After making the investment to migrate voice traffic to the cost effectiveness, quality and flexibility of voice over IP (VoIP), the idea of a carrier connecting to an information services provider through the public switched telephone network seems, well, so analog. More specifically, the logic of staying completely off the PSTN when contracting for telephony services tracks perfectly with the decision to use VoIP in the first place.
As wireless, traditional wireline, next generation, and cable telephony carriers transition to IP networks, their customers the folks making the calls are still expecting to connect to the telephone services to which they have become accustomed including directory assistance and operator services. In addition, these callers are looking for more enhanced features on their communications instruments, be it through voice (like movie listings and show times, restaurant reservations, and travel assistance), data (information delivered directly to the phone unit or handset through text messaging including directory assistance listings, sports scores, maps, and turn-by-turn directions), or video (broadcast, narrowcast, or personal). Delivered through call center operators, speech recognition systems or user-generated connections directly to the source, IP networking is tailor-made to generate and deliver these services to the content hungry customer.
The Buried Cost
The capital investment to transition carrier networks to secure VoIP is hefty, but the returns come with the first call. Bypassing the PSTN and connecting callers through VoIP through toll bypass brings savings right away through the VoIP-enabled information services provider. However, if that provider is still connecting to call centers or automation systems through a series of PSTN-based switches, the connecting costs start adding up very quickly. Those costs have to be passed on somewhere. As a result, many of the high-margin services the carrier would like to offer to callers may come with a steep price tag.
There is another charge its the penalty paid when the PSTN-based information services provider cant technologically offer the emerging services users want. The flexibility and versatility of the VoIP platform allows for rapid incorporation of new voice, video, and data products at the speed and cost effectiveness that this ever-changing marketplace demands.
It could be said that compared to the reliability and trustworthiness of the more than century-old public switched telephone network using the upstart Internet to carry these high-margin and vital services might be a bigger risk than a lot of carriers are willing to take. After all, how comfortable can a carrier actually be when it is sending its callers that is, revenue and plenty of it into a network that can be visually represented by a cloud? On the other hand, the information service provider cant expect a network cobbled together with low-grade servers and a couple of routers in the garage to support the higher-volume broader-banded needs of VoIP carriers and their users. The provider has an obligation to the carrier to offer a redundant network architecture designed to operate at carrier-grade quality. The providers investment in a network operations center (NOC) affords around-the-clock management and support of its VoIP infrastructure, using real-time network-monitoring tools to
provide status and performance conditions.
Just like carriers, ensuring quality at all levels is vital to the credibility of information service providers. Service level agreements (SLAs) are necessary to hold these providers accountable, and afford a written and implied trust for ongoing uptime and network quality.
Content users want
The power and promise of VoIP can be summed up in one word: content. Despite its best efforts over the years, the technologies offered through the PSTN pale to the flexibility offered through IP. Now, audio, video, and data content can ride on the same network infrastructure. And the forward-thinking VoIP carrier that contracts with an innovative information services provider can together deliver technology enhancements that meet user demand. Consider some of these features, effortlessly enabled through a VoIP platform:
SMS: Sending information (one- and two-way) directly to the users handset. But its not only for the wireless set consider multimodal units to download requested maps, pictures, video and other real-time data through a third-party provider.
Preference: The ability to recognize and store a callers preferences for language, delivery options, and the type of user device, and offering a customized call flow based on that information.
Speech-driven Personal Address Book: Allows users to store listings and connect from any phone anytime.
Games and Goodies: Virtual reality has never been more real playing competitive matches, handset sports and other interactive opportunities.
Video Clips: News clips, music videos, even home movies all stored and recallable to the handset (consider settling a sports argument by dialing up the video clip and watching the answer to the trivia question).
Ringtones, ringback tones, and other personalization features: One connection brings high volumes and high margins from users looking to change their sounds often.
And in a world of quadruple-play, cross-promoting services through a single telephony connection is natural and carries more revenue opportunities. Back-end messaging intelligently communicates to callers based on demographics, language preferences, frequency of calling, callers location, even time of day, week, or month. For example, a cable telephony user dialing 4-1-1 for directory assistance can hear about (and order) a pay-per-view boxing match that night, or a wireless offering, or even another enhanced service through speech or touch pad. Its then confirmed via text message or call back, and the data is securely sent to the billing department.
This convergence is happening now. The industry is experiencing an explosion of content and devices that appeal to nearly every interest, segment and demographic imaginable. And those that havent been marketed, well, just wait a minute, and they will be. Thats why considering the easiest, most cost effective and customer focused solution to delivering services is essential especially since thats what carriers are or will be using: VoIP technologies. IT
Nitin Krishna is director of product development and management for INFONXX. For more information, please visit the company online at www.infonxx.com.
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