T-Mobile Broke SIP on my iPhone with IPv6 Update

A funny thing happened after my T-Mobile iPhone recently upgraded to iOS 10.3.1 … my SIP client stopped working!

It seems that the OS update came along with new carrier settings that assigned my device an IPv6 address.  In my case, the carrier setting version is now T Mobile 28.3.

After analyzing network captures from the switch side, we found that SIP UDP messages are no longer routed to the SkySwitch SIP proxy which has an IPv4 address.  But noticing that API calls made over HTTP from the same app were reaching the IPv4 web service, we concluded that TCP packets were being translated and routed correctly.   So we switched the SIP signaling to TCP and the IPv6 device was able to register with the IPv4 server.   Unfortunately, this allowed only basic two-way communication between the SIP client and the proxy.  SIP calling was still broken because the audio IP addresses and ports still referenced IPv6.  Specifically, the CONTACT header and RTP IP addresses in the SDP contain the IPv6 address.

A little research uncovered that T-Mobile has been rolling IPv6 to Android devices for a few years now .   According to this T-Mobile slide deck from 2014, they use an IPv6 transition mechanism called 464XLAT to allow communication between IPv6 devices and servers on the Internet that do not support IPv6.  But making the conversion work seamlessly for applications that reference IP address information in the payload (such as SIP) requires a client side translator called CLAT (this document from Juniper explains it).   To make a long story short, Android version 4.3 embedded a CLAT client into the operating system in 2013, but Apple never did.  As a result, T-Mobile has continued to serve IPv4  addresses to iPhone users … until last week.

I suppose we may never know why Apple has not employed CLAT in the operating system (thereby forcing SIP application developers to embed this functionality in the app), or why T-Mobile decided to force IPv6 on iPhone owners despite this limitation.  But the bottom line is that more than a few SIP applications have stopped working as a result (eg. here).    I hope that this blog will save other SIP users some time in  figuring out why.

In the meantime, we are working with our vendors to support IPv6 in this use case.

 

 

 

UCCaaS Goes Vertical

In a new report from the Frost & Sullivan Digital Transformation Team, they stated that leveraging workflow integration will present opportunities and challenges for players providing Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) services. For white label resellers of Hosted PBX and Unified Communications as a Service, this means you can create more opportunity by leveraging your understanding of your clients’ businesses, rather than focusing on just delivering a horizontal solution that focuses only on technology and service delivery.

This happens at two layers: technical and non-technical

In the non-technical area, you can tailor your solution based on how your client likes to do business and their comfort level with technology.  Do they want (or require) on-site training, interactive video training, or will having access to recorded training sessions be a better fit for they work?  What billing cycle and terms work best for them?  Understanding their level of technical sophistication and recommending the correct phones can go a long way to building trust and user acceptance of the solution.  Do they currently do business on their mobile phones, or will offering this option just complicate and confuse users?

Over in the technical area, you can develop a deep understanding of how they do business and integrate your offering into their workflows.  This is where the Frost & Sullivan 2017 Global UCC Industry Outlook report mentioned above says there is opportunity.  To achieve this level of integration, any white label service you resell will have to have be standards-based with an open API that allows easy access to the inner workings of the platform.

The SkySwitch Open API has already been used to create complete call center solutions for companies such as My Pillow.  Others have used the API to create an interface to Amazon Alexa to create a UCC Digital Assistant.

By using these tools to create a solution that is tailored to your customers’ needs, you can create an environment of uninterrupted productivity, agile business operations and outstanding performance efficiency.  When you deliver all this, you become the solution that your client cannot live without.

M&A Can Ultimately Hurt UCaaS Partners and Customers

The consolidation in the hosted PBX and Unified Communications as a Service space continues with Windstream acquiring Broadview Networks last week. Late last year, Mitel acquired Shortel, and just a few months ago, NetFortris acquired Fonality. While we all realize that M&A in the space is a good indicator of a healthy sector, this kind of activity can shrink the serviceable market for smaller providers and impact both their end-users and channel partners. End-users have fewer choices and less flexibility, while channel partners may lose opportunity as programs are consolidated and requirements raised for participation.

When I mention smaller providers, I’m not talking about companies that have a home-grown solution running on a server or two in the back room. This is more about the mid-tier providers that have a substantial regional or national footprint and solid partner programs.

Impact on the Partners

The first risk to channel partners of the acquired company is that they may simply be dropped from the program due to low sales volume. Another possibility is that partners may be put into tiers, with only the largest partners getting the most leads, opportunities, and highest margins. There may also be new competition because of geographic overlap within the merged partners.

Impact on End-Users

The biggest issue is that customer service may suffer. In the first months (or even years) post-acquisition, the customer service departments may remain separate, but eventually there is always an effort to consolidate functionality. This often results in customers getting short-changed on the level of personalized service they were used to before their hosted PBX or UC provider was acquired.

The available feature set and the pace of innovation can also be impacted when a larger company acquires a smaller UC provider. Smaller companies are often nimbler than a larger company. This means that new features can be integrated quicker and important feature requests get to the top of the priority list faster.

Finding the right balance

Whether you are looking to purchase hosted PBX or UCaaS, or starting a new business selling these services under a white label or agent program, it important to understand how and from whom the service is ultimately provided. Purchasing from or partnering with a large national provider (or someone who is large enough to be an acquisition target for large provider), you run the risk of getting a service with limited options and poor customer service. For partners, you may get a very restrictive partner program that is more focused on your upstream partner’s success than on your own. Purchasing or partnering with a provider that is too small can result in unreliable or low quality service.

Ultimately, both customer and resellers need to find the right balance between the extremes of too big and too small. Resellers need a partner that allows them to truly own their own customers and determine their own pricing while delivering outstanding service and all the tools the reseller needs to grow their own business. The end-user should look to purchase their service from a qualified reseller who can provide the local support, training, and service while the service is ultimately delivered from a partner with the resources and network to deliver a consistent and quality service.

Don’t Do It Yourself: Fighting the rising cost of UCC

In a recent industry survey of over 300 companies for its annual UCC Total Cost of Operations research project, Nemertes Research found that complexity was one of the main reasons for rising operational costs of Unified Communication and Collaboration systems. As user adoption increases, the need to integrate more features continues to drive up complexity and cost of UCC implementation and operations. It seems that those who start down the Do-It-Yourself path using less expensive or open source solutions may see a short-term gain, but often quickly become victims of their own success.

However, companies that leverage offerings from vendors specializing in Operations and Performance management see a 59% reduction in their operational costs and a 34% increase in user adoption. In other words, using a vendor that provides Unified Communications and Collaboration as a Service (UCCaaS) fights the rising cost of maintaining a Do-It-Yourself UCC solution. There is also the added benefit of moving costs from Capex to Opex.

This is exactly the roll that SkySwitch and our ecosystem of technology partners and resellers fill. SkySwitch focuses on integration of best-of-breed solutions into our platform and the operation of the platform. Our resellers focus on training, support and the customer experience.

As shown in the study, using UCCaaS from a vendor whose focus is on best of breed solution integration and operational excellence can greatly decrease the cost and increase user adoption.

New Widget Improves Diagnostics

SkySwitch always recommends placing a SimpleWan (or similar) device on the customer premise in order to have enhanced remote monitoring and diagnostics capabilities.  The more quickly a reseller can diagnose and correct an issue that is degrading the quality of service to the end-users, the happier those customers will be.

However, there may be times when there isn’t an on-premise device to assist in the diagnostic process.  For these cases, SkySwitch has added a new Widget to the SkySwitch Reseller Dashboard.  This new Widget enables resellers to see traceroute information from the SkySwitch co-location facility to the customer’s router.  While not providing as much information as an on-premise SimpleWan device, this Widget does provide more than is available from most other white label systems.

Please download our whitepaper on the advantage of using a SimpleWan device and the other diagnostics available through the SkySwitch Reseller Dashboard.

