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Posts from December 15, 2013 - December 21, 2013

Thoughts on Standards Call Centers, Call Routing, VoIP Codecs, Port Blocking and Transit of Voice

Let's face it. We live in a very connected, always on world where being reached is essential. As a global nomad of the nth degree i rely on my various communications providers like SimpleSignal and a string of services ranging from GoogleVoice, Skype, Calliflower, WebEx, GoToMeeting, UberConference, Voxeet, Truphone and various mobile operators to keep me connected to all the people who matter. The top line here deals with standards that are either the same for everyone, or they're not being followed. Sure you can have a call placed direct to say your USA mobile phone, but when roaming that adds all kinds of greater expense and signalling/media path complexity. So in theory, using IP transiting of voice should be the way to go...but with so many different hops, POPS and jumps, things simply break...and they are.

Being in the middle of a 60 day away from home trip I'm hearing things I don't really like. And it starts simply with how calls that originate or terminate to call centers sound...and they sound awful.  It continues with Skype and the issues surrounding origination and termination of Skype In and Out calls sound when a Skype user is international and the hassles continue with things like Wi-Fi log ons becoming challenging, WiFi hotspot location managers not knowingly port blocking and more.

Here in Europe Skype calls to call centers are just plain brutal. If you think calls to mobile phones from Skype in the USA suffer from quality issues, try calling call centers here in Europe. Twice this past week the exact comment from two different call centers for companies based in the UK and France were "are you using Skype?" And in both cases, the calls ended up in Morocco which is a hotbed for call centers because of its labor pool and proximity to Europe. I hung up and called using my mobile phone and the quality was better, but those calls were still not great. 

Port blocking or port openings also are our enemy. Sometimes someone gets blocked and that means the call doesn't get through. And where that's impacting most is with WebRTC. While the signalling path sets up the call session, the media path gets lost. Just try explaining WebRTC to a hotel IT guy.....if you can find one who really knows what's going on.

The next is DTMF and Caller ID--there are basic standards for both, but of late I'm seeing more financial institutions not displaying caller ID under the guise of security--For example, like many, I hate answering calls from both numbers I don't recognize as well as blocked numbers. A second and more challening issue comes from DTMF both on Skype and now with GoogleVoice where the tones just aren't correct. Wanna bet some telecom tranist company is in the middle of both, and causing things to simply stop working?

The company that looks at these issues and solves the problem, will be who wins global business, even if it costs a bit more. We're in a global world and we can't think locally any more. With calls being sent all over the world this calls for proper call routing, transiting of the media, minimizing the hops will matter, and as we move towards LTE being the mobile means of voice, these problems will only get worse before they get better.

The next issue that is rising from what I can see occurs mostly with hotels and is triggered by hotspot operators who largely use authentication servers and routers from a handful of companies, with Nomadix and Cisco being the first two that pop up when issues arise--especially for Mac users who have upgraded.

While Apple has simplified logging on to WiFi compared to Windows, sometimes there are locations which use Java and unless you want to install that in your browser, it just won't work. What ever happened to plain old browser based authentication.

And who is to blame? Implementors of Cisco gear at airports are a big culprit of what I have begun to call airport log on extremis. This is the experience one has when one can't log on to airport WiFi--usually because of browser or authentication issues, or sometimes because the authentication router is simply maxed out of available IP addresses now that eveyrone carries more than one device and wants to STAY CONNECTED. 

Next up is not staying current. If the service provider can't stay current to standards or updates to browsers like Chrome, Firefox or Safari your screwed. And, when you get told that you should use Internet Explorer just call it a day.