The year 2005 started off with a shock to the business VoIP world: In January, Level 3 Communications announced it was discontinuing its (3)Tone hosted IP PBX business service. Dozens of Level 3 resellers were suddenly faced with a tight deadline for transitioning hundreds of businesses and thousands of (3)Tone business VoIP end users to a new platform and new wholesale provider. New Global Telecom (NGT) moved quickly to sign resellers and start transitioning end users.
By leveraging its close relationship with Level 3 and coordinating with newly signed (3)Tone service provider resellers, NGT (www.ngt.com) began a migration project that would successfully and seamlessly transition more than 60 percent of Level 3’s entire (3)Tone customer base by the June 15, 2005 deadline.
New Global Telecom knew it faced a tough assignment: migrate 5,500 end users from 245 different companies to its 6DegreesIP hosted IP PBX service in five and a half months — all with minimal downtime, while remaining hidden from service providers’ end user customers.
“While we were pleased to get the lion’s share of Level 3’s (3)Tone customers,” said Mike Coar, NGT director of client services, “we knew it would be an involved process with tight deadlines, requiring end-to-end coordination and cooperation to effect a seamless, on-time migration.”
NGT’s new service provider resellers included TMC Communications, a California-based provider of long distance, local, conferencing, data, and Internet access services (www.tmccom.com); Access Point, Inc., a North Carolina-based provider of integrated business communications services (www.accesspointinc.com); and CentricVoice, a Texas-based voice-enabled ISP (www.centricvoice.com).
Jeff Rothell, President and CEO of CentricVoice stated, “We understand what it takes to be successful delivering VoIP services to small- and medium-size enterprises. So we placed our confidence in New Global Telecom to successfully migrate our customers and support our business.”
To ensure a successful migration, NGT conducted testing and established a sound migration process. Testing was conducted 10 times during a six-week period in February and March. Because end users were moved from the Sylantro platform at Level 3 to the Broadsoft platform that NGT uses, NGT conducted customer premises equipment (CPE) testing in its product lab, moving demo accounts from the (3)Tone service to 6DegreesIP and working with various types of customer hardware and architectures.
“We tested, developed, and perfected processes,” said Caitlin Clark-Zigmond, NGT director of product management. “We provided a detailed 12-page migration plan for the service providers and then performed their internal migrations before moving onto end users.”
Clark-Zigmond said that migrating service providers at the beginning allowed NGT to identify potential problems in advance and bring the service provider up to speed.
At the end of March, NGT hosted a group training session for service providers. The session lasted four days and trained 24 staff members from seven service providers.
“This advanced preparation gave service providers a comfort level with the process before a single end user was migrated,” stated Clark-Zigmond. “The testing and documentation impacted the project by speeding up migrations and reducing downtime.”
“We had to be more than just adequately prepared, and having everyone in one place at one time before the actual migration proved more effective than individual on-site training,” said Coar. “Service provider staff benefited by hearing about challenges other SPs were facing and by working through solutions to those challenges in advance.”
The training and preparation paid off, with end-to-end migrations averaging 30 minutes per site (the average site had 20 seats). The average downtime per site was about two to three minutes, with NGT being completely hidden from the end user, who was unaware of the multiple vendors involved in the VoIP service provider transition.
NGT remained flexible early in the conversion process. For example, Level 3’s daily service activation time (when Level 3 sets its routing tables to determine how calls are handled) occurred just as many East Coast end users were arriving at work. That prompted NGT to work with Level 3 engineers to construct a two-phased implementation. The work-around allowed for a temporary routing change to occur after East Coast business hours, with the final routing change taking place in the morning.
“We looked at the two-phased approach as training wheels for our service providers,” said NGT Director of Network Operations Glenn Pearston. “Once they were comfortable with the process and ‘got their balance,’ they found it easier to conduct the migrations in one fell swoop, with the first phase becoming more of a hindrance that was no longer needed.”
Hardware compatibility also presented some initial hurdles. There were so many different products on the market, that each and every potential configuration could not be completely recreated during testing. This resulted in some additional compatibility testing during the migration process.
“The good news is, we actually discovered just how compatible our 6DegreesIP service on the Broadsoft platform is with the majority of hardware out there,” said Clark-Zigmond.
Through preparation, continuous process improvement, and documentation, NGT was migrating nearly 20 companies per week by mid-May. During the 10-week live transition period, NGT successfully migrated an average of 35 sites and 550 end users per week with an end-to-end migration time of less than 30 minutes per site. Average downtime was less than 2 1/2 minutes per site.
New Global Telecom’s testing, training, and operational experience in hosted IP PBX led to a smooth, seamless transition for service providers and their end users migrating to NGT’s 6DegreesIP wholesale hosted VoIP service. Service providers, end users, and NGT realized numerous benefits from the successful migration.
Service providers achieved a seamless, cross-platform transition in a critical situation on a tight deadline. With access to NGT’s experience, extensive training, Web portal, and compatibility testing, service providers were able to switch to the robust 6DegreesIP product suite with minimal downtime. NGT’s robust product suite includes hosted IP PBX and Class 5 features, end customer support, network and facilities management, and back office functionality.
End users also benefited from the minimal downtime, so they could continue their work with little or no interruption. The seamless transition also kept NGT behind the scenes and gave end users what amounted to a significant upgrade that included an integrated toolbar for click-to-dial functionality from Microsoft Outlook and reception console for front desk reception management.
For New Global Telecom, the rapid and successful completion of the migration has reduced trouble tickets overall and increased customer volumes. NGT has expanded its base of knowledge for dealing with hardware and software compatibility and migration issues, and is leading the industry in bring new features and functionally to market through its hosted IP PBX product suite. IT