[Podcast] The Perils of Progress – Not all Sunsets are Pretty

It comes as no shock to anyone–especially someone in the communications technology industry–that technology moves forward at a rapid pace and builds upon itself. After all, we’re all familiar with Moore’s Law and Edholm’s Law.

Internet Protocol technology has carried the communications industry through an amazing revolution over the last few decades and has changed the core essence of voice communications, not only in the United States, but also around the world.

It wasn’t that long ago that long-distance telephone call rates were nearly $.20 a minute domestically, and international rates were even more astronomical. The main reason for this was primarily because the infrastructure was so expensive, and it was a matter of cost recovery by the local exchange carriers.

New technology that allowed the migration of analog switching equipment to digital packet networks, and bandwidth increases over existing mediums, such as DWDM technology (effectively increasing the number of colors on a single fiber from two to more than 160) has allowed carriers to increase both bandwidth and throughput, spreading the effective cost over a much larger audience.

But what’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander. In other words, while IP technology has enabled global communications to occur at a much more affordable rate–effectively reducing the cost per user–it has also had an unintended negative side effect that will cause significant hardship for some users.

For some time, now it’s been reported that potential interoperability issues exist with some legacy, analog-based technologies such as TDD/TTY devices for the hearing impaired or deaf, medical monitoring devices, home alarm systems, fax machines and some ATMs.

Services that are dependent on POTS

Additionally, E911 can become problematic, not necessarily because of the technology, but because the user can relocate the endpoint without administrative control. This breaks the model that a telephone number equals a physical address or location, which is the core of our current E911 architecture.

There is no denying that analog-based telephony is a dying breed.

Last December, an article that appeared in ‘Governing’ by chief editor Tod Newcombe put forth some very sobering statistics. According to US Telecom, ILEC’s in the US have lost 70 percent of the residential telephone business to wireless carriers and cable providers. With that kind of degradation in customer base, it completely upsets the revenue model and return on investment for the large Central Office equipment required to provide legacy analog landline services.

It really comes down to simple math: For example, you might buy a tiny Central Office for $5 million, which has an expected lifespan of 10 years, or 120 months. That Central Office services 10,000 customers, making the effective cost per customer $4.17 per month.

If 70 percent of your customer base disappears, your monthly cost per customer goes to $13.89 per month–representing a 336 percent increase in expense over revenue.

Verizon Files Tariff Allowing Company to Abandon Wired Phone Service in New York

Ultimately, the Federal Communications Commission is there to protect us. Large carriers can’t simply do what they want, when they want. What they do, and what they charge is controlled by tariffs that are under scrutiny by the Federal Communications Commission, and ultimately the general public, if you know where to look. The FCC is very proactive with information, and distributes a Daily Digest linking relevant filings, and activities.

Subscribing is easy:

To subscribe to the FCC’s free Daily Digest mailing list, send an email to subscribe@info.fcc.gov. Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the email, write “subscribe digest” followed by your first name and your last name. For example, “Subscribe digest Mark Fletcher.”

If you need additional help in subscribing, email EDOCShelp@fcc.gov

The FCC Transition Task Force, formed under FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s directive, will produce status reports, requests for comment, and other pertinent information that will all be distributed through the Daily Digest. In addition to other items of interest, I for one will be monitoring this initiative, and the ultimate sunset of the PSTN network.

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Social Security Administration Processes 500 Millionth Call Through Modernized Phone System

On the morning of June 16, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) processed its 500 millionth call through its Telephone System Replacement Program (TRSP)-driven modernized telecom system.

It was a milestone for Social Security, which began the TSRP with Avaya in 2007 and just celebrated its 80th birthday in August.

Social Security had long relied on a conventional, old-school PBX phone framework. Each of the agency’s 1,600+ offices had individual PBXs, and almost all had products that were nearing, or had reached, end of life.

“We were scrambling just trying to find parts,” explained Todd Markulik, the SSA’s contracting officer’s technical representative.. “We looked at our future, and realized a Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony solution would be a good fit for us as a way to really create a nationwide network.”

The agency worked with Avaya to create a cutting-edge IP telephony network and manage its average 400,000 daily calls. The SSA recognized the need to future-proof its system with an impending influx of Baby Boomers coming of age for Social Security.

Through the TSRP, SSA was able to streamline and consolidate systems, and cut costs by as much as 50 percent depending on office location.

“Previously, we had somewhere between 20 and 45 analog lines from a local phone company, and we were being charged $35 to $40 a month per line,” Markulik said. “When we moved to VoIP, we eliminated all but maybe eight of those lines.”

