An important decision that significantly impacts quality and user experience in cloud communications is how your business will connect communications to the cloud. Let’s explore different options for connecting to the cloud, including over‐the‐top (OTT), multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), and Wi-Fi.
Communications over the top (OTT)
Over the top (OTT) telecommunications providers deliver voice and video services to customers over public Internet connections. OTT can be ideal for smaller organizations or connecting mobile and home‐based employees, and almost any organization will have some level of OTT service being used, for example, by a remote user working from home, in a hotel, or at a coffee shop.
The majority of small and growing businesses choose this delivery method due to the low cost of leveraging the pre‐existing public Internet connection.
OTT for a larger site needs to be evaluated to ensure it will deliver the quality expected.
However, OTT has its drawbacks in a sense of delivering a consistent call quality experience as well as establishing a completely secure connection that some companies have accepted and prioritized around.
This delivery model of voice and data isn’t appealing for larger office locations because companies lose control over the quality of the connection once it hits the public Internet.
OTT is appropriate for some company’s use cases but is best used as a complementary solution to other cloud connectivity options if price isn’t an inhibitor.
OTT users need to regularly test their communications equipment to verify that the quality is acceptable for business use.
Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)
Multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) is used in high‐speed telecommunications networks to transport packets over virtual links, rather than private circuits. MPLS supports numerous access technologies, such as T1/E1, asynchronous transfer mode (ATM), frame relay, and digital subscriber lines (DSLs).
MPLS offers the best quality among the various options for connecting to the cloud and is generally preferred by most businesses.
Connecting multiple locations to an MPLS network can be more expensive than other options; therefore, it’s best suited for larger organizations.
Quality of Service (QoS) options on an MPLS network can help businesses ensure that voice and video traffic, for example, is always prioritized above other types of network traffic to ensure good quality and low latency.
MPLS also provides relative ease of management for organizations with regard to billing. Even a small business with only three or four locations and a very small call center can be burdened with reconciling reams of paper‐based telecommunications invoices each month from multiple providers.
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Some cloud communications providers offer MPLS networking for a fully integrated service. This provides additional benefits for the customer, including QoS monitoring, a single bill, and other “one provider” benefits. However, not all service providers offer networking services – some won’t even allow customer owned/managed links into their data centers – so you need to carefully evaluate different service provider options.
Identifying different services and circuits, deciphering different invoice formats (even multiple invoices from the same provider), and spotting billing errors can be a daunting task requiring many hours every month by itself. Recognizing bill cramming or toll fraud adds to the challenge. Sourcing all of your telecommunications needs – both voice and data – from a single provider over an MPLS network can significantly reduce this management burden.
Voice (and other communications services) over Wi-Fi
Internal Wi-Fi networks, deployed and maintained by an enterprise, should be designed for voice. With the right design and equipment, internal Wi-Fi can provide an optimal VoWiFi solution for enterprises that can be fully controlled.
External Wi-Fi is tricky and is considered to be a “notch” lower than OTT for voice. Battery consumption and lack of traffic control are the primary issues. Thus, VoWiFi can be very challenging, for example, in airports and coffee shops.
With the ubiquitous deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide, as well as explosive growth in the number of mobile data and global OTT mobile VoIP subscribers, operators across the globe are reconsidering their Wi-Fi strategies.
Up until now, Wi-Fi networks have been deployed as high-speed convenient access for data hungry mobile phone and tablet users. But, using Wi-Fi as a pure data offload limits the opportunity for telecom operators to offer a seamless mobile broadband experience. Building a voice strategy for Wi-Fi networks is therefore imperative.
Several initiatives – such as the Third Generation Partnership Project’s (3GPP) Access Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF) for wireless LAN (WLAN) integration and the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Hotspot 2.0 Specification – have further simplified roaming for Wi-Fi and macro networks.
While Wi-Fi services integration is an important step for wireless data offload and efficient spectrum utilization, voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) will be an important step for voice over long term evolution (VoLTE) launches in the near future. This means operators need to take the first step toward VoWiFi before building LTE networks that are voice ready.
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VoWiFi has been defined by mobile industry standards organizations (including 3GPP and the GSM Association, or GSMA), is detailed in a set of industry specifications (including GSMA’s IR.51 and IR.92 documents), and is increasingly supported as a native feature in a number of mobile phones, including Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S6.
VoWiFi, as defined in those specification documents, is a solution that enables mobile service providers to deliver the same set of mobile voice and messaging services they currently offer over their macro cellular network, over any Wi-Fi network, globally. With VoWiFi, mobile operators can enable their subscribers to transparently transition between their cellular network and any home, office, or public Wi-Fi network.
Software‐defined networking (SDN) WAN options are emerging as a new option between MPLS and OTT.
The primary reason for businesses to deploy VoWiFi is to address indoor service coverage challenges. Since the dawn of the mobile industry, providing mobile subscribers with reliable, quality coverage for voice services while indoors has been a challenge.
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