Purchasing SIP termination can take a great deal of time and effort. There‘s a lot of homework to do before you place providers into production with live traffic, and only then does the real work begin: unprofitable or bad routes, 503s, capacity issues, and ASR and ACD issues, just to name a few. The termination provider you choose today will impact your bottom line tomorrow, so it’s important to make the right choice.
Where to Find VoIP Providers
Pay as you Go Services
Choose from “pay as you go” online services:
Internet Lists and Forums
You can also find VoIP providers via related Internet sites and forums:
Other ways to find Providers
Finally, ask around (colleagues, suppliers, business associates, etc).
When selecting a VoIP service provider, you need to collect as much information as you can about the company you’re going to work with. The research involves trying to filter the real players from the imposters and finding a balance between cost and quality.
- Visit the companies’ websites, go to their social media sites, read their blogs, search for news, and search Google for forum posts about them. Enter the company name (and the main contacts’ names/surnames) and the word “fraud” to check if they have any dark-history.
- Take note of the company size: large companies are often better run and have more sophisticated equipment and facilities than small companies.
- After completing the initial research, contact the company and ask additional questions, such as the following:
- How long have they been in business?
- Can they provide Trade References?
- What is their supported capacity?
- What are their billing increments (1/1, 6/6, etc.)?
- How many providers do they keep in their routing groups?
- How many providers have to fail before they send a 503?
- How many customers do they support? (Note: If the company does not support many customers, this could be an indication of poor service or that it is not well established.)
- Is the solution based on open standards, or does it rely on a proprietary model? While both proprietary and open standards–based solutions can work, using industry standards provides more safety and reliability.
- Consider the following key questions:
- Is the VoIP provider going to stay in business? Both by asking simple questions about how long a company has been in business, and then by doing a little research on its website and with Google, you may get some indication of its overall viability.
- Length of experience—VoIP providers with only a few years in business aren’t likely to be able to provide sustained, high-quality, trouble-free service.
- Ask about them in LinkedIn and check their Trade References.
The more information you collect at this stage, the better your odds of finding a solid provider will be.
Once a provider passes the reliability test, ask them for a tariff list so you can analyze it. This optional step helps to determine how profitable the provider could be. Run an analysis on their tariff that compares it to most recent month’s CDRs (call detail records). This will provide detailed information on how well this tariff would have done had it been in your LCR (Least Cost Routing) management system.
If you’re happy with the result, move on to the testing phase. If the analysis comes back unfavorable, send the provider your termination target rates and ask them to provide a better offer.
Testing Quality, Interconnection, and Administration
Quality is as just as important as price.
Typically, a provider will send you an interconnection form to complete, which gathers certain switching information such as an IP address, codecs, number formats, etc. Once the interconnection has been established, testing can begin.
- Although there are a number of tests to ensure proper functionality, nothing beats live traffic. Unfortunately, if there are issues when using live traffic, your customers can feel the pain, and your business can suffer. Use with caution!
- Test the routes before signing an agreement. Echoing, jitter, and delay are very important factors.
- Evaluate the administration—Ask for a demo account, and check out both the administrator and user portals. Play around with the menus and determine how easy (or difficult) it will be to make any adds, moves, or changes.
- Read the fine print. Make sure you know the terms before you sign up to avoid being locked into a poor agreement.
- From a procurement perspective, when negotiating with your providers be careful about committing to a set amount of usage per month or over the life of the contract, and never lock yourself into obligations such as guaranteeing specific call types, destinations, or spend obligations.
- Consider payment terms, how problems are escalated and solved, and when and how you get rate updates. Make sure you know what to do when a problem occurs—nobody cares about agreements when there are no problems!
If a provider isn’t performing, another provider can easily be found, and the traffic will be moved. When a new and untested provider is added, they need to be held accountable for underperforming. Everybody knows there are going to be issues, but good communication and a quick resolution are the main concerns.
- A good VoIP provider should provide good customer support that includes 24-hour phone support seven days a week. It should be fast, reliable, and easy-to-work with.
- Don’t just take their word for it: test it. Call in the middle of the night just to make sure someone answers!
- Check the provider’s website to ensure that there is email, over-the-phone, and live chat support, and a knowledge base set up to help customers work through issues on their own.
- It’s not just the hours, but the attitude and capabilities of the support personnel that can make a big difference to your overall satisfaction with the provider. You’ll be able to see this when you start to work with them. Also, you can ask their current customers about this.
In summary, choosing a SIP termination provider can be very time-consuming and risky if you don’t have a plan or a thorough process. Follow the process set out above to select the best available providers that will help to produce better quality and higher profit margins for your organization.
And remember—an unreliable provider will kill your business! Always have a backup in mind and thoroughly checked out.