#10YearChallenge How Hard Did Ageing Hit Comms?
Discussing the Comms Evolution with Swoop Datacom
2019 began on an interesting note. As the communications industry looked into the future, discussion predictions for AI, and disruptive tech, the social media space looked back. The #10YearChallenge had people of all ages sharing pictures of themselves from 10 years ago and commenting on how much they had changed.
This new online trend got the team at UC Today thinking about how communications have transformed in the last decade, and how far we’ve come over the years. To discuss our very own UC #10YearChallenge, we connected with John Bennett, the CEO of Swoop Datacom.
With zero-touch provisioning tools like ForgeServe, Swoop is one of the companies leading the way to the future of communications. However, John has been in the industry long enough to see a lot of crucial changes.
How Have Phone Systems Changed in the Last 10 Years?
His long-standing history in the communications industry makes Bennett a fantastic person to comment on the evolution of UC and the modern phone system. “I started in the early days of SIP. I came from a telecoms background, transitioning dial-up minutes, and I saw the arrival of the first IP PBX.”
John told me that phone systems were a tough market to get into a decade ago. IT and telecoms companies simply didn’t mix and implementing anything into a business was a far more complicated process. “You needed engineers with a lot of experience, and a lot of cabling. The process was time-consuming, expensive, and very manual.”
Today, companies like Swoop Datacom are tackling many of the complexities of the phone system installation. With ForgeServe and service management solutions, the gaps between IT and telecoms companies are getting narrower. However, for a long time, installing a SIP system meant understanding how to use everything from media gateways to session border controllers.
“You needed countless training courses from every provider you bought from. With SIP, you could get a gateway from one company, a router from another, a handset from another and so on”
“Engineers had to understand the basics of all of those systems, and how to bridge the gaps between them. We used to have a 2-day training course just on implementing an IP PBX. That was just the software arm – it didn’t include gateway installation or endpoint provisioning.”
Has SIP and Connectivity Become Easier to Manage?
Bennett told me that many aspects of the phone system puzzle have become simpler today. “Now that we can offer things like zero-touch provisioning, systems are much easier to implement.”
One change worth noting is in the complexity that used to be familiar with SIP connectivity. John noted that ten years ago, it was challenging even to calculate the bandwidth required for a business. “A lot of the time, data and voice didn’t run independently from each other. This meant that calls got dropped and quality was lost every time a large piece of data was sent out. It took companies a long time just to figure out how to split voice and data traffic.”
On top of that, there were issues with codecs that people used to reduce their packet sizes, which prompted another loss in audio quality. “There was a lot of confusion, and so many people who didn’t know how to deploy connections effectively. The smallest problem could easily cause jitter and lost calls. It also took a lot of time for people to figure out what was going wrong with their systems. It got to a point where people were buying ISDNs to back up their SIP phone strategy.”
Importantly, John noted that SIP technology had remained the same, it just wasn’t used properly in the past. “The deliverables are the same; it’s the service providers that are changing.”
How Has Service Management Evolved in the Last 10 Years?
It’s safe to say that the provisioning and installation of phone systems has improved in the last 10 years. However, it’s worth looking at the way that we manage and support those systems today too. 10 years ago, telecoms service contracts were calculated according to the predicted issues a manufacturer thought their customers might face. There as a lot of data available to indicate how much support a user might need. Then we moved to SIP, and it was a whole new world. We had no idea how long the lifecycle of each phone should be, or which providers were best.
“Service contracts back then became painful very quickly. There were a lot of call outs happening for equipment that wasn’t faulty – it was just poorly installed”
“Customers were dealing with engineers who didn’t know what they were doing. Those parties started to disappear when Ofcom regulated the market. We started to see some stability. People could implement equipment with the right service around it.”
Now, service management is getting even better. Solutions like ForgeServe mean that companies can make changes to systems remotely from an enhanced provisioning service. “Those original service wraps based on manual installations, and engineer visits are no longer necessary.”
10 Years Ago, Did You Think Swoop Would Be the Company It Is Now?
Bennett told me that when he first started his company, the provisioning arm was incredibly basic. “We built it as part of the solution to make our devices plug and play. However, as the market changed, we noticed that there were quite a few pain points around handset deployment.”
John admitted that originally, he had just assumed that people would be able to deploy their IP phones with ease. However, the market continued to transform, and people struggled. “Specifically, we saw a lot of issues with companies that didn’t come from an IT background. They didn’t know how to sustain quality of service or manage their networks.”
It was the common issues that John saw in the market that led to the birth of Swoop Datacom, and ForgeServe. “IT networks had been giving customers access to their systems for a long time. We decided to bring that into the SIP world, so people could have more control over delivering managed service. Now, customers can pick up a phone and report a fault, and someone else can fix that issue from a distance. We’re still one of the only companies in the world offering this level of granular control.”
What Do You Think the Industry Will Look Like 10 Years from Now?
A decade from now, John sees the industry having much more integration and federation at its heart. “We’ll see a lot of API driven communications, and lots of people embracing Artificial Intelligence. Small and mid-sized companies will be integrating mobile devices into the business and headset sales will continue to increase.”
As more players continue to join the market in the years ahead, Bennett also sees a strong future for the possibilities of SIP. With SIP-enabled wearables, communication could happen through any device – not just desk and smartphones. “There are so many opportunities. Handheld devices may become entirely contactless. Wearables might link with AI. Who knows what the future could bring?”
What do YOU think the future will bring? Let us know in the comments below.