fluctuating behavior over time of IP networks means that nothing less than continuous monitoring and analysis of voice service metrics and network performance metrics can ensure a full understanding of the network's ability to deliver a toll level of service quality.
Voice quality monitoring addresses parameters such as: listening quality (that is, speech clarity in one direction); side tone quality (that is, the ability of the terminal equipment to give a suitable side tone without echo); and conversational quality (that is, how well duplex interaction between the parties works). The overall voice quality is the sum of the above.
These parameters are quantified using mean opinion scores (MOS), originally by using a number of test persons or using automated test procedures delivering a high degree of accuracy independent of language, age and gender. MOS scores range from 1 (bad) to 5 (excellent) with "toll quality" PSTN lying in the range of 4.0 to 4.5 and GSM telephony under good conditions around 3.6.
Step 3: New IP Performance Metrics. The circuit-switched world is already familiar with service-centric metrics based on signaling analysis. The most important metrics are call set-up time, network efficiency ratio and successful call completion ratio. NER, CST and SCCR are widely used in service level agreements because they provide a good reflection of user perception.
The system monitoring the network -- and which also generates and stores these performance metrics -- must be flexible enough to provide a complete view of the whole network or for any desired sub-network.
Step 4: Integrated Monitoring. The newer generations of SIP terminals include native support for reporting of signaling and VoIP metrics (including CST, CSR and MOS) and errors to the service provider (RTCP-RFC.3611). This allows the service provider to complement the monitoring of the core network with information automatically uploaded from the end-user terminals.
Thus, a system capable of automatically correlating the end-terminal data with relevant network data can immediately report any equipment failure or drop in service quality to service provider. The passive monitoring of the end-user terminals can successfully be complemented by active test solutions that continuously validate the service quality and availability based on predefined service scenarios.
Step 5: Active Use of Internal/External SLAs. No chain is stronger than the weakest link. This means that customer perceived service quality is dependent on the performance of all network segments in the service providers' network and interconnect partners. Constant monitoring of QoS and network performance is not only vital to follow up on SLAs, but standardized performance and SLA reports will be the foundation for service providers to determine new internal service goals and to negotiate favorable agreements with interconnect partners.
Step 6: Differentiate Your Service Offering. To combat falling ARPU and achieve competitive advantages, service providers should explore new integrated voice and data services. Unified messaging services and various types ofinstant messaging are just two service examples of converged services that have reached wide adoption. Further, penetration by these services combined with the introduction of new services will ensure highcustomer satisfaction.
Step 7: Automate Fraud and Spam Detection. A network-wide monitoring system providing a continuous stream of data in real time can provide all the information required to detect unwanted behaviors. "Fingerprinting" the network by checking network load, authentication profiles and the type of traffic distribution profile over a 24-hour period provides a big picture of normal network behavior.
David Sims is contributing editor and
CRM Alert columnist for TMCnet.