Keeping Up with Voice Quality
A moving target just keeps moving faster.
I had a briefing yesterday with Empirix, which just announced OneSight Voice Quality Assurance, its newest product for measuring voice quality. It's a pretty slick-looking system, but in some ways it also shows just how much of a moving target voice quality monitoring and assurance is.The OneSight VQA works by putting probes on the network which place test calls, which are monitored and recorded by the OneSight server, which can provide metrics such as MOS score as well as the underlying network measurements such as jitter, delay, dropped packets, etc.
That's great, but it also points up the challenge that vendors like Empirix--and, of course, network managers--face. A voice quality monitoring system of necessity can only give you this kind of detailed information for infrastructure that's under the enterprise's control, and the major trend in enterprise communications is that end users increasingly aren't making traditional phone-to-phone calls.
Empirix is better positioned than many, because one of their key markets is the contact center, which tends to employ agents who work directly on the enterprise network (unless they're home-based agents using Internet VPN connectivity).
The challenge has nothing to do with these monitoring tools and everything to do with the shift toward mobility and (to a lesser extent) softphones. Enterprise communications platform vendors are racing to incorporate mobility into their call control models--an important move for enterprise cost control and asset management. But you almost have to wonder what the point of quality monitoring on the enterprise IP network is, if the call is going to hairpin out onto the cellular network, where poor voice quality is the rule rather than the exception.
Likewise softphones--to the extent that our anecdotal experiences at VoiceCon are an indication, enterprise managers are extremely pessimistic about the softphone user experience. Softphones themselves are affected by what's going on with the user's PC--OS issues, what other applications are in use, etc.--plus, one of the main points of using softphones is that they're portable with the user's laptop, making it likely that the softphone will often be connecting via the Internet, another unmanaged network whose quality the enterprise can't control.
Empirix is expecting to address at least this last issue of softphones, within their contact center customer base. Bob Hockman, director of product marketing,and Walter Kenrich, director of product management, told me that the company plans a summer release of a tighter integration of the OneSight with a "virtual agent" function that would monitor not only voice quality of the softphone, but also the CTI data that's coming to the agent desktop. Empirix will integrate with Avaya, Cisco and Genesys desktops.
Voice quality monitoring on IP networks has always been a moving target, but it keeps moving faster. Empirix has carved out a market with the contact center that both requires high quality voice and uses the infrastructure in a way that makes quality monitoring a reasonable proposition. But within the general population of users, the trend is toward connectivity over networks you can't monitor, let alone manage.A moving target just keeps moving faster.