Synchronizing VoIP Interconnection

September 1, 2005

7 Min Read
Synchronizing VoIP Interconnection

By Khali Henderson

Cable One Inc., a rural market cable operator serving more than 700,000 subscribers in 19 states, is planning a January 2006 rollout of primary-line telephony services in up to 45 of its 52 markets throughout the Midwestern, Southern and Western United States. The initiative is no small undertaking. To hasten its time-to-market Cable One announced in August it will use a VoIP platform from Nortel Networks and professional services from Nortel Global Services for planning, program management, multivendor integration and deployment.

Dan Mondor, general manager, MSO Solutions for Nortel, says creating a quick and cost-effective launch strategy for cable VoIP services is made possible by integrating products from other companies like Sigma Systems. The pre-integrated Sigma Service Management Platform and VoIP Service Package provide Cable One with the order management, resource management, service provisioning and intercarrier gateway integration (i.e., E911, LSR, LNP, PIC/CARE) capabilities for VoIP services, such as dial tone, voice mail, long-distance presubscription and CLASS/calling features.

The role of OSS service management is essential as we deploy VoIP services, scale operations and look to grow revenues for our subscriber base, says Steve Fox, vice president of digital services and technology at Cable One. Using Sigmas solutions, we gain operational efficiencies by significantly reducing the manual work and processes associated with service order management and service provisioning for complex VoIP services. In turn, we can deliver greater customer satisfaction by ensuring timely and reliable provisioning of new cable telephony services.

Indeed, synching up VoIP interconnection with CLEC partners is a critical component of service delivery for VoIP operators including cablecos. And, it can be an opportunity for enterprising CLECs.

With the cablecos pitted against the RBOCs in consumer markets, agreements between cablecos and AT&T or MCI both of which are being bought by Bells may be shortlived, opening up some opportunities for other providers. Its a very dynamic market and a changing market, and it does provide opportunities for some of the smaller guys, the tier two operators, says Scott Widham, president of sales and marketing at Broadwing Communications LLC, making note of IXCs local presence as a result of its September 2004 acquisition of Focal Communications Corp. Thats one of the reasons we have identified the cable industry as a place we want to play.

One of the primary offers Broadwing will target toward cablecos is PSTNConnect SIP service, which became generally available in late September. PSTNConnect SIP enables VoIP providers to offer enhanced local voice services to their end users in Broadwings 23 local markets via a single IP connection to the carriers network.

Widham believes cablecos are shopping for three things in a CLEC partner. No. 1 is neutrality. You cant be stealing their customers and expect to partner with them. Youve got to be like Switzerland in terms of going after their customer base, he says. No. 2 is a complementary coverage area. And, No. 3 is OSS automation. If I am a cableco, I am going to look to see who has automated processes because that is the company that will be able to wring the cost out, says Widham. To that end, Broadwing, he says, has invested in resources automating local service provisioning. Our whole emphasis is to get the paper out of the system, to touch things once instead of put them in three or four databases.

CLEC interconnection is critical to achieving end-to-end automation of service ordering management but often is not done right, bringing provisioning gears to a grinding halt, says Preston Gilmer, vice president of product marketing for Sigma Systems. That complexity of managing an order and integration to a Level 3 [Communications Inc.] or Sprint [Corp.] is a differentiator and also a point of difficulty because of the processes involved, he says, pointing to local number portability, which often has to be arranged through the ILEC.

Apollo Guy, vice president and general manager of cable and broadband at OSS vendor Telution Inc., agrees. In order to reduce [order] fallout, which has an impact on cost, such as reworking orders or running multiple truckrolls, cable operators are now embracing more robust operating support systems to manage their CLEC partnerships, he says. They have to get the right information to the CLEC partner.

Click to EnlargeThe Sigma Service Management Platform (SMP) includes capabilities required to deliver complex services on multivendor networks.

Guy reminds that provisioning voice services is a complex process. Keep in mind telcos have done voice for a hundred years, but for the cable operators, its a new area. They are going to face pain points on how to automate this process. He cites a handful of information transfer points that can muck up the communication between a cable VoIP operator and a CLEC. These include LNP, translating Local Service Ordering Guidelines, E911 and 411 data.

They are all intertwined. So, if one of those things goes wrong, that customer may not get service, he says. So, start with local number portability. You have got to coordinate between yourself and your CLEC partner when the cutover date is. So, for example, if the cable operator is coming at 2 in the afternoon and the service was cut off at 9 a.m., you are without service for a couple of hours. Automating the transfer, while it seems simple, is a tightly coupled process.

To help VoIP operators, Telution automates many of the processes using interfaces to LNP companies like NeuStar Inc. and Accentures Launch-Now, managing manual forms for LSOGs and creating order-capture tools that walk CSRs through the steps required to get a customer through service activation.

The picture changes somewhat when the cableco is using a hosted solution. You basically throw everything over the fence for them to manage and you lose visibility into the status of that order because the CLEC partner will then execute that order, provision the softswitch, determine which features and function you get, says Guy. If you have a hosted solution, there is less pressure of having a robust OSS because the CLEC partner now has the solution like Telutions. They are managing the OSS complexities.

Where OSS automation really shines is during order fallout, or rainy-day scenarios, vendors say.

Take the case of an order requiring a number to be ported and the customer changes his mind a day later and wants a new phone number. Those are the areas that create a lot of headaches, says Guy. How do you manage the rework of that request? Do you tell the customer, Hold on and let me make a call to the CLEC partner to see if the number has been ported already? Do you tell them, I dont know? Do you tell them, Wait for the truck to get out there?

In contrast, Telutions system is able to manage fallout situations where a customer may change an order midstream. The company offers industry kits prepopulated with business rules that can be configured using a software development toolkit. The industry kits allow the carrier to get to market faster. If the market changes or the rule changes, we give them a tool that allows them to change it on the fly, says Guy.

Sigma also shortens integration time by pre-integrating or defining what VoIP service means, what are the building blocks and how they are instantiated on a particular technology. Cable is MGCP- or MCS-based. Now we are moving to SIP. We are using the same platform and solution set to do this, Gilmer says. Two-thirds of the work is done; the other third is integrating to what are those systems and how do they like to be talked to.

Completing the end-to-end automation, Sigma offers feedback to business support layer systems like billing and CRM. Those systems need to be told that once an order is completed or failed to take the appropriate actions, he says.

Looking for More Information on VoIP Interconnection?

With cable operators expanding video and data service sets to include voice, many are finding that successful voice service introduction requires the help of key interconnection partners, namely CLECs. Managing the interconnection with these CLEC partners is not without its own set of challenges and constraints.

PHONE+ Editor Khali Henderson will lead a discussion on cablecos bringing voice services to residential and business customers and proactively managing interconnection partnerships with CLECs at the CompTel/ASCENT Convention & Expo, Oct. 9-12, in Orlando.

The session, Cable VoIP Complexities: The Role of CLEC Partners and System Interconnection, will be held at 9:45-10:45 a.m., Oct. 11., and will feature Apollo Guy, vice president and general manager of cable and broadband for Telution Inc., and Scott Widham, president of sales and marketing for Broadwing Communications LLC.


Accenture Communications LLC www.broadwing.comCable One Inc. www.cableone.comFocal Communications Corp. www.focal.comLevel 3 Communications Inc. www.level3.comNeuStar Inc. www.nortel.comSigma Systems www.sigma-systems.comSprint www.sprint.comTelution Inc.

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