The carrier-grade, enterprise solution is government-owned and Avaya-managed, end-to-end. It features leading technology, from Network Skills Based Routing to Dynamic Virtual Forward, and gives the agency redundancies that help it support contact centers in four regions of the United States seamlessly. As a result, the agency was able to get through Hurricane Sandy, and major blizzards and storms without an incident.

The future of Social Security’s technology looks just as bright. Markulik pointed toward plans for an increase in soft phones, teleworking and VoIP capabilities in the near future.

“We’re well-positioned for the future,” he explained.

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IP Office Takes Top Scores at Enterprise Connect

Selecting a team engagement solution in the era of mobility, cloud-based solutions and industry consolidation is no easy task. As new trends disrupt the industry, finding the best solution for your company’s specific needs becomes more complex.

As solutions scale in size and capabilities, platforms once targeting smaller companies may be able to serve larger businesses with enterprise features while offering a lower TCO.

Such is the case of Avaya IP Office, which this week received the highest overall marks at Enterprise Connect’s RFP Workshop, a competition that evaluated enterprise IP telephony and UC premise-based, hybrid and cloud-based solutions from leading industry vendors and system integrators.

How does this RFP work?

Every year, as part of the Enterprise Connect agenda, consultants (David Stein for the past 2 years) put out a comprehensive RFP that companies are asked to build proposals against. Proposals are evaluated and rated in the categories of architecture, feature/functionality and total cost of ownership (TCO).

The proposals are presented in detail during a 3-hour session at the conference. The final score: 25 percent for architecture, 50 percent for features/functionality and 25 percent for TCO.

The purpose of the RFP workshop is to help companies understand the way experienced consultants evaluate their various solution options, as well as expose them to a sample of how vendors respond to the requirements of a potential customer.

This year’s RFP was for a new IP telephony and UC system for 2,000 users, distributed in 3 sites: headquarters with 1,750 users, large branch with 200 users and small branch with 50 users. The solution had to allow for 100 percent growth (to 4,000 users in the future) without replacing the initially-deployed hardware.

The designs had to be resilient and address a wide range of security requirements, as well as provide for IM and presence, audio, Web, video collaboration and voicemail.

Integration with popular business productivity applications was also considered. To meet the video conferencing requirement of up to 25 participants in a single conference, we were able to offer AvayaLive Video, the new cloud-based Scopia solution.

The marriage of IP Office Select and AvayaLive Video offers a compelling value proposition for midmarket and small companies.

Traditionally, we have presented an Avaya Aura solution and our competitors consistently propose their large enterprise solutions.

Although the RFP called for an enterprise-grade solution, we decided to take a calculated risk by proposing Avaya IP Office Select Release 9.1. This new, comprehensive solution has the capacity and features to deliver an engaging experience for basic stations to power collaborators, with mobility on virtually any device for up to 2,500 users, at a TCO level our competitors could not touch.

Here is a diagram of the proposed solution:

IP Office Select Release 9.1 Diagram

Avaya’s solution received the best overall score in the competition and was a clear winner in the TCO sub-category, which analyzes the total cost of ownership over 5 years.

For those of you who think IP Office is a solution designed exclusively for small businesses, it’s time to think again.

Matt Dodd, Avaya

This article was a guest post from Matt Dodd, Director of Strategic Architecture and Consulting at Avaya. As a member of Avaya’s Office of the CTO, Matt drives strategic architecture initiatives through consultative engagements with customers, marketing and R&D teams, with a special focus on market intelligence.

Matt has 24 years of experience in the networking, unified communications and collaboration disciplines, spanning across roles in services, technical sales, channel enablement and management. He holds a BS degree in Electronic Engineering technology.

A Customer Story: Avaya Powers the Guest Experience for Cycas Hospitality

One party can’t always provide all of the elements needed to solve a complex challenge – it often takes a team.

In the case of Cycas Hospitality, it took the seamless orchestration of three parties with Avaya serving as the communications platform provider, Avaya Business Partner QDOS as the installation service provider, and Avaya DevConnect Partner TigerTMS as the integration service provider.

With no room for error, the team was able to deliver an integrated solution just in time for the opening of two new hotel properties during the largest engagement held in London that year—the 2012 Olympics.This successful implementation allowed Cycas to achieve several key goals, such as:

  • Enhancing the guest experience with fast Internet access and an Apple TV in every room,
  • Enabling hotel staff to be connected while roaming the property by extending their desk phones to their mobiles, and
  • Maintaining IHG brand guidelines by deploying a high-quality and reliable communications solution.

To get the whole story directly from Cycas Director John Wagner, watch our video here: