Managing Voice Quality

3 Things Required for Managing Cross Network Voice Quality

So you’ve built your VoLTE network for high quality. You are providing high bandwidth to your customers so browsing and watching video is great. You also managed to get delay, jitter and packet loss down so voice calls are using WB-AMR giving your customers top quality.

Managing Voice QualityBut even though VoLTE is set to succeed, it will not happen overnight and it can’t be an island, there are other networks it needs to connect with. You need to allow for calls to GSM, PSTN and wireline VoIP.

To allow for this, you engineered your network in a way that if a call needs to exit the VoLTE network to any of the other networks you simply transcoded it to G.711. With that, it connects “without any issue” to any network out there.

So you connected your VoLTE network to other networks but that’s exactly when problems started to come up. Users started calling your contact center complaining about voice quality issues, they felt as if a mouse has cut the wire. Analyzing the complaints showed that there are problems not only when calling between the different types of networks but even when calling between VoLTE networks of different service providers.

Different type of networks perform differently

VoLTE

Think of a VoLTE network. It prioritizes voice over other data types. It will not retransmit voice packets even if there is packet loss (different from its handling of data) and it dynamically tunes rate, stuffing multiple voice samples into a single packet and add redundancy when needed.

In a VoLTE to VoLTE case, this results in great quality but when the destination is on a different network, that network handles things differently, resulting in quality issues.

GSM

On the GSM network, data will be retransmitted in case of packet loss, VoIP traffic included. This results in increased delay. Moreover, the 3G network works in burst mode sending a large amount of data to the core of the network in bursts, resulting in delay and jitter.

In case of voice TDM calls, NB-AMR is used which is, of course, different from what is used on the other networks.

Wireline VoIP

In the enterprise and consumer environments, VoIP provided by service providers typically uses G.729. The network itself is typically designed for wireline access but in reality many access it over WiFi. Needless to say that network behaviour is different in each case.

PSTN

Well, I guess there is no need to say too much about this subject. It is robust and voice quality is constant but at PSTN quality.

The brain and the tools that solve the problem

We have seen that different networks have different characteristics. That’s no news I guess. The conclusion though, is. Because this simple fact means that it is not efficient to decide on call setup properties and mid-call changes without knowing exactly the characteristics of the caller and callee networks.

Solving the quality issues when calling between networks requires three things:

  • Knowledge of all networks’ characteristics
  • Real-time monitoring information
  • Voice enhancement tools that will be managed dynamically based on actual call and network information

The entity that answers these requirements would be an SBC or a transcoding GW that resides in the core of the network. It would manipulate voice using various voice enhancement tools, decide on the best codec and rate for a call between the networks and use monitoring information for its decisions

On October 8th, I’ll be speaking on this topic at the LTE Voice Summit in London. If you happen to be there, drop by and say hello.

I will also be posting more information about voice call quality enhancement tools as well as a link to my presentation on SlideShare so stay tuned and be sure to follow: @AudioCodes and @AmirZmora

Here is a sneak peek to one of my presentation slides.

Voice Quality in Wireless Networks

Multi-Tenant-SBC-Use-Cases

Angelina and The Multi-Tenants

When Angelina Jolie plays in a feature, it’s reasonable to assume that she would be playing a close role to the meaningful relationship in the movie. In “Gone in Sixty Seconds”, Sara (Angelina Jolie) is the main star’s (“Memphis” Raines played by Nicolas Cage) girlfriend, however, Memphis’ closest relationship and most meaningful dialogs are not with Sara, but rather with Eleanor,  a customized 1971 Ford Mustang Sportsroof. In the dramatic reunion between “Memphis” and “Eleanor”, he speaks to the car and touches it tenderly in the most romantic of moments.

Multi-tenancy is all about relationships, or more precisely, the lack of relationships between tenants. Multi-tenancy refers to an architecture where an application running on a server or designated hardware, serves multiple clients (tenants). Multi-tenant systems emerged hand-in-hand with the cloud rush. As more services move to the cloud and are offered as a hosted SaaS, multi-tenancy becomes more and more relevant.

Users are wary of a multi-tenant architecture due to one main reason – the fear that a single system serving a large number of organizations may present a viable security breach. That’s why multi-tenant applications are described by marketers with the following adverbs; separated, partitioned, segregated, non-bleeding, etc., implying that a user from one tenant can’t penetrate another tenant’s space served by the same application.

