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Another Year of SIP Trunk Provider Problems

The SIP Survey recently published its eighth-annual SIP and Cloud survey, and as I looked over the data I expected the results to demonstrate a decrease in provider problems -- my expectation being that SIP trunk implementations would have become a commodity installation. Not so.
For its 2018 SIP report, The SIP School gathered input from 840 respondents. It collected and analyzed the data throughout most of fourth-quarter 2018, releasing results earlier this month. The graphics in this blog are from the survey report.
Providers, Top of the List
SIP trunk providers continued to be the source of most problems in 2018, although the issues did improve slightly. In the survey, 32.73% of respondents reported experiencing problems, down from the 36.73% and 33.63% who did so in 2017 and 2016, respectively. (I’ll cover equipment vendors in my next post).
Respondents who reported that they have “Never had a problem” attributed their successes to good planning, thorough testing, training, and good support from the providers themselves. These seem basic best practices, but the survey found that 20.28% of respondents never performed SIP trunk service trials prior to implementation. Not a good idea.
Those performing trials remained with their providers 60.49% of the time, with only 2.8% reporting that they moved to another provider after the trial concluded. This is a positive action on the part of the customers who were dissatisfied with their selected providers. Another 15.38% had trials underway when they participated in the survey.
Primary problem with SIP trunks, per The SIP School data
What Went Wrong with the Providers?
When you study the chart below, you’ll observe that the same problems have surfaced year after year. These problems should be diminishing by now. One-way audio is at the top of the list, the same major problem for the past years. Next is poor voice quality, a problem the provider should have solved years ago. We’ve been living with the poor voice quality issue for at least 20 years. Trunks dropping could be a provider issue or a problem with the last mile – i.e., the access line.
Codec mismatch came in as the fourth most common problem. Codec issues should be solvable by employing automatic codec settings, not using a manual setting that can lead to errors.
Provider problems with SIP trunks
If you’re looking to purchase SIP trunks, look for good documentation and vendor support. The provider should assign properly trained staff to implement and configure the services. Evaluate the experience and training of those implementing your service.
Use the list of problems from the graphic above to create a checklist of the issues you may encounter. Use this checklist to confirm everything is working correctly before you go live with the provider.
The Provider View
You would think by now that SIP trunk providers would be absolutely sure of how their services work and know how to configure and provision them. But as you can see in the graphic below, there’s a disconnect between customers and SIP trunk providers (Internet telephony service providers, or ITSP, in this survey) as to problem sources.
As expected, provider respondents reported that they were responsible for problems only 9.19% of the time. Customers, however, reported that the providers were responsible for problems 32.73% of the time, a wide variation. Providers blamed the PBX vendors for 50.42% of the problems, compared to the customer reports of 15.62%. Likewise, providers blamed session border controller (SBC)/edge device vendors for 35.93% of the problems, compared to the customers who reported these devices at fault 23.72% of the time.
Disconnect between customers and SIP providers on where the fault is
Interestingly, the widest variation in the problem reporting regarded whether a customer has ever had a problem with SIP trunks. While only 3.90% of provider respondents reported that their customers never had a SIP problem, 18.32% of customers said their deployments were problem-free -- so customers actually seemed more satisfied than providers in this case.
These discrepancies point to the need for both sides to communicate before, during, and after the cutover to the SIP trunk service to overcome the issues. Problems can be isolated and fixed regardless of where the fault lies.
Remember the customer is not a SIP trunk expert. If you as a customer are not sure about an issue, don’t assume the providers or vendors are always right. Ask questions and if you don’t feel comfortable, ask more questions. A failed SIP trunk service doesn’t look good on your resume.
Attending Enterprise Connect, taking place March 18 to 21 in Orlando, Fla.? Be sure to add our SIP trunking services update to your agenda! And if you haven’t registered yet, sign up now using the code NJPOSTS to save $200 off the current rate.