Read the Small Print: Finding True Cost of In-House Telecoms
Maintaining telecom services is like oral hygiene: Forgetting to brush once is no disaster, but if you leave it too long you may find your teeth falling out.
Delivery of telecommunication services today is evolving toward an "as a service" model, as evidenced in the rise of cloud-based collaboration services that include PSTN connectivity.
Historically, telecom services have followed a cloud model -- in that they were delivered over shared PSTN infrastructure. Then, with the gradual introduction of new technologies (Internet, VoIP, MPLS, VPN, etc.) large enterprises started to build their own capabilities on top of the basic services provided by traditional telco providers.
A second wave of technological changes (speedy and reliable fixed and mobile IP networks and the introduction of cloud-based IT resources like computing power, etc.) allowed a new breed of telecom and collaboration providers to arise, offering services like cloud PBX or team messaging -- think Cisco Spark and Slack, for example. Let's call them the "new kids on the block."
These providers are challenging both existing telecom providers and in-house-developed solutions with highly available, scalable, and on-demand services. More companies continue to emerge as one-stop shops for all services related to communications -- instant messaging, audio and video conferencing, and screen sharing -- while also incorporating the traditional public (PSTN) and private telephony services on which we have all come to rely.
But can large companies really continue to justify high investments and operational cost for their in-house telecom services? Even when they are less reliable, more expensive, and harder to maintain against ever-changing end-user business needs?
In deciding whether or not to outsource telecommunication services, or better yet, collaboration services, to a cloud-based model, enterprises must take into account the same strategic factors as they would consider in any other outsourcing decision:
- Talent availability
- Ability to focus on core competencies
- Ability to facilitate fast growth while guaranteeing the same or better quality
- Shortened time to market
- Support for global expansion
- Organizational readiness
- Cost-saving tactics
On the provider side, the same reasoning applies to the "new kids" charged with delivering high-quality, end-to-end user experiences. They not only must match customer requirements on technical and quality levels, but also satisfy the market, which is asking for ready accessible global services, fully compliant with all legal and regulatory frameworks.
Bringing all this together in this newly shaped and highly competitive market will challenge an organization on all seven aspects mentioned above. You could argue choosing the right partner for each building block of these services, including PSTN connectivity, is just as crucial to pulling this strategy off successfully as any other step.
When looking at the big picture, not only have the customer-facing services changed, but wholesale telecom providers have evolved to deliver what the new kids need: real-time, on-demand availability of wholesale telecom services, preferably able to be managed and integrated through an API.
The following basic elements are needed to connect collaboration services to the PSTN. This is where the real cost comes in, not only initially with a set-up fee, but also with high operational and maintenance charges, making outsourcing an attractive option for businesses.
- Dial Plan and Number Management - Managing number resources is key to delivering a PSTN-connected collaboration solution and requires a solid inventory management system in order to manage these resources on a large scale, especially if multiple countries are involved. Dial plans also require continuous maintenance as they evolve over time through the introduction of mobile and VoIP numbers, all of which need to be managed on a per-country basis.
- Fraud Control - The largest financial risk, often overlooked, is fraud. Despite the fact that cases of fraud are estimated to be down 18% since 2013, experts still valued the losses at $38.1 billion in 2015, according to the Communications Fraud Control Association. Managing the risk requires specialized tools and teams to monitor traffic on a daily basis.
- Connectivity - Any interconnection needs day-to-day capacity management to balance customer demand with operational cost. Customers can often peak well above their average traffic, but times of low traffic can result in overcapacity for some regions or countries.
- Services - In general, certain additional services must accompany PSTN connectivity. These include number portability and emergency services, and can be either market driven or necessary for meeting regulatory obligations.
- Regulatory framework - There are a few examples of requirements that need to be adhered to, including license obligations and reporting and legal intercept. Whenever you use or provide telecom services, the regulatory and legal frameworks need to be respected and can have both financial, or sometimes even penal, consequences.
The challenge is the day-to-day management and all the possible changes that can occur, not just in one country but on a global scale. Maintaining telecom services is like oral hygiene: Forgetting to brush once is no disaster, but if you leave it too long you may find your teeth falling out. One change alone on any of the elements above probably won't break your services or put you at risk, but not managing changes over time, at some point, will have in a major impact on customer satisfaction, SLAs, brand reputation, or compliance.
The question remains how the operational effort translates to an enterprise's decision to source and maintain telecom resources itself or buy as a service. Of course, this is an exercise every company needs to do itself and will depend on the services offered, strategy, key strengths, etc.
However, given the changes some wholesale providers have gone through to offer high-quality telecom services that can be fully managed online, with real-time delivery and globally standardized processes, the time is right for both the enterprise and "new kids on the block" to outsource and buy key components as a service, moving away from a DIY approach.
The right telecom partner, focused on offering global cloud-based PSTN connectivity as a service, will be able to do all of this efficiently and cost effectively, ultimately delivering high end-to-end quality. This will allow you to simplify your business significantly while keeping control via online management and reporting tools providing real-time data.