Remember how exciting the communications world was back in the 1990s? The Internet was going to revolutionize the way people communicate, 3G wireless networks were going to turn mobile telephones into personal video players, and CLECs were going to overtake the big incumbents who would stand by paralyzed, unable to take action. Then the bubble burst. Fast forward to 2006.
Now that the communications sector has seen double digit growth for multiple years, things are heating up once again. VoIP is on a path (although slower than we all originally projected) to overtake the PSTN, the investment in wireless networks is leading to the adoption of mobile broadband applications, and the CLECs are not only back from the brink of extinction, but are rapidly becoming a force that the large incumbents must compete against, thanks to a combination of attitude and technology.
"It is no longer enough to think outside the box, you need to tear it apart!" A paraphrase from the COO of Empire One Telecom, a NY-based CLEC, helps illustrate the kind of attitude CLECs must adopt. This positive attitude is reminiscent of the entrepreneurial efforts in the 1990s.
Although, in the early days of VoIP, there were many good ideas about the next 'killer app' that could be offered thanks to IP technology, the willingness for business users to take on the role of early adopter was lacking. It became clear that VoIP needed to go mainstream and prove itself with standard voice centric PSTN replacement applications before exciting new killer apps could become a driving force. Fortunately, with the aggressive attitude of the CLECs coinciding with the mainstream approval of VoIP and the pent-up frustrations customers have with incumbent carriers, the CLECs can now make a run at expanding their businesses and using new VoIP technology to succeed.
CLECs must offer three major service elements to their customers:
1. Rich feature set.
3. Voice quality.
Rich Feature Set
At the end of the day, communication is all about connecting people together. Whether it's a point to point voice call or a multi-party, multimedia collaboration session, service providers rely heavily on customer management and feature delivery. One VoIP switching vendor who has been successful helping CLECs make the jump to VoIP is Coppercom. According to Chuck Harris, Vice President of Marketing for Coppercom, "CLECs have aggressively been making a move from the UNE-P model to facilities based and using VoIP is a natural choice for them. It gives them flexibility in where they locate their equipment (since VoIP can be deployed in a hosted model) and allows them to deploy a differentiated set of services due to SIP's ability to easily integrate with third-party application platforms."
One of the most attractive opportunities CLECs find from VoIP technology is the ability to serve customers regardless of location and regardless of who provides the broadband access. However, with this opportunity also come deployment challenges. What kind of firewall does the customer have? Is the customer's equipment behind a NAT? How do you ensure privacy of both signaling and media? How do you protect your core servers from denial of service attacks?
CLECs have found the answer to deployment challenges by deploying Session Border Controllers. SBCs are able to bridge signaling and media across VoIP elements to ensure successful call flows, protect core servers, and enable the secure delivery of new applications. The focus of the CLEC must be on how to offer new services and how to go to market faster than their competitors. Allowing the VoIP border services experts to solve the security and access challenges facing VoIP providers enables the CLEC to focus on new revenue generating applications.
In the early days of VoIP, it was generally accepted that voice quality was far behind the toll quality voice we all have come to expect. There was really no effort to challenge the voice quality perception, but rather an effort to focus on the benefits of VoIP that would more than compensate for sub par voice quality.
However, we now have an entirely new 'tear apart the box' understanding of what service providers can do regarding voice quality. For example, you can use "Hi-band" codecs and 'treat' the media to offer voice quality that is superior to the standard toll quality voice we use today. Whoever thought the killer app of VoIP would be superior voice quality!
In summary, VoIP allows CLECs to compete. They can move faster than the large incumbents and they are well suited to offer services at newer and higher levels than ever before. From exceptional customer service to innovative multimedia applications to better voice quality, CLECs are deploying VoIP and are trying to live up to the original promise of the Internet to change the way people communicate. IT
Joel Fisher is director of strategic marketing for Ditech Networks (news - alerts). For more information, please visit www.ditechnetworks.com.