SkySwitch Launches Video Surveillance as a Service

We are happy to announce the addition of Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS)  as a new component of the SkySwitch service delivery suite.

Like almost everything else in the office, video surveillance is moving to the cloud.  Now,  SkySwitch resellers have the tools to capitalize on it.   Resellers can increase average revenue per user and highlight the unique video surveillance service as a point of differentiation.   It is an exciting new product that can be used to start a conversation, and set their service apart from other hosted PBX and UCaaS providers.

VSaaS is available now to all SkySwitch Resellers and can be fully managed from within the SkySwitch Reseller Dashboard.  To show how easy it is to add a new customer and camera to the service, here’s a short video.

 

 

Toshiba Telecommunication Systems Division No More

The word on the street (and Reddit) is that the Toshiba Telecommunication Systems Division is closing shop effective immediately.   It seems that the telecom division – which was banking on momentum after launching a new product in February – could not escape the company’s ongoing financial difficulties (including the $500 Million bankruptcy of Westinghouse).  This means that customers running Toshiba’s IPEdge and Strata on-premise PBX systems  (such as the CIX40 and CIX100) will be facing uncertainty about ongoing support and service.  Toshiba dealers that have calendared upgrades and replacements will likewise be in a bind.     The news just adds to the tumult in the PBX dealer channel following the recent news of Avaya’s bankruptcy.

I bet that we will continue to hear this type of news from vendors that have traditionally sold on-premise PBX systems.  The bottom line is that premise-based telephony is going away – business owners are giving up on the CapEx model and moving to OpEx.  While the shift represents a sea-change for VARs in the channel, it also represents a great opportunity.  The core value of companies in the dealer channel is taking care of customers – Customer Service, Tier-One Support, Training and Maintaining your Business Relationships.   All of these skill can be leveraged by moving to the cloud, where the activities related to maintaining a platform, carrier services, quality of service issues, and dozens of other technical details can be outsourced to a White Label partner.

If you happened across this blog because you find yourself in this position, check out SkySwitch as a potential partner.

 

SkySwitch Partnership with 888VoIP Streamlines UCaaS Provisioning for Resellers

We are very pleased to announce that the SkySwitch Store now allows resellers to purchase fully-provisioned Yealink phones.  This new functionality, a result of our recent partnership with 888VoIP, integrates the SkySwitch Store with the Web Centrex API and the 888VoIP fulfillment and order processing back office.

Our goal for this integration is to simplify the workflow needed to bring hosted PBX and UCaaS seats online.  With it, both the PBX system and the phones can be configured for a specific user at the time of purchase, allowing the phones to be drop-shipped directly to a customer ready for use.  Not only does this greatly reduce the time and effort required for provisioning, but it also decreases the likelihood of human error by eliminating the need to key order information into multiple screens.

Here is a short video to show the integration in action.

 

SkySwitch Resellers Gather for Vectors 2017

From February 26-28, 2017, SkySwitch resellers from across the United States and Canada gathered for the second annual Vectors Conference, the annual user group meeting for SkySwitch resellers.  For three days in the sunshine of St. Petersburg, Florida, SkySwitch resellers were delivered a steady stream of social activities, training sessions, and product information.

Day One

The event started with an early AM deep-sea fishing trip aboard the Florida Fisherman 2.  The seas were not kind that day!  Choppy winds and rough seas limited the catch for the day, but it did not diminish the camaraderie on board and the excitement for those that did manage to reel one in.

Doug Autin from Telecom Concepts showing us how to hold your fish

Blake McKeeby

Blake McKeeby of SkySwitch reels one in

Bill McClain from Networking Solutions doing his best impersonation of his catch

Jeff Hawkins of Telepath shows off his catch

After some recovery time from our deep-sea adventure, we reconvened for the Vectors Reception Party and Fish Fry.  The plan was to dine on the catch from the morning trip, but we’re pretty sure that the menu had to be supplemented by the hotel kitchen, as no one seemed to remember hauling in any meatballs, chicken wings or mushroom caps while out at sea.  The reception was topped off with a great keynote from our guest speaker, Anand Buch, the visionary co-founder and CEO of NetSapiens,

Anand Buch, the visionary co-founder and CEO of NetSapiens delivers the Sunday Night Keynote.

