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January 29, 2013

Challenges and Trends in the Telecom Space: TMCnet Speaks with Voxbone

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

Going forward into 2013, the telecommunications space is seeing a number of trends and challenges. While most companies have their own personal challenges and technologies of interest, there are a number of new market directions that are affecting nearly every company in the telecom space. TMCnet had an opportunity to speak with a number of companies lately about their challenges for the future, and the latest is inbound communications company Voxbone.

Voxbone provides worldwide geographical, toll-free and “iNum (News - Alert)” telephone numbers. The company delivers high-quality inbound communications (often referred to as direct inward dialing, or DID) from more than 50 countries and than 4,000 cities. Voxbone enables Internet communications services providers, global carriers and national operators to extend the reach of their voice services internationally, rapidly and with limited costs.

According to the company, one of its strengths is fully automated and real-time ordering and configuration via Web interface or API. Voxbone handles established wholesale telecommunications providers’ requirement for services to be ordered via online forms and e-mails. In 2012, the company emphasized its commitment in this area by revamping its Web portal and improving its API.

TMCnet recently sat down with Voxbone’s Director of Marketing & Product Management, Dries Plasman, about new trends in the voice and telecom space. According to Plasman, Voxbone has its eye on Communication Enabled Business Processes (CEBP), which is the integration of communications capabilities into software-enabled business procedures, applications and technologies. CEBP allows for communications between applications (and humans) in order to automate and optimize some business processes with real-time communication.

“CEPB involves integrating voice, fax or SMS services into business processes or enriching existing communications applications with advanced features. CEBP services are offered in a very modular and automated way by companies that specialize in this domain, which so far includes Twilio (News - Alert), Plivo, Aculab, and Deutsche Telecom with its Developer Garden,” said Plasman.

It’s impossible to discuss technology trends in the telecom space without a discussion of cloud computing, and Plasman had a lot to say on the topic of cloud communications and how Voxbone has adapted to the technology.

“As cloud PBX (News - Alert) services are being adopted at an increasing pace, our cloud communications customers grow their business rapidly with us,” said Plasman. “We are listening to their needs and have introduced new services in response to those needs. An example is VoxOUT, our brand-new wholesale emergency-calling service for Europe. Offering access to emergency services is a regulatory obligation and a market need for any communications service provider in Europe, but previous solutions were very complicated and worked differently in every country.”

Cloud communications solutions have not been without their challenges, and security – or the perception of less-than-robust security – has been one of those challenges.

“Cloud computing has been around for more than a decade,” said Plasman, noting that 10 years ago, similar services were offered by application service providers, or ASPs. “During that period, technologies and security mechanisms have been hardened. IaaS [infrastructure as a service] and SaaS (News - Alert) [software as a service] providers have listened and put more emphasis on responding to the security concerns of their prospects and customers. Moreover, serious service providers are subjected to external audits and security certifications.”

Plasman believes that the security of cloud infrastructure or applications is at least as good as the security of internally managed platforms, and that implementing security measures is actually simple when migrating to the cloud. Integrating the internal directory with a cloud directory for SaaS through proper identity management is still a challenging task, however.

Plasman touched on the topic of unified communications and VoIP and noted that there is still a lot of space to grow in that marketplace, for both large enterprises and small to medium-sized businesses.

“Unified communication and rich VoIP features can only be used in private networks,” observed Palsman. “At the interconnection level, we are still far away from an all-IP world, as traditional operators are not as fast in integrating these new technologies. Sometimes, they even resist, perceiving these new technologies as a threat to their revenues. As a result, only voice and SMS are available between networks, billed per minute. The benefits of unified communications, high-definition voice calling and flat-rate billing are only available within closed ecosystems.”

Plasman also notes that IP communications service providers today have difficulties adding service offerings that are exclusively available on the PSTN, such as accessing local emergency services, or local information services on short coded numbers. 

“As a result, many companies are reluctant to migrate a suite of services that offers richer features on the one hand but doesn’t provide some traditional calling features on the other hand,” he said.

For this and other reasons, there is no agreement yet on how service providers will interconnect in an all-IP environment, said Plasman. More than 90 percent of telephones are connected to a traditional phone or landline network and service, though VoIP often is used for the last mile.

“Things are changing and will continue to change, and as they change, new applications will be invented and benefits added,” Plasman told TMCnet. “But the migration to full IP communications networks will be a slow process and take at least 10 more years. In the meantime, we will have to deal with hybrid networks.”

To find out more about Voxbone, visit the company at ITEXPO Miami 2013, taking place now. ITEXPO (News - Alert) is the world’s premier IP communications event. Visit Voxbone in booth #717. For more information on ITEXPO, click here.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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