Choosing Quality over Least Cost Routing provides Better long term value

Why Least Cost Routing is too expensive
AurorA has operated in the International Telecommunications market since 1994. Since that time the telecom landscape has evolved and transformed and the pace of change has accelerated. The liberalization and deregulation of telecoms since the 1990’s, the move to native Internet Protocol (VoIP) and the deployment of fiber optic networks spanning the globe have driven voice termination prices steadily downwards. Per Telegeography, the annual CAGR for International Telephony between 1983 and 2007 was 15%; if we now include Skype and other OTT apps international voice traffic is still growing over 15% per year. People still want to talk with friends, family and business associates overseas.


Choosing Quality over Least Cost Routing is is the central philosophy at AurorA. In our view the concept of Least Cost Routing (LCR) for international voice traffic is outdated, ultimately more expensive and leads to substandard business outcomes. Choosing the highest quality termination, i.e. a direct route that passes true Calling Line ID (CLID), actually leads to better value and over a longer period of time, higher revenue and lower overall total costs.


The factors behind this philosophy are a) Total revenue and cost versus a simple rate per minute b) the importance of a superior Dial Plan c) Mitigating fraud exposure d) working with like-minded carriers in the industry to reduce fraud


Total Revenue and Long Term Costs versus Simple Cost per Minute
Direct costs are lower if you choose premium quality over a cheaper but lower quality route. The LCR way will lead to call failures and trouble tickets. Customers will complain. The cost of chasing trouble tickets can be substantial as well as the re-routing necessary until the faulty route is fixed. Customer service staff to take the calls and service technician costs will increase. These costs can quickly eat up the lower rate per minute of the cheap route.


Secondly, only a small percentage of customers that experience poor quality or call failures will actually complain and take the time to put in trouble tickets. The silent majority will simply stop using your service and use an alternative. They will, however, complain internally to their management team about the poor experience which degrades your brand.


Top-line revenue will then also decline over time, initially from customers not using your sub-quality voice service, but further once your organization develops a reputation for poor quality. The maxim “How you do one thing is how you do everything” describes that phenomenon. Customers will not renew, or would look more favourably on competitors offerings. One poor niche allows a competitor an advantage and an avenue to exploit.


This is especially true if your customers are enterprise or business customers. Commercial customers demand excellent quality from your entire service offering. International voice termination may be only a small fraction of your portfolio but if they cannot rely on the calls completing each time, every time with superb “pin drop” audio quality than it would reflect poorly on the rest of your service offering.


Insist upon the highest quality, premium international voice termination. The penny pinching of using an LCR is not worth it, and over the long run higher revenues and lower costs accrue from providing superior quality service to your customers.


A Superior Dial Plan is essential
Route guides for terminating traffic used to be simple; there was a rate per country to terminate a call to a landline telephone and maybe, maybe a second rate to terminate a call to the new cellphones. There were less than 300 lines on the spreadsheet.


Now, there are carriers whose A-to-Z rate sheet can offer thousands of pricing codes; still the landline rate with perhaps some other routes to major cities and a breakout now for each mobile carrier in the country but there are also an increased amount of expensive premium rates that are a potential risk for fraud.


In Canada and the U.S. in the 1990’s there was an explosion in the use of 900 or 976 numbers to offer premium services at a high per minute call rate that would be charged to the caller on their phone bill. Examples included weather reports, psychic hot lines and especially adult (phone sex) chat lines. The high per minute rates could lead to large phone bills very quickly and scammers would use all kinds of tactics to get people to call these numbers as they would get a split of the revenue from the phone company for each call. Consumers and businesses smartened up and blocked 900/976 number and eventually the Internet came and killed that particular market.


Overseas countries still have premium numbers and they live on through various names; Special Services, Non-Geographic Numbers, Universal Numbers, Telematic Services. etc. These numbers are premium in that usually they are at least ten times the rate of normal termination. They can have some legitimate applications; for example non-geographic numbers refers to a remote number, not tied to a physical destination such as if I wanted a Cyprus number to ring to my cellphone when I was elsewhere so my Cyprus customers could reach me.


They can be used for darker purposes though, through a scam called International Revenue Sharing Fraud (IRSF). In IRSF, the carrier in the far end country that owns the number ranges, leverage blocks of numbers they own by applying higher rates and assigning them to resellers outside of the country. Then hackers obtain these numbers, attack PBX’s and IP PBX’s and then machine generate calls. They then share the burst of revenue generated with the carrier in the country that owned these numbers providing a quick source of cash.


So how can you protect yourself ? It comes down to your own dial plan. You want to make sure that you don’t allow access to any premium numbers with such creative names like those listed above. When choosing what international carrier to use to terminate your traffic with, beware of those whose dial plans are riddled with such premium ranges, even if they seem to have low rates otherwise. It may be an arbitrage ambush. If they have many more premium pricing breakouts that do not exist on other carriers rate sheets you should avoid them like the plague. It doesn’t take many calls to the premium numbers to swamp any anticipated savings from using their “low” per-minute rates.


