August 12, 2014

SIP Trunks: Provider Problems Continue

Do you think that the SIP trunk problems are related to the technology? Not so. The problems have to do with issues like configuration mismatches, improper configuration settings, impatient installers, poor training, poor documentation, and installer experience levels. In most cases, the least competent member is not the equipment supplier or service provider--more likely the problems rest with the VAR.

The SIP School™ has conducted its fourth annual survey of enterprise successes and problems with implementing SIP trunks. The survey covers providers and equipment vendors. The recent 2014 survey determined that 17.63% of the nearly 1000 worldwide respondents have no problems with SIP trunk deployment. That leaves 82.37% with one or more provider and equipment problems.

Problem Sources

One of the questions posed by the survey is "If you've had problems, where have the issues been?"

Problem Sources (SIP Survey 2014)

The graphic above shows that the survey found that about 24% of the reported problems are with the SIP trunk provider. These survey results have changed very little from the past three annual survey, continuing a very frustrating condition. This determination makes you wonder what the providers are or are not doing to improve their track record-- especially since the same problems keep occurring. 

Provider Related Problems

Another question posed to the respondents was "If you've had problems that were found to be on the SIP Trunk provider side, what were they?"

Provider Problems (SIP Survey 2014)

The survey questioned the respondents relating to nine provider problems, shown by the graphic above. Most of the problem sources have changed little since the 2013 survey except for trunks dropping intermittently; this has decreased about 7.7%. "Codec mismatch" has increased by 4.4%. How can the problem of the codec configuration actually get worse? Most likely negligence. You will find that the total percentage figures add up to more than 100%. This is because some respondents had more than one provider problem.

Many of the problems appear to be incorrect configuration settings. Providers have established the settings necessary for successful operation. The enterprise or more likely the VAR is not doing their job ensuring the settings are correct and match precisely. These settings include the IP address, DNS address, port numbers to be used, RTP packet rate, and codec protocols to be used when connected to the provider. 

Preventing the Problems

You should ensure that you and the VAR have the most current documentation. This does not guarantee that the problems can be avoided. Configuring the equipment and provider interface correctly is a process that should not be rushed. Validate everything before cutover. 

The Provider Checklist

The table below lists the problems from most likely to least likely to occur with a provider deployment. Use this checklist as part of the acceptance criteria and tests for the SIP trunk.

You must look closely at compatibility when ordering the SIP trunk. If the equipment settings do not match what the provider delivers, there will be failures. Review the compatibility issues thoroughly with the all four implementation participants; trunk provider, SBC vendor, PBX vendor, and VAR. Avoid assumptions because they are a risk and the root cause of many problems. 

Enterprise IT staff members are not SIP trunk experts. The IT staff can ensure that the compatibility issues are prevented before the trunk is ordered. Be skeptical of all the parties when they say they have correctly implemented their service TO the interface with the equipment. This is not the same as testing THROUGH the interface.

Watch the VARs

VARs are not the most competent implementers. In another part of the survey, the respondents said that only about 17.7% of the VARs qualified as "great assistance showing good technical skills." The providers and equipment vendors were rated much higher with 40% to 44% of "great assistance showing good technical skills." The VARs are far behind in this measure of competence. 

Resellers are not getting the message. They either ignore their shortcomings or choose to remain ignorant. Maybe the resellers would get the message about improving their support if the justification was based on truck rolls and labor costs that could be reduced with better training.

Look for my next Technote, "SIP Trunk Equipment Problems Continue" to round out this discussion.

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1 Comment

This is interesting, and I'd like to see a breakdown of which side of the fence the respondants are. To me, the Providers get more of the flack, and it's misdirected often. The reason is two-fold:

First, most companies have a relationship with their equipment Vendor, so they will always trust them first (right or wrong). The providers come and go, but the Vendor often remains the same.

Second, providers generally have one way to deliver, and only that way. Vendors can configure multiple different ways. It's up to the Vendor to match what the Provider can do, as they are more flexible. If a Provider rolls out a product, and it has a hard set of configuration ideals, then there isn't much more they can do.

However, where this can be addressed is better up front conversations between Provider and Vendor to get on the same page. The struggle there relates to many technical people are jumping around, it's harder on Providers to get newbies properlly trained.

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