FCC Process to Obtain Telephone Numbers Now Available

FCC logoBack in June 2015, the FCC made public a decision to allow VoIP providers to obtain telephone numbers directly, rather than having to purchase them through a third party organization.

That FCC Order  established a process called “Numbering Authorization Applications” and created an electronic filing mechanism for these applications, to become effective on January 5, 2016.

On February 4, 2016, the FCC announced the steps that a VoIP Provider must follow to complete the application procedure.  The relevant text is below:

To obtain numbering authorization under the new Commission process, interested interconnected VoIP providers must file Numbering Authorization Applications through the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).4 When e-filing a new Numbering Authorization Application, a filer must select “VoIP Numbering Authorization Application” from the Inbox list of the “Submit a Non-Docketed Filing” module of ECFS. Applicants are not required to use a particular form or format in filing their Numbering Authorization Application; however, 52.15(g)(3)(i) of the Commission’s rules5 requires a Numbering Authorization Application to contain the following:

  • The applicant’s name, address, and telephone number, and contact information for personnel qualified to address issues relating to regulatory requirements, compliance with Commission rules, 911, and law enforcement;
  • An acknowledgment that the authorization granted in this section of the rules is subject to compliance with applicable Commission numbering rules, numbering authority delegated to the states, and, industry guidelines and practices regarding numbering as applicable to telecommunications carriers;
  • An acknowledgement that the applicant must file requests for numbers with the relevant state commission(s) at least thirty (30) days before requesting numbers from the Numbering Administrators;
  • Proof that the applicant is or will be capable of providing service within sixty (60) days of the numbering resources activation date in accordance with 47 CFR § 52.15(g)(2);
  • Certification that the applicant complies with its Universal Service Fund contribution obligations under 47 CFR part 54, subpart H, its Telecommunications Relay Service contribution obligations under 47 CFR § 64.604(c)(5)(iii), its North American Numbering Plan and Local Number Portability Administration contribution obligations under 47 CFR §§ 52.17, 52.32, its obligations to pay regulatory fees under 47 CFR § 1.1154, and its 911 obligations under 47 CFR part 9;
  • Certification that the applicant possesses the financial, managerial, and technical expertise to provide reliable service. This certification must include the name of the applicant’s key management and technical personnel, such as the Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Technology Officer, or equivalent, and state that none of the identified personnel are being or have been investigated by the Federal Communications Commission or any law enforcement or regulatory agency for failure to comply with any law, rule, or order; and,
  • Certification pursuant to 47 CFR §§ 1.2001-1.2002 that no party to the application is subject to a denial of Federal benefits pursuant to section 5301 of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. See 21 U.S.C. § 862.

Let the games begin!

Problems with Hosted PBX and Google DNS 8.8.8.8

DNSIt is common for Hosted PBX resellers to configure Google’s public DNS servers (8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4) for domain resolution on SIP devices. In most cases Google is a good alternative to the local ISP for DNS, as Google has gone to great lengths to engineer high performance into its service. Without a doubt it is fast and reliable.

In some cases, however, using Google DNS can cause problems due to rate limiting steps that Google has taken to thwart DoS attacks.

As described here, Google Public DNS implements two kinds of rate limits:

  • Rate control of outgoing requests to other nameservers. To protect other DNS nameservers against DoS attacks that could be launched from our resolver servers, Google Public DNS enforces per-nameserver QPS limits on outgoing requests from each serving cluster.
  • Rate control of outgoing responses to clients. To protect any other systems against amplification and traditional distributed DoS (botnet) attacks that could be launched from our resolver servers, Google Public DNS performs two types of rate limiting on client queries:
    • To protect against traditional volume-based attacks, each server imposes per-client-IP QPS and average bandwidth limits.
    • To guard against amplification attacks, in which large responses to small queries are exploited, each server enforces a per-client-IP maximum average amplification factor. The average amplification factor is a configurable ratio of response-to-query size, determined from historical traffic patterns observed in our server logs.

    If DNS queries from one source IP address exceed the maximum QPS rate, excess queries will be dropped. If DNS queries over UDP from one source IP address exceed the average bandwidth or amplification limit consistently (the occasional large response will pass), queries may be dropped or only a small response may be sent. Small responses may be an error response or an empty response with the truncation bit set (so that most legitimate queries will be retried via TCP and succeed). Not all systems or programs will retry via TCP, and DNS over TCP may be blocked by firewalls on the client side, so some applications may not operate correctly when replies are truncated. Nonetheless, truncation allows RFC-compliant clients to work properly in most cases.

When SIP devices are configured with multiple BLF keys, the SIP SUBSCRIBE and NOTIFY messages that are used to communicate presence can amount to many thousands of  DNS queries on an active network.

Google does not publish the specific number of queries per second (QPS) that will trigger the safeguards.  However,  as all of these messages will likely resolve to a single SIP server (and therefore a single nameserver), the aggregate traffic will likely trigger the outbound nameserver QPS limit.  And, if all of the SIP devices are running on the same LAN (behind a single router), then the DNS traffic could also trigger the one source IP address QPS limit.  The resulting dropped queries will greatly slow the presence updates to phones, leading to sluggish status changes or even dropped calls.

For these reasons, it’s important to understand the limits of Google DNS and check the SIP device’s error logs when these types of problems occur (one good way to do this is to point the SIP Device to a syslog server as described here).   In these situations DNS caching on the SIP device or the router is often the only way to circumvent these issues.

WordPress Click to Call Plugin Available Now from SkySwitch

We are happy to announce the availability of a click to call plugin for WordPress. This easy to use plugin will allow SkySwitch Resellers to create “Call Us” buttons on any website that is created using the hugely popular and ubiquitous WordPress content management system.  The wordpress plugin can be downloaded here.  For details on usage, please check the Help Documents website, or contact the SkySwitch Control Tower.

 

How to Use the SkySwitch Click to Call Plugin for WordPress

Whale Hunting Creates Opportunity for Hosted UC Providers

whaleIn case you hadn’t noticed, Vonage, Ring Central and 8×8 (the billion dollar babies)  have all but abandoned the SMB space of the hosted UC market in search of larger customers.  This  creates a unique opportunity for smaller service providers that can move quickly to fill the vacuum, and that are sufficiently adept at helping SMBs negotiate the transition from on-premise PBX equipment to the cloud.

Venture Capital funded companies need to show growth.  Growth comes by closing bigger deals, which in turn necessitates an increasingly large sales apparatus.  Large sales organizations can only sell big ticket items or cookie cutter widgets that don’t vary from customer to customer (this is the reason why telcos sell commodity service like bandwidth or dialtone and have not been successful selling much of anything else).

Selling hosted UC is definitely not like selling a widget.  And, selling hosted UC to large enterprises is a much different job than selling hosted UC to SMBs.

 

Hosted UC for SMBs

Peter Radizeski makes much the same point when he notes that there is no clear leader in the hosted UC space as yet.  Referring to the market segmentation diagram he further states that:

“The winners will be by segment. The same company at the bottom of the pyramid will not be the winner at the top. As Vonage Business execs are finding out, it is hard to sell that logo into an enterprise. As 8×8 experienced, moving up to mid-market is an expensive and time consuming effort.”

So, with the  bigger guys focusing on the top of the pyramid, the field is clear at the bottom for  ITSPs that can figure out the sales process (most have not).

 

In such an environment, where success hinges on high-touch sales and support,  Interconnects, ISPs, Agents and VARs need a white label hosted UC provider such as Skyswitch.  The white label business model allows smaller service providers to leverage proven expertise and infrastructure while directing operational capital into the areas where it will earn the highest return.

To learn more about SkySwitch and Web Centrex, our white label Hosted UC platform contact us today.

 

 

Is 2016 the Year of Messaging for Business?

Predictions for 2016 abound around the Internets, but one in particular caught my eye.

Russel Brand from Massively quotes several sources to make the argument that now is the time for messaging apps to become a serious business tool:

 

One of the most consistent predictions is the emergence of messaging apps as a channel for brands to reach and engage customers. Advertising Age’s list of top trends marketers won’t be able to ignore states that “messaging platforms will trump broadcast social networks”, while eMarketer predicts that “marketers will join the conversation (in messaging apps)”. Henry Blodget, the CEO and Editor-In-Chief of Business Insider, boldly stated “the next big platform will be…Messaging”. And just yesterday, TechCrunch concluded their list of eight trends for 2016 by proclaiming that “soon our first entry point for buying things, ordering things, customer service, is likely to be an IM platform with companies bolting into the back end of the messaging experience.

I am a believer in the value that messaging apps offer to business.  For my money, nothing compares to the efficiency of  Instant Messaging when it comes to connecting customers to an organization’s sales and customer service force.  And, with the capabilities that WebRTC brings to every browser, and the ongoing integration of WebRTC into business communication and collaboration systems, it certainly seems like the stage is set for messaging apps to become part of the business landscape.

I am willing to  bet that the day will come when most customer interactions will begin with an Instant Message or text message – as a prelude to a voice or video call, if nothing else.   But, unless a marquee brand like Apple or Amazon sets the pace for others to follow, I just don’t see it happening so quickly.  At least not in 2016.

