The Last Mile

Ask anyone that has used an in-car sat-nav and they will tell you, ‘It’s all about the last mile’ because that is where, in an instant, everything can go wrong. Here, Jonathan Nelson, CEO of UK firm Voipex, acknowledges the last mile problem faced by many VoIP deployments but at the same time offers a simple channel solution.

Comms Business Magazine (CBM): What exactly is the last mile problem and what causes it?

Jonathan Nelson (JN): Last-mile technology is any telecommunications technology that carries signals from the broad telecommunication backbone along the relatively short distance (hence, the ‘last mile’) to and from the home or business. Or to put it another way: the infrastructure at the local level.

Last-mile technology represents a major remaining challenge because the cost of providing high-speed, high-bandwidth services to customers in remote or challenging areas can be higher than the service provider would like.

There are five main problem areas;

Getting the bandwidth you require and as uncontended as possible.

Quality, in terms of jitter and latency that affects the voice.

Resiliency of the bandwidth and failover options.

Security.

Bandwidth management – using what you have as effective as possible. If the circuit is used for converged unified communications then you have to prioritise voice.

It is all too easy to fall in to the classic trap of not being able to supply the number of calls and handsets the user requires because the voice quality is just not acceptable.

CBM: What are the options then for resellers facing customers with a less than acceptable experience from their VoIP deployment?

JN: To be blunt, the options for resellers – unless they are using products such as ours, is to pay for more bandwidth. Fibre, if you can get it, solves the bandwidth but the only supplier offering a QoS solution is Gamma and there you have to take their broadband service as well as give them your traffic as well.

Even if you get fibre you still have the failover issues. There are firms that offer DSL bonding of multiple circuits but this does not necessarily fix the jitter and latency problem. One other option for smaller numbers of calls is to use voice only circuits.

CBM: This all sounds expensive and complicated – is it?

JN: Well bonding does require extra circuits and fibre is relatively expensive.

Voipex solves the last mile problem with our Elixir, a VPN type technology that addresses all these last mile concerns. How does it do that?

Elixir delivers QoS at a byte level as opposed to a packet level, which is far more granular and provides greater reductions in jitter and therefore better audio quality. We manage all the traffic, voice and data, through the VPN tunnel.

We have very effective header removal, which means that with Elixir you can get 100 calls per Meg of bandwidth.

From a resilience perspective we have multiple failover capabilities: we ensure all calls in progress stay in progress – there’s no change of IP address that can bring down calls with other failover solutions.

The mechanics are simple – Voipex provides a pre programmed router that sits behind the users’ existing router. This creates a tunnel all the way back to our cloud based managed service. We then forward the data traffic and the voice is routed as per the soft switch platform the user is subscribed to.

The service is priced on a per SIP trunk or hosted handset basis on a recurring monthly plan.

 

CBM: So it’s another welcome income stream for resellers. What about other reseller benefits?

JN: Yes, it is an additional stream for the reseller and makes their customers stickier and by solving the last mile VoIP issues it retains customers.

In addition there is also the DR/BC benefit achieved through our failover capabilities. Failover options include fibre, DLS, satellite, bonded 3G and Wi-Fi.

With Elixir, if you push DR to the limit, if you re in a real emergency and your office has burnt down, you could all work from one home location!

In effect we allow SMEs to have the kind of comprehensive failover resiliency that only Enterprises can normally afford to deploy.

On the data side our own version of MPLS can prioritise up to nine traffic types – again it is Enterprise class at an affordable price and with Elixir we can deliver an MPLS equivalent over a standard broadband line.

Resellers face last mile problems on a day-to-day basis, which is why they are increasingly turning to Voipex to explore solutions. Whilst in the UK not many will have heard of us we do in fact have 35 thousand users spread around the world so this is now a great new channel opportunity for resellers that fixes real user problems.

 

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine