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Taking the Pain Out of SIP Trunk Pricing & Provisioning

If you're keen on working with most any traditional carrier to provision SIP trunks for your organization, then you best brace yourself for a myriad of challenges. I'm sure you've heard the warnings: Carriers aren't making your move away from PRI an easy one.

I take response to a quick poll we took during this week's Enterprise Connect/No Jitter webinar, "Smarter SIP Trunks: 6 Ways You Can Save Time and Get More Features," as a clear sign of the difficulty enterprises have in working with carriers on SIP trunking services. Half of the poll respondents indicated that they're already using SIP trunks for voice connectivity. I may be off, but I'm going to surmise that they attended the webinar, now available on demand, seeking relief for the ongoing challenges they face dealing with traditional SIP trunking providers.

But kudos to them for navigating their way to SIP trunking in the first place, even if that use is limited. Just understanding pricing models and getting a domestic trunk provisioned are tough enough. Toss in a desire to do things like provide global connectivity, disaster recovery, monitoring, and support for messaging over those SIP trunks, and you're talking about a world of hurt.

During the webinar, Brent Kelly, president of KelCor, gave a rundown on some of the biggest pain points while Al Cook, director of product marketing at Twilio, shared how his company aims to take the pain out of buying SIP trunking service. Twilio, which sponsored the webinar, puts a software spin on communications, including the "Elastic SIP Trunking" service it announced a few weeks ago (read Are SIP Trunks Software?). This is, as Kelly said during the webinar, "the web way of doing communications. ... It is the way communications is moving."

You could make the case for this inevitability just by looking at the dual "p" challenges, pricing and provisioning. Kelly says the SIP trunk contracts he evaluates still mimic PRI pricing structures, even though the underlying technology is so different and the service isn't divvied up over channels as it is with PRI. Enterprises will pay per-port or "per-circuit" monthly fees ranging between $10 and $20, depending on features and capabilities, with disparate metered rates for outbound, international, and toll-free calling. Inbound and on-net calls are often, but not always, free.

Carriers often attach caps of 2,000 to 3,000 minutes monthly to these calling plans as well, Cook noted -- although that's not always readily apparent (if you can even find a pricing model spelled out anywhere in the first place).

If your business has seasonal bursts in traffic, then you'll find this old school pricing model particularly troublesome. Such would be the case right now for any company that supports SIP trunks in a customer contact center that lights up during the Christmas holiday shopping season, Kelly added, as an example.

As Cook pointed out, the per-circuit pricing scheme means you have to buy enough circuits to handle heavier-than-normal call volumes -- and pay for those all year throughout the typical three-year SIP trunking contract carriers expect you to ink. Putting it nicely, he said, "That seems an inefficient pricing model for enterprise buyers."

Once you've got your pricing squared away and know where you want your SIP trunks, get ready for the fun of getting your trunks provisioned. While some carriers can provision SIP trunks in two to three days, Kelly said the norm is more like a couple of weeks. However, large enterprises with complex connectivity requirements should expect the provisioning period to stretch over multiple months, he added.

Take special notice if you plan on transferring direct-inward-dial (DID) numbers, Kelly advised. "Be prepared that as you're considering moving these things to SIP trunking you're going to have the same kinds of issues you do when you move from one carrier to another," he said. In other words, make sure you allot plenty of time in your provisioning schedule.

All of this confusion and hassle will be even greater if you have the gumption to take SIP trunking on a global scale, the presenters noted.

Twilio, which is all about integrating communications functionality via APIs, fundamentally disagrees with the way traditional carriers price and provision SIP trunks, Cook said. No surprise, then, that the Twilio Elastic SIP Trunking service, available in public beta, has no per-channel (or circuit) fees attached to it. Rather, Twilio offers unlimited concurrent call capacity without a term contract, or any contract for that matter. In cloud fashion, the service features elastic per-minute pricing.

Provisioning, too, follows the familiar self-service model of the cloud. Enterprise communications managers can instantly provision SIP trunks via the Twilio portal or, if they favor app-enabled communications, can turn up the trunks programmatically using the Twilio API, Cook said. Provisioning of trunks or numbers, in other words, takes seconds... not weeks, not months.

Tune in to the archived version of the webinar to find out more about how the "web way of communications" can ease other SIP trunking pain points. And then share your thoughts on SIP trunking challenges on the comment board below!

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