The Citel Blog.

VoIP Migration - The FCC Angle

I just read an article entitled “First Major Move Made in FCC VoIP Phone System Migration” at www.tmcnet.com/topics/articles/2014/03/05/372333-fcc-makes-major-move-get-ip-migration-underway.htm. As many of you are aware the FCC is committed to a full IP transition starting this year.  The article references FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in his blog stating “the way forward is to encourage technological change while preserving the attributes of network services that customers have come to expect,”  The deadline has just passed for phone companies to submit proposals to enable them to participate in this process and it will be interesting to see what they have to say. Reports referred to in the article state that changes are “going to be aimed at measuring consumers’ perceptions and acceptance of the technology and how it performs, specifically under emergency conditions”.

 

We are confident that at least some of the telephone companies submitting proposals to the FCC will be looking at the Portico™ TVA™ as part of this process. Incorporating the Portico™ TVA™ into any VoIP migration plan allows end users to check out the technology without having to make a full blown commitment to the process while giving them the ability to get back out if necessary. We all know that once tested the concerns regarding VoIP discussed, especially regarding QoS, disappear but getting the end user to buy in requires subtle assistance. Thus using the Portico™ TVA™ to get concerned end users to test the system utilizing their own existing equipment routed to the IP PBX helps them to get over that hurdle. It also ensures that the move happens with the least amount of inconvenience and given the customer a proven experience with existing equipment. Changes to the services provided can be introduced after initial skepticism has been overcome.

Give People What They Want

I was at a conference ten days or so ago and sat in on a roundtable discussion relating to what some large enterprises were looking for when it came to their VoIP migration plans. Of the four people involved three represented end users; one a large university, one an NGO and the other a Government Department. It was a fascinating discussion and ended all too soon.

 

As it progressed, a colleague leaned over to me and said that we at Citel should be in touch with each of those entities.  I am sure a lot of other people felt the same way and I am sure many of those had something that could give each of the end users something that they might be interested in. However as discussions continued the one factor that became clear was that with a geographic ally dispersed and diversified work force involved each participant wanted simplicity when it came to migrating to VoIP. They might want all of the benefits of VoIP but the conversion has to be easy and, as much as possible, seamless.  As one of the speakers stated they cannot do a forklift migration. They face a lot of pushback on VoIP migration and the need for all of the unified communications services being offered within their organizations but it was felt that once in place, those services would soon be adopted as their benefits became more and more obvious.


So the question remains how to simplify the migration process and make it as seamless as possible.  Again as always it is to avoid the rip and replace scenario as much as possible, only deploying IP phones where cabling and technology is readily available and the work force is readily adaptable. Of course if the workforce is adaptable you might want to escape the IP phone generation in its entirety and move immediately to soft phones. However how many are ready for that?  This is where Citel’s Portico™ TVA™ fits in. Deploy that to replace the existing PBX but retain the rest of the legacy infrastructure including the handsets everyone is so comfortable with. In this way you can make the transition simple for the end user who must have something better to do than learn to use yet another new device. Once the backbone of your system is changed then you can start to introduce those new and revenue generating UC services everyone is promoting these days. Now that makes sense!

Latest Firmware Upgrade for the Portico™ TVA™ Now Available - Handset Enhancements

The latest firmware also provides some further enhancements for certain digital phones. We have been working with a customer in Belgium who has Alcatel phones (see our new case study being issued next week for further information) and we have added some new features including both volume control features on flexible buttons and three ring tones at three different volumes for each of the Alcatel phones we support.  As part of the process we added Belgian progress tones under the Belgian country code on the Console interface. In addition to these changes we have added comfort beeps when hands free dialing on Avaya Definity and have added some extra control for phones with only one line of LCD display. Settings can be made so when the phone is ringing or connected, the display will not toggle between two character strings like normal (e.g. "Calling:" or "Connected To:"), but will just continue to display the remote number.