 

SIP Phone Automation for Fun and Profit

robotOver the holidays, I made a serendipitous discovery while trying to get the the Amazon Echo to control a light bulb using voice commands. If you haven’t yet heard about the Amazon Echo it is a relatively new appliance that contains a voice controlled personal agent named Alexa (Amazon’s version of Siri, Cortana and Google Now). But I digress… The discovery was the If-This-Then-That (IFTTT) Maker channel.

IFTTT (pronounced “ift”) is a consumer oriented webservice that makes software automation accessible to virtually anyone. Using hundreds of pre-built “recipes” IFTTT allows you to connect different applications together with rules that can be easily defined. The pre-built recipes include connections (called “Channels“) to virtually any consumer webservice that you can think of. Another automation webservice, Zapier, is more geared towards business applications but is not as straight-forward to setup.

Introduced in June 2015, the IFTTT Maker channel allows you to trigger a recipe with a simple HTTP post. That means that you can trigger automation tasks just by hitting a web URL. The IFTTT service lets you insert parameters into the URL that can be passed to other applications.

When combined with HTTP notification capabilities that are built into most SIP phones and ATAs, the Maker channel allows you to do some pretty amazing things that operate completely independently from the IP-PBX or SIP server that the phone is registered too. Although capabilities will vary depending on the model of SIP phone that you are using, some ideas that come to mind in the hosted PBX realm include being notified when a SIP phone becomes unregistered or when the phone’s DND button is pressed.  The possibilities are almost limitless, and will only expand as more IFTTT channels are created.

To get you started in the wonderful world of SIP Phone automation, I created a How-To video that steps through the process of logging calls from a Yealink phone to a Google Spreadsheet using Yealink Action URLs  (the video shows the Yealink phone being configured from its admin UI, but of course, this can also be auto-provisioned using the SkySwitch device provisioning server).

 

 

 

SkySwitch Vectors Website is Live

The website for  SkySwitch Vectors – the 1st Annual SkySwitch User Group Conference  is now up and running. Check it out to view the valuable learning opportunities that we have planned.

If you are planning to join us, you can now book a hotel room at  the reduced rate of $155 per night here, or you can call the hotel at 407-597-4000, ask for Reservations and use the group code “SKY”.

Reserve Your Hotel Room for SkySwitch Vectors 2016

skyswitch vectors

 

If you are planning to join us for the first SkySwitch User Group Meeting (Feb 28 through Mar 1, 2016) you can now book a hotel room at  the reduced rate of $155 per night here, or you can call the hotel at 407-597-4000, ask for Reservations and use the group code “SKY”.

Make it a winter getaway!  The Embassy Suites Lake Buena Vista South was voted #1 out of 159 hotels in the Kissimmee area on TripAdvisor, and is just minutes away from Disney World and all the other attractions that Orlando has to offer.   The special rate is available from February 27 through March 3, 2016.

We are busy working on a website that will detail the full  SkySwitch Vectors event.  Stay tuned for more details.

Is a Polycom-Mitel Merger on the Horizon?

An interesting article on CRN – Mitel CEO Talks Possible Polycom-Mitel Merger, M&A Strategy – quotes Mitel CEO Richard McBee as stating that a shareholder with a large stake in both companies is pushing them to explore a merger.

I don’t as yet have an opinion about the end result of such a merger, but the concept of a union makes some sense when you consider:

  • Both companies have suffered from lackluster financial results  (Mitel/Polycom)
  • It makes sense for Polycom to be aligned with a platform provider such as Mitel given that:
  • Privately held Yealink continues to eat into Polycom’s market share with successful copycat products at lower price points

Food for thought…

Quantum Networks Will Change Everything

Quantum TeleportationWhen it comes to science, I am hard pressed to explain the difference between a photon and a proton.  Still, it doesn’t take a degree in physics to notice that the telecom world is  soon to be rocked by an esoterically named phenomenon called quantum teleportation.

Although the term teleportation brings images of Scotty beaming up Captain Kirk to mind, there is nothing fictional about quantum entanglement.  In a nutshell the idea is that two electrons can be linked together (entangled) such that information can be conveyed between them even when they are separated by great distances.   As it relates to communications networks, quantum teleportation provides the mechanism for moving the quantum analog of a bit (called a qubit) between two such electrons.

Although the idea was posited by Einstein in 1935, the first process to accomplish it wasn’t expounded until 1993 by Dr. Charles H. Bennett, a scientist at I.B.M.   Subsequently, scientists have been able to demonstrate the effect in lab conditions and across short distances only.  Over the past several months however, researchers at Stanford and The Delft University of Technology have published papers (here and here) showing methods by which information could be shared between electrons over a mile apart.

While the nuances of the process are significantly over my head, the practical applications seem pretty clear:   Secure and unlimited communications networks that are unfettered by the constraints of today’s physical broadband networks.

Apparently, you can change the laws of physics Captain.

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