As the visualization trend grows, multi-instance architecture is being suggested as the ultimate remedy to the all multi-tenant architecture weaknesses. Multi-instance architecture is simple, adding a new instance of the application for each tenant/customer, eliminating the potential for any security breach. However, in life there are no free lunches and multi- instance modularity and elasticity come with a cost, some aspects of which can be listed here:

  • Waste of  Compute & Storage
  • Multiple applications to manage
  • High availability complexity
  • Upgrades “One by One” instead of “One and Done”
  • And more…

Tenant size in a multi-tenant architecture can vary and therefore the instance CPU, memory and interface allocations, should be optimized so as to not waste resources for small-sized tenants on the one hand and not to allocate too many instances for a single tenant/customer on the other. Multi-instance is like shopping in a mall with a bunch of $100 bills with no option to get back change. So when you buy a soda, you may lose $98. Similarly, it would be a great waste to allocate an instance with a capacity of 1,000 concurrent sessions to a small tenant for which 10 concurrent sessions are more than enough.

So how complicated is it to convert a single tenant system to a multi-tenant system? The “screwdriver fixer SW architect” intuitive reaction will be “piece of cake”. Let’s associate a “tenant ID” to all our internal and external tables and, hocus pocus, we have a multi-tenant system. This might work for some tenants who are not totally vertically separated. Tenants may have shared interfaces, for example, a multi-tenant SBC may have a number of tenants sharing a single interface or several interfaces of a SIP Trunk. The figure below shows a few of the possible use cases relevant for an SBC.

Multi-Tenant-SBC-Use-Cases

A multi-tenant system should be a fully scalable, “non-bleeding” partition per tenant running on a single shared physical entity. In should support per tenant configuration, monitoring, reporting, analytics, alarms and interfacing.

A real time system (e.g. SBC) should provide each tenant with optimal real time performance, as each session received by the system is classified and processed only through the tenant’s “orbit”.

Full flexibility should exist to move a tenant with its entire configuration between physical servers and physical locations, assuming extra server capacity is available on the site.

Summary

Multi-tenant options are many and should be chosen following a prudent analysis, otherwise, you may choose the most beautiful single instance and end up with bunch of tenants to foster.

Survey Results - Top VoIP Features

Survey Review: What VoIP Buyers are Looking For

Back in March, I wrote about enterprises moving their VoIP communication systems to the cloud and why it is more complex than simply putting a credit card number on a website. In that post, I referred to what Don Sadler from Software Advice wrote about 3 Ways to Keep Your VoIP Service From Going Down With the Internet.

The guys from Software Advice were kind enough to send me the results of their latest survey – Small Business Buyer View 2014 and I thought it would be worthwhile sharing the results with our readers.

Survey Key Takeaways

There are several findings in the survey I find interesting. Let’s go over them one by one.

More than half of prospective buyers were investing in business VoIP service for the first time.

Most of us, techy, VoIP savvy people, tend to believe VoIP is common in most businesses. I mean technology is around for over a decade now. How much time do those SMBs need to get going? For many of us, VoIP as we know it is old school; we are looking today at more advanced variations of VoIP like WebRTC that bring VoIP to the browser.

The reality is that most SMBs are not connected to VoIP services. Itzik Feiglevitch from AudioCodes presents more information about this in a diagram based on an analysis he has done.

Worldwide-SMBs-connected-to-VoIP-Services

The answers received in the survey fall nicely within the general point of this diagram – there is still a large market of SMBs out there that haven’t yet made the shift to VoIP.

Buyers were primarily concerned with reliability and scalability when evaluating new phone systems

Scalability is one of the advantages of going cloud but moving VoIP communication to the cloud doesn’t really increase reliability. There is the reliability of the servers themselves that typically improves because a VoIP communications cloud provider would normally have a stronger team of IT expertise that make sure the service is always on. However, having all the traffic go up to the cloud and back and the dependency on the link to be always on remains a challenge.

As explained before in my post All You Need is Cloud, the on-premise SBC would help mitigating this challenge by providing resiliency, optimized call routing, call cost optimization and QoE.

No buyers were interested in an on-premise IP-PBX, while a vast majority wanted a hosted solution

This is a clear trend we see across all businesses of different sizes and for different services – shift to SW solutions and cloud services. Having said that, concerns raised in the previous point must be addressed.

