What Exactly Do You Get from a SIP Service Provider?
If your organization has decided to modernize its telephony system by switching to SIP trunking – the foundation for VoIP and unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) – you’ll need to begin the task of evaluating service providers to find the best solution. It can be confusing when comparing providers, as there are lots of terms and even more nuances to understand plans and features accurately.
A SIP service provider is the company that provides SIP trunking to customers, whether delivered on-premises or hosted in the cloud. Organizations typically lease a single trunk with multiple channels, adding and removing channels as needed to meet employee demand and control costs. A service provider either leverages services from a voice carrier to sell to customers or is both a service provider and a voice carrier. An important distinction in determining the right SIP service provider is how they are delineated into “tiers” and the service level you will receive.
What Voice Carrier Tiers Mean
Voice carriers fall into one of three categories – Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3. A Tier 1 is a large carrier that owns its infrastructure and runs a network with a direct connection to the Internet. A Tier 2 is smaller and typically has a peering agreement with a Tier 1 carrier, which means a Tier 2 essentially piggybacks on a Tier 1 network. A Tier 3 tends to be a specialty or niche provider that works through a Tier 2 or sometimes a Tier 1.
When evaluating SIP service providers, look for one that is a Tier 1 carrier or works directly with a Tier 1. Why?
The SIP service provider is responsible for ensuring that calls are clear. A Tier 1 carrier transmits over the Internet at the highest capacities available with a goal of near zero percent packet loss. Since it owns its infrastructure, Tier 1 service providers normally have higher service levels in delivering consistently high-quality voice calls. Alternatively, Tier 2 and Tier 3 carriers require peering with network handoffs, which may increase latency and might not be as reliable when a network failure occurs.
How a Point of Presence (POP) Helps to Ensure Voice Clarity
A point of presence, or POP, is a carrier facility that provides access to the Internet. Ideally, the voice carrier that will provide your service has PoPs spread across many different regions to help ensure lower latency. In general, the closer customers are to the POP, the lower the latency, which results in clearer voice calls. Understanding the POP quantity and location is an important element in determining a voice carrier’s capabilities.
Why Scalability Is Important
SIP trunking scalability is tied to the ability to dynamically allocate bandwidth across multiple channels. When a SIP channel is idle, the bandwidth is freed up for other uses, which may be voice, internet browsing, email or some other task. This resource pooling and the ability to shrink or grow on demand offers significant flexibility. If additional channels are needed, the service provider can provide them very quickly upon request, with no need to make physical changes to equipment. Because of dynamic allocation, bandwidth can be purchased in smaller increments and helps control costs.
Costs and Billing
A customer should expect to pay monthly charges to the SIP service provider for SIP trunking fees, calls and bandwidth. There may be an initial setup charge (think of this like an “installation” fee), and many customers pay to have their existing phone numbers ported to the new system or they purchase new numbers. Certain quantities of calling minutes are often bundled into the monthly recurring bill which can be a more efficient alternative to buying minutes on an a la carte basis, plus it provides certainty for budgeting purposes.
There is also the cost of phones to consider, which you can lease through a service provider or purchase on your own. Some organizations either require or prefer desk sets, which can quickly escalate costs depending on the number needed. To keep costs low and support mobility, a trend nowadays is toward softphones. A softphone is an app you install on a computer or mobile device to make and receive calls over SIP. The app provides an interface much like any phone but also offers chat, texting, video conferencing, visual voicemail and more. It also protects the device owner’s privacy by presenting callers with a work phone number rather than a personal number. From an IT perspective, a key benefit of softphones is that you can avoid costly technology refresh cycles.
SIP Trunking: The VoIP and UC&C Foundation
SIP trunking is the foundation for modern methods of business communications. As enterprises evolve their communication platforms, it just makes sense for enterprises to embrace VoIP and UC&C, given the general reliance on mobility and the recent workforce shifts to work to home. To ensure you receive the highest value, be sure you select a Tier 1 carrier/provider that provides high voice quality, highly reliable service with dynamic bandwidth allocation and is available 24/7 to address any issues.
Are you ready to evaluate SIP trunking plans and service providers? Use our checklist as a guide.
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