Latest Firmware Upgrade for the Portico™ TVA™ Now Available - SIP Signaling

The latest firmware is not just restricted to the Central Office upgrade but also includes a number of other enhancements requested by our customers. The second set of improvements related to SIP signaling. We have been working with a number of Metaswitch customers and recently noticed an issue when testing the Portico™ TVA™ with the most recent version of the Metaswitch platform. Shared Call Appearance did not appear to work as it has done since the original interoperability testing was performed a number of years ago. We knew that it would probably need only a minor tweak to our firmware but the issue was what tweaking. Getting time in the Metaswitch lab was difficult but fortunately one of our test clients provided us with access with the required software and we were able to sort out the issue very quickly. We subsequently have had the firmware upgraded tested by some of our other customers running the latest Metaswitch platform. Thanks to all of them for their help. Shared Call Appearances can be used with Metaswitch to deliver Multiple Appearance Directory Numbers (MADNs) type of functionality, familiar to Nortel users.

We have also increased the URI length, allowing a bigger name space, something very important for large hosted IP Centrex customers using the Portico TVA for P-phones.

We have also been working with a number of versions of Asterisk as different customers are using as many versions of that open source firmware as there are out there and because it is open source changes are not always consistent. We have worked with a number of Asterisk using partners to resolve their issues and although later versions of Asterisk resolve those problems, customers are not always willing or able to upgrade their customer’s firmware to have it better work with our TVA. I am sure those partners recognize that we are doing everything we can to assist them but as with non-open source platforms sometimes the changes have to be done on that firmware not ours. Not something our partners always want to hear not we want to say but. We have however among other more minor changes ensured ‘sendonly’ is now signaled in hold SDP. Hopefully that is a help to our Asterisk partners.

Latest Firmware Upgrade for the Portico™ TVA™ Now Available - CO Enhancement

We released our latest firmware upgrade, version 6.01.0 late last week after a number of months of field testing and are very pleased with the results. As you all probably know by now we have introduced a Central Office (CO) version of the Portico TVA for Centrex replacement and have confirmed that the maximum recommended loop length is now 15,000 feet and we now provide an option for 48vDC for CO and curb side cabinet usage.

Although we have only tested the loop length to 15,000 feet customers who have tried the CO version have questioned the maximum scoped out as they have run Centrex phones more than 20,000 feet from their CO. Our position is that’s great and we would expect it to work but when we scoped out the project the maximum loop length specified for a Centrex handset was 15,000 and we simply aimed to match that. We thank our partners for all of their input and their testing.

The 48v DC option means the Portico™ TVA™ can also work in regions where power availability is sometimes questionable. For example, we just quoted a customer who specified the 48v DC version not for a Central Office install but for power stability reasons.

What is the Cost of Replacing Your Legacy Handsets When You Migrate to VoIP?

My last few blogs have discussed some of the reasons to look at using Citel’s Portico TVA to SIP enable legacy handsets, be they digital, Centrex or analog when you migrate to VoIP. I posed the question last time if you even need to use an IP phone when you do the move and gave a case for skipping that product completely. There are some significant direct cost savings should you decide to retain your legacy handsets when moving to IP telephony  but there are also a number of intangible costs that many people tend to disregard to their detriment in their evaluation

 

The most intangible cost is environmental. Even though my daughter made headlines recently based on a study detailing the amount of plastic found in birds in the Pacific Northwest, I am not an environmentalist by any means but the environment is a growing concern that all of us have to address. If you are only going to go the “rip and replace” direction until your employees are ready to move to softphones or use one of the many other multipurpose devices (remember BYOD) for their calling what happens to the IP phone?

 

 IP phones tend to be built with disposal in mind. Most are not as well built as the old desk phone you have on your desk that may have been around for decades and will only have a limited life. What happens to those orphan phones?  In the past desk phones were made to last and many have years of service and usability left. There used to be a very large remanufacturing industry built up around phones but there are so many used phones out there now the market is failing due to over-supply.  The mantra of the 1990’s of Reuse, Reduce, Recycle has been replaced by Recycle, Recycle, Recycle but again there is a cost to that process and a limited demand for the ground up pellets that results. If you reuse your existing phones there is an environmental benefit that cannot be quantified.

 

Although a tangible cost, the book value of existing handsets are still one of those costs that many people forget to build into the migration cost equation.  Due to accounting methodologies applied by many companies those same legacy phones may still have some value on corporate books and a move to IP phones could result in a write off of the corresponding amount on the books.  You still have to write off any remaining investment in the PBX but as many of those are End of Life already that write off has to happen no matter what you do.

 

There are two other intangible costs that are often forgotten when looking at VoIP migration; the cost of disrupting the workforce as changes are made to the telephony system and the cost of training people on new phones.

