SIP Trunking: A Reality Check

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By Graham Francis and Robert Reams

SIP trunking is one of the fastest moving and most talked about elements of VoIP in the world of telecommunications, and not without good reason. It offers benefits ranging from low-cost calling, centralization of lines into a business and fast disaster recovery (or failover). It’s also a platform for carrying unified communications across boundaries — creating a working environment that could never have been dreamed of using older technologies.

However, as manufacturers, service providers and enterprise customers are finding out, SIP trunking is not always an easy service to implement — and certainly not an easy one to support if things go wrong.

First, there are still significant issues that arise when implementing SIP trunks, and these issues must be faced head-on to make installations go smoothly. They have to be as clean as existing digital and analog installations because that’s what the customer is expecting.

SIP trunking is hitting problems when installed quickly and without careful thought for quality of service and ongoing service management.

At The SIP School, we are in touch with many telecom installation companies. A recent conversation with the CEO of one such company counters the notion that all is well in the move to SIP trunks. He said: I have a contact in a large service provider company that has told me he’s never been so busy taking SIP trunks out of customer sites and replacing them with ISDN lines."

As the conversation developed, we learned there are companies that are not planning, testing and monitoring installations. They are simply putting systems in, getting SIP trunks connected, testing for dial tone and moving onto the next client. Customers are experiencing poor quality, dropped calls and SIP trunks simultaneously dropping then reconnecting. So many problems occurred, the customers simply said, “Enough is enough! Let’s rip everything out and go back to what works!" 

This frustration is borne from lack of ownership when problems arise. Installation companies are pointing the finger at the ITSPs while the ITSPs blame the installation companies.

There are issues that occur during the installation and configuration of SIP trunks, but to make things as painless as possible, there are some simple things that can be done relatively quickly.

First, it’s wise to do your research before moving forward. Get case studies from ITSPs and the manufacturers. Talk to them about their installation experiences and discuss issues they have come across and how they overcame them. Talk to them about interoperability testing and conforming to standards. Get recommendations. Good research early on will help you decide which companies to work with.

If you represent an enterprise looking for a SIP trunking solution, ask ITSPs to respond to your business requests. Determine if they meet your client’s needs — from service level agreements (SLAs) to support for the smallest of sites in the remotest of locations, even international sites.

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