Day Two

Day two was absolutely packed with presentations from both the SkySwitch team and our event sponsors, C3 Cloud Computing Concepts, 888VoIP, Compliance Solutions, Inc.,  Obihai Technology, Inc., Metro Wireless International, Inc., SimpleWan, Rev.io, Glance, Ritalia Funding and NetSapiens.  Topics from Basics of Hosted PBX and Hosted Call Center, to the details of managing DIDs and device provisioning, right through to deep-dive engineering issues were all covered.

Day two concluded with a dinner cruise around Clearwater Harbor aboard the StarLite Majesty.  Unlike the fishing trip, this one was smooth cruising all the way.  Great conversation, great food, and great fun for the entire time, including an absolutely riotous Hawaiian Shirt Contest.  Dave Mehta of Pangea Web Hosting took home the prize for his coordinated shirt and jacket look.

Dave Mehta of Pangea Web Hosting took home the prize!

Day 3

The training and presentations continued on day three, but an added attraction.  A key note speech by Ron Marks, author of the bestselling book entitled “Managing for Sales Results” which helps sales managers get the most from their sales teams.  Through a combination of hard facts and personal anecdotes, Ron laid out a path that SkySwitch resellers could follow towards establishing better sales, high returns, and more success in life.  Everyone at the event was given a free copy of his bestselling book.

Ron Marks delivers sound sales advice.

Our resellers summed up their Vectors 2017 experience:

Vectors really gave me the opportunity to meet with my peers and share ideas and talk with them. I really have gotten a lot of benefits from being here. The SkySwitch team is great. SkySwitch has provided just about everything that I could ask for.

– Doug Haldane – Unicom Solution

Vectors feels more like a family reunion than a conference.

The other white label partners we used seemed to care more about their success than ours.  The thing I love about SkySwitch is they seem very interested in my success.  They recognize that my success is their success.  That is something I really appreciate.

 – Jeff Hawkins-Telepath 

SkySwitch continues the growth trajectory it has been on since its inception in January 2014.  Since Vectors 2016, the number of resellers in the SkySwitch ecosystem has more than doubled.  Planning for Vectors 2018 has already begun as SkySwitch looks forward to another year of outstanding growth.

Small Segment Dominates Cloud Communications Adoption

BroadSoft is the global leader for cloud-based communications platforms. Each year, they poll the service providers at their industry event (nearly 100 at their last gathering) to gain some insight into the state of the industry. One of their key findings show expected adoption of cloud communications solutions, by segment, through 2020.

This table shows the results for the last two years.

Size of Business  2016 2015
Small segment (<100) 55% 48%
Medium segment (100-1000) 49% 27%
 Large segment (>1000) 45% 20%

 

It is clear that this group expects the small segment to continue to dominate adoption for the foreseeable future. However, Jon Arnold makes this observation is his blog post on the survey.

“…service providers were asked to forecast what percentage of their shipments they expect will be cloud-based. Of course, this is very different from asking them to tell us their actual shipments at present, so it’s more of a sentiment barometer for how the market is going to go.”

Jon also points out that there is a lack of distinction between VoIP or UC, as the survey asked about “cloud PBX/UC”.

Opportunity In The Small Segment

Even with the fuzziness around exactly how the question was asked, it is clear the survey shows there is still lots of opportunity the small segment of this 28 Billion dollar market. This is the segment where the typical SkySwitch reseller thrives. A SkySwitch reseller can provide great personalized service, on-site training, and do business face-to-face with their clients, all powered by the SkySwitch network and ecosystem. Small businesses can get cloud solution they need with the local and personal service they demand.

You can get more details on the BroadSoft survey and results here.

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