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Seven steps to successful VoIP

Some steps for a successful VoIP business, whether you are handling the VoIP implementation or are outsourcing.

The original title of David Sims' article is "Seven steps to successful VoIP business" and it is meant to help ISPs or traditional telcos appeal to enterprises interested in VoIP services. But this guide applies to anyone interested in VoIP for their enterprise, if only on a smaller scale. In the few cases that the steps do not relate to an enterprise level implementation, they provide good background information for those negotiating VoIP service with ISPs or telcos. This article is provided courtesy of

Step 1: Integrated Customer-Service-Network. Any successful business builds on an integrated understanding of: customer needs and behavior; product usage and attractiveness; and utilization and status of internal production resources. VoIP service providers can gain significant competitive advantage by gathering an integrated customer-service-network view. Reliable access to data and performance metrics, combined with powerful tools that make the information available to different parts of the service provider's organization, is the cornerstone to build this integrated business view that is central for the overall business success.

Step 2: Attention on Perceived Voice Quality. The only way to gain a detailed knowledge about the correlation between voice service quality and network behavior is to constantly track both network and service behavior. The fluctuating behavior over time of IP networks means that nothing less than continuous monitoring and analysis of voice service metrics and network performance metrics can ensure a full understanding of the network's ability to deliver a toll level of service quality.

Voice quality monitoring addresses parameters such as: listening quality (that is, speech clarity in one direction); side tone quality (that is, the ability of the terminal equipment to give a suitable side tone without echo); and conversational quality (that is, how well duplex interaction between the parties works). The overall voice quality is the sum of the above.

These parameters are quantified using mean opinion scores (MOS), originally by using a number of test persons or using automated test procedures delivering a high degree of accuracy independent of language, age and gender. MOS scores range from 1 (bad) to 5 (excellent) with "toll quality" PSTN lying in the range of 4.0 to 4.5 and GSM telephony under good conditions around 3.6.

Step 3: New IP Performance Metrics. The circuit-switched world is already familiar with service-centric metrics based on signaling analysis. The most important metrics are call set-up time, network efficiency ratio and successful call completion ratio. NER, CST and SCCR are widely used in service level agreements because they provide a good reflection of user perception. The system monitoring the network -- and which also generates and stores these performance metrics -- must be flexible enough to provide a complete view of the whole network or for any desired sub-network.

Step 4: Integrated Monitoring. The newer generations of SIP terminals include native support for reporting of signaling and VoIP metrics (including CST, CSR and MOS) and errors to the service provider (RTCP-RFC.3611). This allows the service provider to complement the monitoring of the core network with information automatically uploaded from the end-user terminals.

Thus, a system capable of automatically correlating the end-terminal data with relevant network data can immediately report any equipment failure or drop in service quality to service provider. The passive monitoring of the end-user terminals can successfully be complemented by active test solutions that continuously validate the service quality and availability based on predefined service scenarios.

Step 5: Active Use of Internal/External SLAs. No chain is stronger than the weakest link. This means that customer perceived service quality is dependent on the performance of all network segments in the service providers' network and interconnect partners. Constant monitoring of QoS and network performance is not only vital to follow up on SLAs, but standardized performance and SLA reports will be the foundation for service providers to determine new internal service goals and to negotiate favorable agreements with interconnect partners.

Step 6: Differentiate Your Service Offering. To combat falling ARPU and achieve competitive advantages, service providers should explore new integrated voice and data services. Unified messaging services and various types of instant messaging are just two service examples of converged services that have reached wide adoption. Further, penetration by these services combined with the introduction of new services will ensure high customer satisfaction.

Step 7: Automate Fraud and Spam Detection. A network-wide monitoring system providing a continuous stream of data in real time can provide all the information required to detect unwanted behaviors. "Fingerprinting" the network by checking network load, authentication profiles and the type of traffic distribution profile over a 24-hour period provides a big picture of normal network behavior.

David Sims is contributing editor and CRM Alert columnist for TMCnet.

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