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First-Person Assessment: The EPIK Edge Appliance

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It has been said that plain old telephone service (POTS) lines are going completely away this year. That’s not entirely accurate. Its price protections have been phased out. Businesses in the U.S. that are reliant on copper services find themselves now at the end of a three-year transition period in which Congressionally-mandated pricing controls have been lifted. The 1996 Act requires RBOCs to sell certain network components, including last-mile loops at cost-based rates. However, the 1996 Act also permitted the FCC to end those restrictions when certain metrics were achieved, including the existence of competitive options. In 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreed that this had been achieved in many locations throughout the U.S. introducing the memorandum opinion and order: “Petition of U.S. Telecom for Forbearance Pursuant to 47 U.S.C. Section 160(c) to Accelerate Investment in Broadband and Next-Generation Networks.”
 
Consequently, businesses are seeking alternative solutions to continue supporting systems that worked better on POTS, such as alarm lines and utility meters. Since the FCC’s ruling businesses using these legacy services found themselves faced with sometimes large price increases when contracts came up for renewal. Some of my colleagues in the industry have reported rate increases of over 300% and some as much as 700% for the same in-place services.
 
Many customers have held onto legacy POTS lines for specialty services such as fire alarms, security alarms, faxing services, elevator phones, equipment modems, or gas, water, and electric meters. If you haven’t already, I recommend looking at replacement solutions. I recently had the chance to evaluate the EPIK Edge appliance by Granite, and it’s clearly the winner in my book.
 
Granite provides the EPIK Edge service as a fully managed solution and is offered at a very attractive price point. Designed to reliably and cost-effectively replace any type of copper POTS line application, EPIK Edge is compliant with fire and life-safety regulatory requirements, including National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 72 as a managed facilities-based voice network (“MFVN”) solution. The Office of the California State Fire Marshal (“Cal Fire”) – a recognized leader of state fire officials – has listed EPIK as analog telecom replacement equipment for use with analog line devices.
 
In addition to all these benefits, the patented EPIK Edge device can also provide your business with secure Internet service over LTE. It’s metered and throttled, but it’s certainly enough to say, run a few points of sale) stations. The EPIK Edge utilizes sophisticated encryption and is HIPAA-compliant and PCI-certified.
 
I had an opportunity to evaluate a device for myself. With a 24-hour battery backup, onboard intelligence, dual-activated SIM cards out of the box, and a private peering relationship with some of the largest wireless carriers (Verizon and T-Mobile), the EPIK Edge are beyond redundant. The sum up EPIK’s call coverage and survivability in just one word, I would say it’s “epic.” [groan]
 
The EPIK Edge also incorporates multiple ethernet ports (WAN/LAN) just in case both cellular services are down (for some unique reason), enabling calls to automatically route over your wired or wireless Internet connection. That’s right! Triple redundancy! The appliance constantly monitors service quality on the wireless networks, and the Internet and routes calls over the best path. I was amazed when we turned off the LTE service, and the call that we were on actually stayed connected. The best part is that EPIK can be completely non-intrusive to your network, making network security concerns not an issue! Granite is happy to meet with customers who need to discuss more complex requirements.
 
The E911 capable EPIK Edge appliance is offered in two form factors - a four-port model and an eight-port model. The fact that this appliance is Granite-owned and fully-managed eliminates the headache of configuration and troubleshooting. Granite handles the installation for you. If you have two active ports on it and you need another port activated, Granite can do that for you remotely. If there’s a problem, Granite resolves it remotely. If it breaks, Granite replaces it. The days of rolling a truck for tone/tag and troubleshooting are behind us. Granite operates under a letter of agency (LOA), so T-Mobile and Verizon services are managed and included. You don’t need to work with the mobile carriers, and you pay only a single bill with Granite.
 
Objections run the gamut. Some say that there’s nothing as reliable as old fashioned POTS. Okay, well, in my experience, POTS lines fail – ask me how I know. When a seldom-used POTS line fails, nobody knows – until it’s needed. That’s not the time find out.
 
Others argue that POTS works when the power is out. This is true, but the EPIK Edge has a 24-hour battery pack and will also send you a notification that power went out. In fact, the MFVN service will provide notification for any alarm – such as an Internet service provider (ISP) outage.
 
I recently heard another objection that their fire alarm panel won’t work with cellular service. This is simply an education issue. The EPIK Edge device is a POTS replacement device that replaces the carrier dial tone on the telco side of the demark and is designed to be easily cross-connected to existing wiring. The installation kit includes a 25-pair cable with an Amphenol connection, punch-down blocks, and even modular RJ 11 ports, so the installing technician can accommodate whatever conditions he or she might find on-site.
 
The most impressive feature to me is the fact that the EPIK Edge appliance comes activated with BOTH a Verizon SIM and a T-Mobile SIM. And if that’s not enough redundancy, it can also be plugged into your network for a tertiary path using voice over Internet protocol (VoIP). The system constantly monitors the best option for the next call it has to make. Dual SIMS and VoIP – are you kidding me!? I have not seen another solution with this much redundancy out of the box.
 
I could get into the weeds with a lengthy catalog of additional features, such as VPN and SD-WAN compatibility, ground start and loop start trunk capability, PCI and HIPPA-compliant encryption, and deep packet inspection firewall. The traditionalists are also thrilled with ring-down forwarding, hunt groups, and voicemail. But you didn’t ask me to cure your insomnia. You can find all the technical jargon on Granite’s website. Suffice it to say, this device impressed me - and that’s hard to do.
Capital costs are not an issue as Granite follows the current IT financial software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. The customer never owns the appliance, and there are no upfront costs for installation and turn-up. Granite’s EPIK Edge services are 100% subscription-based and include full support for the entire term. They keep pricing simple as it’s structured according to the number of active ports, and in my opinion, the price point is very attractive. I favored the 36-month term that included price protection and stabilization.
 
I lead the voice department, so I appreciate the fact that it’s fully managed – there are no required training class or learning curve for my staff. For large enterprise deployments Granite will help you and your team with project management and regular cadence calls. Most of us dread porting, but if you are a glutton for punishment, Granite will assist you with that too. During setup and testing if cellular service is weak, Granite will extend the antennas to the roof. In my book, these are nice value adds.
 
Granite’s EPIK Edge appliance is the first and to my knowledge, only solution that met all my criteria:
 
• NFPA 72 compliant
• Three dynamic talk paths with active monitoring
• Battery backup
• Fully managed and actively monitored
• Strong customer service
• Internet failover
• Traditional PBX services
 
As legacy TDM services are priced out or phased out, businesses will have no choice but to seek alternate solutions to POTS. I’ve evaluated several POTS alternative solutions over the years, and in my opinion, the EPIK Edge is, hands down, the best POTS replacement solution I’ve seen in my 20+ years of experience. And I’ll add that I’ve enjoyed working with Granite for many years. Their customer service is second-to-none. Combining Granite and EPIK was a perfect match.

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