eIP: What are your responsibilities in leading the NGN SIP Trunking Product Group for Allstream?
JC: My role is to be Allstream’s SIP Trunking evangelist. Plenty of businesses have already realized the benefits of SIP over more traditional technologies, but there are lots more who simply don’t know how great it is and how powerful a technology it can be for their business. My team and I are here to show them how.
That includes making sure we understand the customers using the technology, the market and the competitive landscape, including product and business trends. Based on those inputs we have a technical team that builds our SIP portfolio, has an end-to-end view, and can tweak our solution and make it even better for customers.
eIP: What is SIP Trunking, and why is it an alternative to traditional voice services?
JC: Simply put, traditional voice service requires two connections to your business: Internet and voice. What SIP allows you to do is consolidate that into one connection instead of having a separate connection and a separate network.
eIP: When should a business consider SIP Trunking?
JC: Some customers are using legacy telephony systems that have been around for many years — in some cases 10 years or more. Like any technology, eventually you’re going to have to replace that. Many businesses will switch for the cost savings; in other cases, they make the switch to SIP when they’re expanding to a new location or when they’re upgrading their phone system.
If they’re considering a change to a Cisco or Mitel phone system, including SIP as part of that transition is usually a logical time to do it. Also, we see customers who are not entirely switching but introducing new capabilities. For example, a lot of businesses are getting into web chat, so they usually redesign their customer service workflows, and this is a good time to insert SIP capability.
eIP: SIP Trunking holds the promise of reduced telecom costs. What other benefits can customers expect to see?
JC: The most obvious advantage is cost savings — not having to pay two bills. There are also other operational expenses that come with managing a separate network. But it’s not the only benefit. SIP offers self-service capabilities, such as the ability to add or remove services, or the ability to control bandwidth, almost on-demand — which is next to impossible with traditional voice services. So that’s also a big driver, to have that flexibility at their fingertips.
There is also the ability to get business voice services anywhere in Canada without having to deal with the wiring or cabling needed for traditional voice. We have businesses that rely on SIP to activate a backup call centre office within minutes. This is a great use of SIP as a disaster recovery tool when their primary site is unable to take calls.
eIP: Allstream pioneered SIP Trunking in Canada. What does the U.S. market opportunity look like?
JC: In a nutshell, it’s huge, and we’re excited about expanding our base in the U.S. Having an operation in the U.S. also provides benefits for our Canadian customers, and vice versa. Some customers have offices in both countries, so we’re now able to consolidate and offer SIP service both north and south of the border, which is unique — we couldn’t do that last year. And, we’re the only telecom positioned to deliver SIP throughout North America.
eIP: What is next-generation SIP Trunking, and how is Allstream innovating in this area?
JC: In 2016, we did a major overhaul of our SIP service, including the addition of self-service capabilities. Reliability was a big factor in our decision to invest more into this service. In recent years, we’ve had record-breaking weather and Internet security events that can disrupt government and businesses. So, we’ve added even more reliability than before to ensure the service is as solid as customers expect.
Reliability is extremely important — enterprise or government customers typically have large call centre operations and those systems have to work 100 per cent of the time with absolutely no tolerance for failure. When providing a public service or critical 24/7 service, it just has to work. We recognize that, so that’s where we’ve chosen to put more investment.
eIP: What is the focus of the NGN SIP Trunking Product Group in the year ahead?
JC: You can expect to see more integration with our U.S. operations. The acquisition of our U.S. assets took place in March, so there’s quite a bit of integration work ahead of us. We expect to roll out more capabilities to our customers and drive growth in the U.S. market.
eIP: Why should customers turn to Allstream for their SIP Trunking needs?
JC: Quite simply, we’ve been doing this for more than 10 years, and the experience we’ve gained in working with customers and the technology is difficult to copy or imitate. We’re not in the consumer space, we focus exclusively on businesses. Being as seasoned as we are makes us the best. A lot of that experience goes back into how we’ve organized ourselves, how we’ve trained our people and how we’ve defined the product. The investments we’ve made in the product and the people will tell you how important this is for us — our people and our technology are our key differentiators.