ViewsLetter(SM) on Provisioning

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Flanagan Consulting                 Network Analysts and Consultants
                                         "We Have the Experience"
ViewsLetter on Provisioning                7 April 2003                #20


    --By William A. Flanagan, Editor and Publisher, ViewsLetter

Progress it is:  carriers providing the means for their customers to
control their own telecom services.  A complete solution it is not:  the
control applies to logical configuration of parameters defined by software
for an existing service;  no control exists over physical connections or
initial provisioning.  We'll look at two examples:
    1.  WorldCom's "Toll-Free Network Management"
    2.  IP Centrex based on a soft switch.

TFNM lets call centers administer their 800- services (and 866, etc.),
anything  from adding a new phone number in the national toll-free data
base to redirecting calls from one location to another.  A customer signed
into a Web-based application can direct an 800 call to any directory
number (DN) in the world.

(A DN identifies each callable phone line that's installed.  There are
outbound-only phone lines that don't have DNs;  to conserve DNs in areas
where an area code or exchange is approaching exhaustion, outbound lines
may have arbitrary identifications that include letters as well as
numbers, aren't part of the E.164 system, and so can't be called.)

Call routing capabilities of TFNM set by the customer are the same as
obtained from a WorldCom employee.  Routing plans may use the caller's
location, called or calling phone number, time of day, or day of week.
High current utilization of trunk groups (congestion) can trigger an
alarm.  A simple command swaps the current plan for a pre-arranged
alternate plan.

"User reaction has been extremely positive," reported Dave Schrack,
Director, Order Processing Systems, at WorldCom.  "Subscribers can create
their own routing plans, without relying on someone from their carrier for
design and implementation, and they can change call routing in seconds,
without the delay of calling in to have the carrier make the change.  Some
subscribers alter their routings every few minutes."

The catch?  DNs and local loops must be in place with a local exchange
carrier (LEC) before TFNM can work.  TFNM assumes the physical
provisioning is done elsewhere.  TFNM service operates at the "logical"
level, not on physical wiring or other aspects of basic connectivity.

Something similar exists with "IP Centrex" service, local (and LD) phone
service provided over an IP connection, typically a T-1 local loop.  The
logical functions reside in a softswitch (also known as a call processor,
call agent, gatekeeper, and many other names).  The IP network provides
physical connectivity, but not on the generic Internet.  A managed IP
service ensures the IP connections enjoy low latency and low packet loss,
both needed for high quality voice.

A softswitch--from vendors such as Broadsoft, Nuera, Avaya, Nortel,
Alcatel, Lucent, and others--includes a web server linked to its
configuration data base.  Individual users can access their own
configuration files to set or change the way features work for individual
phones.  For example, for unanswered calls each user might designate a
unique phone number for forwarding.  Services based on Session Initiation
Protocol (SIP) allow incoming calls to ring multiple phones simultaneously
(office, cell, car, home office).  This feature isn't attractive to people
who hide behind voicemail, but a web interface to a softswitch can still
let you hide.

When other applications are present--voice mail, paging, email, etc.--the
same interface may allow customization there too.

But again these are all "logical" controls that assume the T-1 from the
customer site to the managed IP network is in place and functioning, and
that the IP Centrex service provider has accepted the subscriber and
turned up service.  Ordering the physical part still involves the
traditional "have your people call their people."

Will customers ever be able to order the physical layer automatically?
"We're looking at it," says Schrack, "to see what functions and activities
are amenable to automation.  But the same architecture used in TFNM can
work in other situations."

What situations do you think are ripe for automation?  Write to
ViewsLetter with your comments:

"Flanagan Consulting" and "ViewsLetter" are Service Marks of W. A. Flanagan, Inc.
 Updated:  11 June  2003

Flanagan ConsultingSM
W. A. Flanagan, Inc.
45472 Holiday Drive, Dulles, VA 20166
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