Since the mid 90’s and the early adopters that delivered VoIP services (net2phone, Vonage etc.) the market has mushroomed into a $1 billion global service (source: Infonetics 3Q14 Service Provider VoIP and IMS Equipment Subscribers Report).
That it defied the economic turmoil starting in 2007/2008 is in no doubt, and albeit that the explosive growth has peaked, the Infonetic report shows there was still a healthy 5% growth increase from 3Q13 to 3Q14.
Why Such a Success Story?
VoIP lowers the cost of telephony viz-a-via traditional TDM. The CAPEX cost for VoIP equipment is lower than TDM and coupled with the fact that IP networks are homogenous and all-encompassing leads to a lower transit price.
The entry barriers to developing a VoIP business are lower than those for the traditional TDM network. The open-source community embraced VoIP with great gusto with Asterisk and Freeswitch being some of the better known names. But there were also a plethora of open SIP, H.323, MGCP stacks, proxies, softphones and development tools.
The underlying architecture of VoIP technologies has been designed by the internet brigade – with an eye to providing telephony solutions that had at its core, the sort of flexibility taken for granted in the WWW. This has enabled the plethora of innovative VoIP services we see today.
This is, of course, oversimplifying things, but what I am driving at is that with a good business plan and good technical resources, the ability to deliver VoIP services had a lower barrier to entry than traditional TDM networks. I have worked with a number of ITSP’s (Internet Telephony Service Providers) that have done just that. From the traditional ISP (Internet Service Provider) looking to add voice as a service to new startups entering the wholesale market by providing SIP trunks to the enterprise market. Depending on their technical capabilities they could start at the ground up with VoIP stacks and develop their own services like IVR and conferencing. Demand growing? No problem, rack up another server and load a new software build.
As with all new technology there are several different stages; the early adopter, maturing, saturation and decline. I believe the ITSP model is mid-way through the “maturing” stage. Those successful ITSP’s in the market have acquired their market share in a flurry of technological innovation, business acumen and acquisition. But in telephony, traditional or VoIP, there is relentless downward pressure on the wholesale price of carrying calls and “services”. This can be combated to some extent by the development of new and innovative services of which 4G, IMS and Web RTC will definitely play a part.
It is therefore key, for the continued success of an ITSP, that they look to do the following:-
• Reduce their network OPEX
• Increase subscribers
• Deliver innovative services
Easy to say, but how can an ITSP insure their networks are able to deliver this for their business?
Session Border Controllers
This whitepaper will not now depart on a summary of what an SBC provides technically because there are already 100’s of these on the WWW. Neither will it wax lyrical about security – as this is an assumed de facto standard for any SBC.
Instead I would like to highlight those ingredients an ITSP should be looking for whilst shopping for a Session Border Controller that will deliver the objectives I have identified.
Reducing OPEX Costs
Simply replace multiple instances of your current switching infrastructure with a single SBC instance. Less servers, less rack space, less energy consumption – Reduced Costs.
An SBC is an ITSP’s entry point into the public network. Its function is to provide a single unified interface where all entry point decisions are made i.e:-
Putting this level of intelligence in a single place will save your Op’s staff from having to change things in multiple places across a range of different device interfaces – Reduced Costs.
Modern SBC’s should be providing redundancy options as a standard. When disaster strikes don’t lose revenue – redundancy provides a seamless handover of service. Revenue Assurance.
• Scale: If the business acquires more subscribers then the SBC needs to be able to scale AND, this is important, you should be able to purchase increased capacity on your SBC at the point you need it instead of purchasing a high capacity box in the hope that you will one day run the traffic through it. This, of course, has the benefit of reducing the upfront CAPEX costs.
• Speed: It’s no good having a high capacity box, delivered dynamically or otherwise, if the number of calls you stuff through the box at the same time is a major blocking point. You need to identify what the Call Per Second (CPS) stats are for an SBC; a modern mid-range SBC should, at its upper limits, be pushing 1000 CPS – It’s really worth checking as a lot of kit is still in the 100’s of CPS as the upper limit.
Deliver Innovative Services
• Management: This is an extension of “Reduced Complexity” as described in lowered OPEX costs. To rollout new, hopefully innovative and potentially complex new services you need to be able to manage the network border element in a single place, with a single interface. This interface should be intuitive and fully featured with configuration, network monitoring, and debug for fault resolution included as standard – Reduced Costs.
• Intelligence: With the deployment of new services you may well need to push some of your network intelligence/decision making to the SBC at the edge of the network. You need to look for an SBC that doesn’t simply proxy traffic across the network, but allows you to manipulate and change message details to deliver more intelligent routing requirements. It should have the ability do external lookups to deliver appropriate services – i.e. Authentication and Number Portability over a range of interfaces (SQL, RADIUS or DIAMETER) – Reduced Costs.
Of course, simply putting a top end SBC into your network will not guarantee business success. But choosing the right SBC to be at the core of the network will allow ITSP’s to leverage the network to deliver continued business success.
If any of the issues in this whitepaper are of interest, please visit our website for more information regarding Squire Technologies’ solutions:
• Solution for ITSP
• Solution for SBC