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Unified communications service provider 8x8 Inc. is offering prequalified customers a service-level agreement that guarantees 99.9% uptime and call quality for VoIP services delivered over the public Internet.
8x8's "Performance Assured" service-level agreement (SLA) guarantees a minimum Mean Opinion Score of 3.0 for end-to-end call quality for its VoIP services delivered over any underlying broadband network the customer chooses, including public Internet, an MPLS network, or a dual MPLS and public Internet connection.
Many providers offer SLAs for voice services over managed networks, such as MPLS connections. Over-the-top VoIP performance is often at the mercy of the conditions of the underlying connection, which could be a public Internet connection from a provider like Verizon or Comcast. As a result, over-the-top VoIP service providers don't typically offer call quality and reliability guarantees because they often have very limited control over the connection, Frost & Sullivan analyst Elka Popova said.
Mehdi SalourSenior VP of network operations, 8x8
"It's notable that 8x8 is ... willing to commit in writing and bear penalties, in case it fails to meet its commitments," she said.
While 8x8 says there is no additional charge associated with this SLA, businesses that take 8x8 up on their service guarantee are subject to additional network assessment and other consulting services that will help ensure, in advance, that the customer's broadband connections are able to support real-time voice and video, Popova said.
Businesses interested in this SLA will also need two separate connections, said Mehdi Salour, senior vice president of network operations for 8x8. "If the last mile of delivery has a problem, they have to have another route to avoid call quality issues," he said.
8x8 can't control third-party networks and Internet access, but it can constantly monitor call quality by using its desktop phone systems to gather data and send the information back to 8x8 servers for analysis. The company can then do its part to maintain quality by ensuring calls are routed to the closest, or least-congested, data center, Salour said.
"This will enable 8x8 to remotely monitor and proactively troubleshoot network issues," Popova said.
The provider is also taking advantage of its partnerships with third-party carriers to reinforce the SLA. "We have the visibility to see if there is congestion over the Internet between [two providers], so we can change the traffic route to make sure the packets come to our data center over a different provider," Salour said.
To help customers monitor call quality, 8x8 is providing a Web portal for them to access the service provider's analytics, Salour said. "IT hasn't had this kind of visibility before, and it will help them address issues before users complain."
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