Andrew Prokop
Andrew Prokop has been heavily involved in the world of communications since the early 1980s. He holds five United States...
Read Full Bio >>

Andrew Prokop | August 03, 2015 |


SIP Trunks Get Easier

SIP Trunks Get Easier Flowroute understands SIP and the changing expectations of how it needs to be delivered.

Flowroute understands SIP and the changing expectations of how it needs to be delivered.

We all know how easy it is to get an email address. You go to Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft, fill out a few simple questions, and in less than two minutes, you have a working email address with an unlimited ability to send and receive emails to any other email user across the world. What could be simpler?

Compare that to ordering and installing a SIP trunk from a traditional voice carrier. Despite the fact that SIP is just another IP service, it can take weeks or months from the time you place an order to your first SIP call. In today's speed-of-light business environment, delay means lost dollars, customers, and goodwill. Impatient people like me want it, and we want it now.

It's communications carrier Flowroute's goal to make SIP trunks almost as easy as creating a new Gmail address -- open an account, enter your requirements, and start making calls. Okay, it's a little more involved than that, but not much.

Of course, ease of installation without functionality is worthless. That's why Flowroute set out to develop a product on par with SIP trunk solutions offered by the likes of AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, and Sprint. This includes:

  • Inbound calling with unlimited channels (think SIP session) or unlimited minutes
  • Outbound calling with call quality optimized over the most reliable routes available; outbound SIP channels are always unlimited
  • Independence from any particular PSTN carrier -- Flowroute's platform chooses the best carrier at any given point in time
  • Local phone numbers supported across the U.S. and Canada
  • New or existing (i.e. ported) toll-free numbers
  • Toll-fraud protection that keeps Flowroute customers safe from intruders looking to steal SIP sessions and minutes
  • Real-time active routing that allows an enterprise to maximize uptime and savings
  • A personalized portal that gives administrators the insights and flexibility needed to optimize trunk utilization

Of particular interest to me was the additional information that Flowroute supports in its SIP messaging. I may be wrong about this, but I am not aware of another carrier that supports X-Tag headers in SIP INVITE or 200 OK messages. These user-defined headers allow for the insertion of extended logging information into a CDR ( Call Detail Record). While not required by every enterprise, this additional data can be used by those that desire more detailed billing and utilization reports.

Another thing that thrills me is the inclusion of ISUP-OLI and JIP information in SIP requests. For those of you who aren't old-school ISDN people like me, these elements provide additional intelligence about the caller. For example, you will know if the call originated from a pay phone (I am assuming that they still exist) or a prison. Additionally, ISUP and JIP information can be used to identify and act on location spoofing. Again, this may not be of interest to all users, but I know of many contact centers where detailed location data could be utilized for more sophisticated call routing and reporting.

Both Retail and Wholesale

Up until now, I have focused on Flowroute as a provider of enterprise SIP trunks, but its bigger market might be enabling other companies to become mini carriers. If you've been paying attention to this space, you will recognize the names OnSIP, Plivo, and VOIPo. These companies have taken Flowroute SIP trunks, added their own value and branding on top of them, and positioned themselves as SIP service providers.

Some of this added value is possible through the extensive APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that Flowroute provides. Using RESTful Web services and those previously mentioned SIP message extensions, developers and third parties can customize Flowroute's standard SIP trunks into unique solutions that are then offered to their customers. This allows Plivo to be different from Twilio.

Room for Improvement

As intriguing as Flowroute is to me, there is still room for improvement. Granted, I could say this about every SIP trunk provider. There isn't a single one that offers everything I would like to see. Treat this as a list of suggestions that can be applied across the board:

  • The Same Old Codec Choices -- It goes without saying that Flowroute offers vanilla G.711 and G.729a. Personally, I would love to see added to the mix wideband codecs such as G.722 and Opus. Additionally, the adoption of codecs such as iLBC and Speex has greatly increased, but neither one is currently supported by SIP carriers. Of course, these codecs are useless when the PSTN is involved, but they may have a play in a pure end-to-end SIP configuration.
  • Missing SIP Messages -- Flowroute supports the basic SIP messages required to make and release calls (INVITE, ACK, CANCEL, BYE, REGISTER, and OPTIONS), but they do not support a few that I would like to see -- PRACK, UPDATE, and REFER. Of those, REFER is highest on my wish list. With REFER and its ability to implement take-back-and-transfer, trunk "tromboning" is eliminated after a call is transferred. (Note: I was informed that REFER is on the roadmap and will be supported in the near future.)
  • Lack of IPv6 -- Did you read my article The Long Road to IPv6? In it, I suggested that a good place to start the move toward IPv6 is carrier SIP trunks. Perhaps Flowroute could blaze the trail by offering both IPv4 and IPv6?

Even with my wish list, there is a lot that Flowroute is doing right. In addition to the previously mentioned features, the company supports T.38, RFC 4733/2833, e.164 dialing, a plethora of security mechanisms, and various forms of authentication. Additionally, it has a patented way of optimizing media paths. Its "stay out of the way of audio" approach reduces latency and improves overall call quality.

More than Just a Provider of Trunks

In Flowroute's words, it is "a software company that happens to be a carrier." In my mind, this distinction mandates it to be different. While the promise of pure software trunks still looms larger than present day reality, I am extremely excited and optimistic about what I've seen, so far.

I am not trying to take anything away from the traditional SIP carriers. While I have my beefs with every one of them (please see my article, Overcoming SIP Phobia), for the most part, they are getting the job done. However, imagine AT&T and Verizon without the "burden" of a legacy TDM infrastructure. Imagine a company with a platform nimble enough to add cutting edge technology such as WebRTC and those previously mentioned missing codecs.

That is the potential I see in Flowroute -- the promise of a new way of delivering communications to enterprises, developers, and service providers. The company understands SIP and the changing expectations of how it needs to be delivered.

Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.

Follow Andrew Prokop on Twitter and LinkedIn!
Andrew Prokop on LinkedIn


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.