 

Many people ask what disruption. Well, if the migration occurs during downtime, the “rip and replace” process is not an issue. But when do you find that downtime. I know of one instance where new cabling for the new IP phones was to be run on a holiday weekend only for the union involved refusing to work on a holiday weekend.  For that entity, they operated on a 24/7 basis (think of a hospital as an example) and had real trouble making time available for changes without affecting day to day operations.  For some universities upgrading cabling and installing PoE switches can only be done as part of campus wide renovations that can stretch over a five to seven year period. Operational cost savings can be delayed for years under a scaled in implementation. Not an issue when using existing equipment on a new VoIP platform.

 

The last intangible cost is training employees. These days there is so much education already occurring on the job that having to learn how to use a new phone is for many companies a step too far.  I have been amazed by the number of people I have spoken to who are delaying VoIP migration because they do not want to have to teach their employees how to use a new phone. Maybe short sighted but a fact of life.

 

If you want to see how to reduce the cost of migration call us or go to www.citel.com. VoIP migration should be easy.

Do You Need An IP Phone When You Migrate to VoIP?

There is so much talk about using Tablets and Smartphones in the office environment and how to incorporate employees’ own personal devices into the IT equation.  There are so many options out there as to how to make a phone call that it is difficult to know which way to turn. While some companies are riding the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) to the office many are not. What to do!

 

No matter how you handle the BYOD issue, offerings such as Microsoft Lync are promoting soft phones that do away with the need for all desk phones in the office. Of course there are times when a softphone will not suffice (difficult to use on an elevator for example). But there is also the issue of people not being comfortable talking on a headset, an ear piece or even a smartphone (just try holding a smartphone or tablet to your ear and let me know if that is better than a standard desk phone). The younger generation is used to new technology but there are still many of us out there who grew up with desk phones and would prefer to use them even if just out of habit.

 

“Rip and replace” solutions incorporating IP phones cater to this need. Most IP telephony platforms have a softphone capability and the ability to coordinate with smartphones, etc. When I am travelling I frequently utilize Bria on my tablet so I can use my “office” phone” when I am in a hotel, at the airport or at a conference. So why the plethora of IP phones? The fact is, people like a desk phones. Even if more and more people are using softphones, tablets, smartphones, some kind of desk phone is still required. Well if that is the case, why throw out your legacy handsets only to replace them, at great cost frequently, with another phone that is likely to be obsolete before too long or not even used by the user. As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t expect to have a desk phone five years from now.

 

That is where Citel comes into play. Citel’s Portico TVA lets you continue with your existing handsets,  SIP enabling them to be used on your IP telephony platform. The latest IP phones can be very expensive and if you go with a cheap replacement it is likely to require replacement before you are ready to go to a softphone, smartphone combination. Your legacy handsets have served you well. Why not incorporate them into your VoIP migration and save yourself time, money and unnecessary change. Your customers and / or employees will soon be using softphones of their own devices so why go through the expense of a full blown rip and replace migration when for a lot less money and time, you can make the transition so much easier using a TVA.

 

Next time I will discuss the cost to the company and the environment of replacing your legacy handsets.

Migrating to VoIP – Keeping Upfront Costs Down

Last week, I wrote about some of the hesitations that arise when companies look at VoIP migration (see Blog dated June 14, 2012). This week I want to continue in that vein and discuss how Citel can help keep the cost of migrating as low as possible.

 

As I stated previously, cost and reliability remain major considerations for companies when they are looking at their telephone systems. There are a lot of costs involved with operating a PBX and those costs are one of the reason companies are looking at their alternatives. One company with whom we are working has a large installed DMS100 (Centrex) base in the Tropics and is faced with exceedingly high cooling costs for the buildings where their switch units were installed. Their operating cost concerns are more than just monthly service charges, charges per call and the cost per service.

 

Additionally, many companies are being forced to make decisions sooner than they would like about new telephone systems as more and more of the older PBXs out there are being End of Lifed by their manufacturers. A number of those companies are looking at more expensive hybrid systems (with both digital and IP capabilities) to keep their existing telephone infrastructure in place until they are ready to venture into the IP telephony marketplace. This is certainly an option but with associated maintenance contracts, support, etc., that can be a very expensive solution that is unnecessary.  

