Evolution of the Area Code

The recent announcement that Connecticut will be introducing the new 959 area code this summer has gotten me thinking about area codes.

I work with area code issues virtually day as a integral aspect of DID Management.  The SkySwitch DID platform, allows resellers to order, provision and manage DIDs based on  NPA-NXX (that is shorthand for the codes set forth in the North American Numbering Plan, also known as NANP). However, I never really gave much thought to the societal repercussions associated with the many changes that are affecting our phone numbers.

If you have ever wondered about the history of the area code, the February 2014 edition of The Atlantic contains a good read entitled Our Numbered Days: The Evolution of the Area Code.

The article discusses the cultural and social aspects of area codes and gives a history of the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), including a description of the Neustar team that currently mans the helm:

 

So who has control over the numbering system today? That honor belongs, officially, to a 12-person team working out of an office in Sterling, Virginia: the current administrators of the North American Numbering Plan. For a brief period in the 1990s, it was Lockheed Martin that oversaw that administration; after Lockheed got involved with telecom concerns, however, the FCC decided that it needed a neutral and non-governmental body to administer the nation’s numbers. Lockheed’s numbering division divested itself and became Neustar, which remains under contract with the FCC.

 

Requiem for 7773456

 

moviefoneWhen I started working in the VoIP industry way back in 1999, I was living in Manhattan and used to call the local Moviefone DID (2127773456) on a regular basis to find the movie show times.

Because it was so easy to remember, it became my ‘go-to’ number for making test calls.  Especially since there were local DIDs in most major metropolitan areas.  If I had to make multiple successive test calls, I could dial 212777345, 4157773456 and 2137773456 and easily determine which call was which in the resulting call traces.  Over the years, I would be surprised if I haven’t called Moviefone more than 5,000 times (I sometimes wondered if somebody at Moviefone ever noticed).

And so it was with genuine nostalgia when I heard last week that the number was being taken out of service, and as reported by the New York Times.  I suppose I knew it had to happen eventually, what with this  mobile Internet thing becoming so popular.   An yet, after 25 years it still seems too soon.  So please take a moment with me now to commemorate the passing of an era while I search for a new object d’test.

 

SkySwitch Introduces PBX Fone for Android and iOS

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 1.45.21 AM

 

SkySwitch is happy to announce the availability of PBX Fone, a mobile client that runs on Google Android and Apple iOS devices.  PBX Fone is a SIP softphone that is tightly integrated with the SkySwitch Web Centrex white label hosted PBX  solution.   It is currently available as a free download from the Google Play store and from Apple’s iTunes.

What sets PBX Fone apart from other mobile clients such as the popular Bria softphone from Counterpath or the Zoiper softphone, is that PBX Fone extends the most popular PBX features directly to the mobile device.

 

These features include:

  • Ability dial internal (extension) and external (PSTN) destinations.
  • Ability to view call history from PBX.
  • Ability to set find-me/follow-me rules on the PBX
  • Ability to store, fetch and dial PBX contacts as well as device phone book contacts.
  • Displays the presence status of contacts.
  • Captures  logs to be sent to support (in case of issues such as application crash).
  • Record any call to the PBX with a single touch.
  • Visual voicemail streams voicemail messages stored on the PBX for easy playback, and manages messages left on the server; eg. delete and forward them to other user’s email.
  • While a call is in progress, user can transfer it to any contact or phonebook entry.
  • Single button option to transfer to “My Extension”, which allows caller to transfer to any of his own extensions.
  • Single button option to transfer to “My Cell Phone”, which allows caller to transfer a call to the cellular channel of the mobile device in case of data channel degradation.
  • One-touch access the the PBX end user web portal.
  • After any call session is ended, User can make notes about the call.  Notes will be saved to PBX call history.
  • Support for multiple themes/designs which are controlled from a central configuration server.

With these features, business users have all the conveniences of mobility because the most important and commonly used features can now be accessed from anywhere.

To learn more, contact your SkySwitch representative or request a callback here.

 

 

Funnycall Gets Serious About SIP Session Control

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 11.11.00 PM

Funnycall is an Apple iPhone app that allows users to make “funny” phone calls by playing sounds and changing the caller’s voice using any of nine effects such as Echo, Alien Cyborg and Chipmunk.

When the developers of Funnycall wanted to get serious about their VoIP and webservices infrastructure, they called SkySwitch.

Although the app has been on the market since 2010, amassing more than 10 million downloads along the way, the creators struggled to find a platform that would facilitate their continued  growth.  In particular, they were searching for a scalable on-demand SIP platform with a flexible customer-management and real-time charging API.

The SkySwitch SIP Session Control platform filled their needs perfectly.   With the SkySwitch “always-active” network both call traffic and API transactions can be load-balanced across multiple physical servers in the Company’s geographically diverse data centers  (SkySwitch is collocated at InterNAP facilities in New York and Dallas).    And  future growth can be easily accommodated because new capacity can be brought online seamlessly and without any impact to existing traffic.

The SkySwitch team has been working with mobile app developers for years and knows what it takes to make a success.  If you have a mobile app (or an idea for a mobile app) and need  rock-solid infrastructure, email solutions@skyswitch.com or click here for a callback.

SkySwitch SIP Instant Fax Now in Beta


printer_and_fax
It’s no secret that most VoIP geeks think of fax machines with disdain.   In an age when you can snap a picture on your smartphone and tweet it to anyone in the world, the idea of a fax machine  seems antiquated to many. And yet, in many industries – especially the healthcare related fields – faxes are an integral part of doing business that will not go away anytime soon.

And so, with those customers in mind, SkySwitch is pleased to introduce  fax-to-email support to all the SkySwitch DID Management solutions.   The fax mail module is available with all our software-as-a-service (SaaS) DID platforms, so that any customer of the SkySwitch ENUM, DID Provisioning, and SIP Virtual Trunking solutions  can fax enable any SIP DID from any underlying provider.  That’s right… SkySwitch will let you fax enable any SIP DID from any provider.

In addition,  as a NetSapiens  Certified Cloud Partner, the SkySwitch fax mail solution is  available to any Service Provider using the NetSapiens multi-tenant hosted PBX.   In particular, the SkySwitch fax mail solution adds value to the NetSapiens ecosystem by integrating with the NetSapiens User Portal to support a unified inbox for end users.

For customers of the SkySwitch Web Centrex hosted PBX solution, this means that you can easily purchase a SkySwitch DID that will convert inbound faxes into an email and/or place the fax image into an end-users voicemail inbox.   It’s pretty simple to use:   just enable it as an enhanced service in the DID portal and enter an email address   (other enhanced services include CNAM Delivery and E911 provisioning).  Any faxes sent to the number will be converted into a PDF formatted file, and emailed to the listed email address.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 2.53.25 AM

 

As shown in the image above, DIDs with fax mail enabled will display a fax icon in the DID inventory page.  All fax calls will be displayed in your wholesale DID CDRs and treated just like any other DID.

The service is currently in beta mode and available to all Web Centrex clients.  To learn more, please contact your account rep or request a callback here.

Troubleshooting VoIP, the SkySwitch Way

For most VoIP Providers, troubleshooting a customer complaint goes something like this:

  • Ask the customer for the approximate time of the problem
  • Identify the correct server and grep the log files until you find one that might contain the error condition
  • If nothing obvious comes up, turn on packet capture and attempt to replicate the problem by asking the customer to try again, being careful all the while not to overburden the server with the resulting load
  • Copy the results, usually a very large pcap file, to your local machine and try to extract the relevant packets using Wireshark filters
  • Analyze the call and, more often than not, repeat the process

In general, this process sucks because:

  • It is tedious and takes a lot of time, consuming resources that could be better spent elsewhere
  • It requires a level of expertise that is typically beyond the average support technician
  • It often requires that pcap files be emailed between multiple parties, where you lose control over security
  • The fact that you must ask the customer to assist you portrays your company’s image in an unflattering light. 

As a SkySwitch Reseller, you can significantly improve your customer experience by leveraging tools that make your support team more efficient.  With SkySwitch, the troubleshooting process goes something like this:

1.  Find the CDR for the call in question using simple and intuitive filters

call filters

2.  Generate a SIP ladder graph with a single click

 

sip trace

 

3.  Check the SIP ladder graph for obvious issues

switch logic

 

4.  If necessary, dive down into the switch logic

 

switch logic 2

5.  If the problem involves the RTP stream,  view MoS, packet loss an other RTP statistics

rtp statistics

 6.   Share a link with other people so they can see exactly what you are.

share-cdr-with-pcap

 

The result is groundbreaking because:

  • It provides insights into past and current call flows by combining all aspects of the call into a single visual representation.
  • All call scenarios are linked directly from the customer interface, so you don’t have to search voluminous log files for calls belonging to a specific customer.
  • Because the switch logic is interspersed chronologically with the SIP ladder graph you can view each SIP message in the context of what happened in the switch, greatly increasing your insight into the issue.
  • You don’t have to bother your customer during the troubleshooting process.

We have been in the VoIP business long enough to know that good service depends on being able to find the root cause of a problem quickly and with minimal overhead.  As a result, we have distilled the troubleshooting process into a task that can be accomplished by an average support person in less than 5 minutes.

This is just one of the many ways that SkySwitch works hard to ensure your success.

UC vs. UCC: What the Heck is the Difference?

According to a recent Frost & Sullivan end-user survey on enterprise communications, a large percentage (42%) of end-users are confused about the terms UC and UCC.  Frankly, that seems low to me because it’s pretty darn confusing.

According to Garner’s IT Glossary,  Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) is a term that is used to describe a “combination of communications and collaboration technologies.”   On the other hand, Unified Communications (UC)  refers to the merging of voice, messaging and presence.  Or, as Dave Michel at Unified Communications Strategies puts it, “UC is more about the technologies and collaboration is more about the outcome.”  Say what?!?

If you ask me, there is no meaningful difference between the two terms.  UCC is simply a way to distinguish the recent enhancements (whatever they may be) that are being  added by many UC vendors to existing solutions.  In most cases, the distinctions are arbitrary.

To understand why, it helps to recall that the term UC originated from “Unified Messaging,” a term coined in the 1990’s to describe the unification of your inbox (that is, the combination of voicemail, email, SMS and fax).  As technologies evolved, Unified Messaging morphed into Unified Communications to include interactive communications such as video, IM and presence.  But, with the recent evolution of  technology to encompass more collaborative applications such as web conferencing,  web sharing, desktop sharing, application sharing, document sharing and beyond, vendors are eager to differentiate the new stuff from the old stuff.  And thus, a new segment is born.

Anyway you slice it, the term UC is yesterday’s news.  And, anyone that purports to know anything about the topic has moved on to current vogue nomenclature – UCC.   So the next time you find yourself at a cocktail party discussing collaboration, don’t get caught unawares.   Just remember where you heard it first.

 

 

 

 

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