This is where an LCR that routes only based on a cheap per minute rate can get fooled by hidden premium ranges in suspect dial plans.


Mitigating Fraud Exposure
International Telecommunications has become a high volume, low margin industry. That is why we believe that you should trust your traffic to a partner who provides value beyond simply completing calls at “the lowest rate” via LCR. That approach can actually cost you big time ! You want a partner who provides high quality service and is motivated in protecting you and your customers from fraud, because even a single money-losing event is one too many and can wipe away any per-minute savings in an hour.


There are numerous sophisticated telecom fraud schemes in the world. Some have been around for decades, others are new and improved. The estimated global telecom toll fraud is US$38 billion in losses per year. The CFCA, Communications Fraud Control Association, cites telecom fraud as the #1 fraud committed outpacing identity theft, IRS fraud and credit card theft.


What can we do to mitigate and minimize the losses to the criminal gangs and hackers ?

  • Identify suspicious traffic
  • Provide alerts
  • Block the suspicious traffic (while ensuring customer doesn’t reroute call to next route on LCR)
  • Maintain a database and continue to block previous identified fraudulent destinations
  • Ensure a meticulous, accurate worldwide dial plan


Dial Plan ? How does my A to Z route guide help mitigate fraud exposure? Well let me go through the list and explain.


The global network carries hundreds of billions of voice minutes on an annual basis by wholesale carriers such as Tata, Orange, T-Systems etc. Using Big Data and AI, these carriers can detect suspicious call patterns and trends. Even with the size and complexity involved, this takes place in near real-time. Once detected, an alert is promptly sent to the affected customer.


At AurorA we go a step beyond that by pro-actively blocking the suspicious traffic stream immediately upon the alert (for all of our customers). Blocking, however, is only part of the solution. To keep your route guide from automatically going to the next choice, the proper non-routable ISUP/SIP release code is sent to indicate fraud blocked numbers so that it doesn’t just propagate through the route guide.


By maintaining a database of fraud events, we can also pro-actively block specific numbers/ranges where fraud has been detected before. Traffic is then monitored for any call attempts made to known fraudulent numbers as well as to any unallocated number ranges.


Calls to unallocated numbers may be fraud as well. A reseller may make a deal with the number range owner, usually in a low volume, high cost destination for exclusive rights to certain of these number ranges. Often they are called premium or “special” . A regular report of call attempts made to blocked numbers can be a warning sign of criminals testing your network, to see if calls complete to their chosen fraudulent numbers.


The key is to ensure that your dial plan is constantly up-to-date with current worldwide numbering (updated weekly) and that you avoid using carriers that have a plethora of such premium or special number ranges on their dial plans. Further safety can come by pro-actively blocking high-rate destinations where you know that your end customer base has no call volume to.


AurorA is a member of the i3Forum
In 2007, eight of the world’s leading carriers set up the i3Forum. It was initially meant to expedite the international telecommunication’s industry to IP but has since broadened its mission. The i3Forum’s approach is open, simple and pragmatic and it aims to;

  • Represent : the views of the International Carrier Ecosystem
  • Bring together : focus on topics that require joint work and collaboration across the Ecosystem
  • Transform : enable and facilitate the role of carriers in the timely emergence of new ecosystems, and new technical, operational and commercial models
  • Guide : publish recommendations for industry Stakeholders
  • Share : foster cooperation and sharing of best practices between industry stakeholders
  • Educate : contribute to the industry learning on these topics
  • Inform : provide market research, case studies, position papers…


The i3Forum now has 29 members including such major carriers as AT&T, iBasis, Telefonica, Orange, Tata, T-systems, Vodafone and others.


The i3Forum has a roadmap and focuses on a few key topics that require industry collaboration . The one that is near and dear to AurorA’s heart is the Fight against Fraud.


Fraud in international telecommunications is a huge and growing issue. Hackers and criminal gangs now make more money from Telecom Fraud than they do selling illegal drugs. It is an issue that cannot be resolved by any one single carrier; we need to work together as an industry to combat this scourge.


I am honoured and humbled to say that AurorA International Telecommunications Inc. has been accepted into the i3Forum as a member, specifically as a “Friend of i3Forum” . AurorA believes and supports what the i3Forum is trying to accomplish, especially in the Fight against Fraud. I hope to be able to get information, updates and best practices and also be able to contribute where I can. On social media and on its blog, AurorA promotes the i3forum and its objectives.


At AurorA we insist upon serving you with the highest quality, premium international voice termination. The Six Sigma philosophy highlights that the penny pinching of using a LCR is not worth it, and over the long run higher revenues and lower costs accrue from providing superior quality service to your customers


Choose to use a quality, reputable carrier who you trust with your overseas calls.