 

Many sellers in the marketplace are promoting a “rip and replace“ solution.  Those companies exhort the benefits of moving to VoIP but at what upfront cost to the end user. If a premise based solution is recommended, there is the cost of the IP PBX, IP phones, Category 5/6 cabling to be installed and Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches to be installed to power the IP phones. There are also the intangible costs of work interruption in terms of down time when the system is being put in place and the training required to use the new phones. If multiple buildings are involved, the whole migration process can take years rather than months. If hosted services are being proffered, even if these costs are built in to the monthly per port price, these same costs have to be paid if only through a higher than necessary monthly rate.  It is to deal with these issues that many companies look at Citel’s Portico TVA.  Why go through the cost of a “rip and replace” solution and the time delays involved when with the TVA you can migrate all of a customer’s end users to VoIP literally overnight.

 

By incorporating the Portico TVA into the VoIP migration process, you can unplug your handsets (digital, analog or P-Phones) from their PBX, plug them into the Portico TVA, then run them directly or via a router to your on-premise or cloud based IP PBX. The system utilizes the existing cabling and as the phones remain line powered there is no need for PoE switches. There is no disruption of the work place as most of the time the configuration of the units can be done prior to installation (or via a simple Web GUI if done remotely after the fact) with most back end change-overs being done after hours. There is also no retraining for the end-user except as new services are introduced. How much simpler can it get? If you are looking at your options for your telephone system, give Citel a call. We work with many cloud based and premise based IP PBX’s and softswitches and would be pleased to work with you.

Migrating to VoIP - Why The Hesitation?

I am constantly amazed by the number of emails I receive monthly providing rationale for why companies should move their phone service to some form of IP telephony. Having worked in the environment for a number of years one tends to forget that not everyone understands the benefits available to them for using VoIP. A recent white paper I looked at stated that “there are business owners the world over who, for whatever reason, haven’t caught on to VoIP’s new status in the business world. They still remember a time years or even decades ago when Internet phone calls were a gimmick, unsupported by the bulk of users.”  I still remember the poor service I got as a business with a local phone company over the PSTN but in those days that was just a part of doing business and was accepted and long forgotten. Why is that not the case with VoIP, especially as there are so many ways to ensure the service is better than ever before available?

 

Everyone discusses the cost savings available with VoIP, be it on monthly service charges, charges per call or the cost per service (call waiting, forwarding, caller ID, etc.) so why has not everyone already migrated to VoIP. The fact is that cost savings is not the only factor other than quality of service that is being looked at.

 

I speak with a lot of people about VoIP migration in my day to day activities. I have also spoken at numerous conferences and in conversations afterwards am fascinated by the number of people who are reluctant to change out their desk phones. There are so many changes in the business world these days, Cloud computing, Smartphones, Tablets, SaaS, Computers in general etc., that the standard office desk phone is one of the one few items remaining in the office that people have not had to change. It is an island of stability in an ever changing world. A lot of companies are saying no to migrating to VoIP because they don’t want to change.

 

Now, many of you are probably wondering why I am going on about remaining the same when this blog has highlighted some of the benefits of VoIP. Well that’s easy. You can still obtain the benefits of VoIP without changing out your phones. With Citel’s Portico TVA, you can SIP enable those existing legacy desk phones so that they can remain in place even when you move to VoIP. You can get the costs savings from VoIP without having to change anything on your users’ desks. You can set up the phones to do exactly what they did when tied to the PABX and the PSTN so your end users do not know that they are helping their businesses save money. In my next blog we will look at how those savings are magnified by adopting the Portico TVA as part of your VoIP migration.

 


Citel introduces its latest firmware release for the Portico Telephone VoIP Adapter

Citel regularly adds new features to its award winning VoIP migration device, the Portico TVA, to help meet ongoing customer requests.

With recent activity in Europe we have been working to increase the support for Alcatel handsets and that has resulted in support now for the Alcatel Reflex digital phones, models 4004 and 4020 to go along with the 4010 that was already supported.

We have enhanced the Conference/Transfer key general call control on entry level phones. The feature was not previously available on very basic handsets only on more complex units. After discussions with a hospital where there were a large number of basic handsets this feature was added to simplify phone procedures between hospital wards.

We have also added features to the System Setting menu within the devices web GUI to provide additional customization options for the administrator. We continue to enhance the capabilities of the Portico TVA to make the user experience when a customer retains their legacy handsets when migrating to VoIP as easy and simple as possible.

For more information on the latest build see the full Product Information Bulletin click Here

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