77% of SMBs are looking for services in the browser

Another interesting point that was not part of the “key Findings” presented at the top of the survey but did draw my attention, is the requirement for Web based solutions.

Many SMBs are probably not even aware yet of WebRTC but they are experiencing more and more services that are provided in their browser. Seeing that 77% actually preferred VoIP in their browser is an interesting indication for the potential of WebRTC in the UC for SMB space.

Survey Results - VoIP Deployment Preferences

Auto Attendant Tops the List of Desired Applications

The survey was seeking to learn the most important features buyers have on their decision checklist. The diagram below shows that Auto Attendant is well positioned on this list.

Survey Results - Top VoIP Features

Auto attendant is the way to navigate through a company’s directory instead of speaking with a real person who would transfer the call.

What if you could just say the name of that person, or what if employees could dial to anyone on their contact list, company list of suppliers and customers by just saying their name?

Based on AudioCodes advanced voice recognition technology, we provide this service today in the cloud, connecting to any PBX or hosted VoIP system.

Why is this survey important?

Understanding the criteria based on which SMBs make their buying choices is important. It reassures us about the “move to the cloud” trend but also clarifies the need to continue and provide reliability in the process.

VocaNOM People

Mobilize Your Users or Stay Behind

[Post is better viewed on the blog Website]

With very few players providing mobile communication services before the smartphone era, it felt like heaven for some major mobile service providers. But then mobile OTT apps kicked in! And ruined the party.

Oh, the Good Old Days

What was it like to be the CEO of a mobile carrier back in the days? Having a huge user dependency on cellular infrastructure and running in a playground where the smartphone is yet to be on-shelf, data revenues were booming and profits seemed well assured.

But in today’s mobile reality, OTT mobile apps are posing a huge threat for all service providers and carriers alike. Data revenues are continuously dropping. Being a CEO of a mobile service provider today means you’re in a war that you’re probably not too familiar with; Not a war between giants, but between viral mobile startups who are able to take the market within a year, to slow-moving, monopoly-DNA’ed creatures who now realize the urgent need for a decent battle.

Alongside mobile carriers who are struggling to cope with the booming OTT mobile market, the enterprise sector stays stuck in the middle. IT departments have to be impossibly flexible when they need to provide an organizational infrastructure that’s as easy as WhatsApp but well secured and comprehensively managed like Microsoft Lync.

VocaNOM People

No sweat, No Sweets

Building a solid mobile application arsenal for the OTT battle is not only fruitful, but also crucial for a service provider to stay in the game. AudioCodes is constantly aiming to enable mobile carriers and enterprises to cope with the modern OTT challenge in telecom. MobilityPLUS, an OTT mobile application for service providers and carriers, makes a classic 1-stop solution with its all round voice, messaging, video and social features. For a mobile carrier, the ability to distribute HQ mobile VoIP user-clients to its subscribers, freely branded and thoroughly integrated makes it an ultimate weapon for its OTT war. Roaming, a well-known incentive for users to go OTT, can finally be untangled and brought back to the service provider playground not just for data but for native voice communication as well at competitive costs and top-tier service quality.

A Foot on the Gas for the Enterprise

VocaNOM, a cloud-driven voice communication app for businesses and organizations, is a good example of how the enterprise market can also start making its way forward in the mobile app plot. Organizational and business contacts are always a mess to handle when you have an organizational phone directory that has zero-connectivity with a user’s smartphone.  For an enterprise, being able to manage all organizational contacts on the cloud, providing easy access and dialling for its users using voice recognition, is simply great if it wishes to stay up-to-speed and serve its organizational users with top-notch communication tools.

AudioCodes at SMW C2014

Time to Take Mobile Communication Forward

These are only few examples of how holding off the OTT turbulence is more than possible for service providers and enterprise, given the right tools and applications. At CTIA 2014 Super Mobility Week, we will be meeting up with service providers and enterprises to talk about what AudioCodes can do for them to mobilize organizational and commercial users all at once. I feel like whether you’re a service provider or an enterprise IT manager, there’s a lot we can do for you to empower your user-base.

See you in Vegas!

To schedule a meeting with AudioCodes at CTIA 2014 Super Mobility Week, visit:

http://www.audiocodes.com/events/ctia-2014