If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us. This post is an aggregation of some of the material on our blog that you can find here

Also, a thank you to Robert Benlolo of Tata whose expertise in this field has provided me with guidance.

This article first appeared as a LinkedIn article here

2019 Canadian ISP Summit – Day 4

Day 4 ? But the conference only ran from Nov 4 to 6 ? How could there be a Day 4 ?

Well when you are self-employed like I am it takes a full day AFTER the conference just to try to get caught up. There is the large backlog in the email inbox, phone calls to return, meetings to attend.

There is the followup from all the social media posts. I made the commitment to blog each day of the Summit, and really appreciate that you readers took the time to follow along on my website and left great comments on my Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter feeds.

Finally, there is the followup from the pile of business cards that I came home with. I will connect with you all on LinkedIn and Twitter, and send you some details on AurorA and Amitel to remind you that when you need something “International”, contact me, “Your Friend in Telecom”.

Looking forward to next year’s Canadian ISP Summit, Nov 2 to 4, 2020, the 10th anniversary edition.

2019 Canadian ISP Summit – Day 3

Fireside Chat with Konrad Von Finkenstein and Anja Karadeglija Photo Credit ; Canadian ISP Summit twitter feed

The main focus for the final day of the ISP Summit was regulatory. Former CRTC Chair Konrad Von Finckenstein held a fireside chat with Anja Karadeglija of the Wire Report. That was followed by a regulatory panel with Chris Tacit, Michael Geist and Laura Tribe moderated by Christine Dobby from the Globe & Mail.

Many hot issues were covered including MVNO’s, insights from KVF as to how decisions are made at the CRTC and the need for speed and certainty, the difficulty in establishing costing and the retroactive compensation to the competitive industry for overcharging by the incumbents that is being challenged in court. There were good questions from George Burger and Matt Stein to the former Chair challenging his viewpoint on making the decision retroactive for 3 years considering how long it took to make the decision.

Chris Tacit got a laugh from the audience when he mentioned the history of the incumbents tactics in fighting decisions that they don’t like back to Decision 92-12, when the CRTC opened up long distance market to competition. Some panelists and audience members may not have remembered 92-12, actually they might not even have been born yet. Of course that is when I was at ACC Long Distance as VP, Network so I lived and worked through those long distance wars and remember them well. And yes, Bell and the telcos were anti-competitive then and they still are now.

The panel also expounded on what the new minority Federal government might be able to accomplish in its mandate, as well as gave predictions on ministers such as Navdeep Bains and whether he would stay on at ISED or be given a different portfolio (consensus seems to be that he would get a new file) and that Minister Rodriguez might stay on Heritage.

Personally, I feel that a minority government can usually only accomplish a few items in its mandate. There are other , bigger files that will need attention right away such as Alberta and the pipeline issue. There may not be enough time or political capital to get much done on telecom or tech issues.

Once again the Canadian ISP Summit proved to be a great, action packed three days. The content was excellent, the networking was tremendous and it was great to see old friends and make some new ones.

2019 Canadian ISP Summit – Day 2

Photo credit to Maryna Ivus

The Dawn of a New Era in Canadian Telecom ? Maybe

Day 2 at the ISP Summit featured CNOC President and CEO of Distributel Matt Stein releasing a survey that reveals that Canadians are frustrated and feel dissatisfied and trapped by the Large Telcos. Consumers highlighted a lack of fairness, affordability and choice .

The following is an overview of select survey findings:

  • While almost all Canadians have Internet in their home, the majority are customers of the big telecommunications companies: Nearly all (97%) of Canadians have Internet service in their home. Almost eight-in-ten (79%) are customers of one of the big telecommunications providers, while only 3% are customers of smaller independent companies.
  • Canadians feel trapped by their current provider, with over half in Atlantic Canada feeling trapped: 40% would like to change companies but feel trapped by their current Internet service provider. Just over half (53%) of Atlantic Canadians are more likely to say they would like to change Internet providers but feel trapped.
  • Customers of the large telecommunications firms feel they have limited choice when it comes to changing companies: 65% of Canadians who have home Internet from a large telecom company feel there is no point in changing telecommunications companies as they are all pretty much the same.
  • Lack of competition has led Canadians to falsely believe there are no alternatives to the big telecommunications firms: Nearly half (45%) believe there are no alternatives to the large Internet service providers.
  • An anti-consumer environment has been nurtured and is thriving across Canada: Almost half (49%) of Canadians feel that it is too difficult to change Internet service providers.
  • Canadians are frustrated they are paying some of the highest prices in the world for home Internet: Nearly all (90%) Canadians who have home Internet are frustrated they are paying much higher Internet fees than consumers in other countries. Rural Canadians (96%) are significantly more likely to be frustrated with paying more than other countries compared to urban and suburban residents.
  • Customers of the large telecommunications firms have experienced price increases over the last 24 months – almost half without notification: Just over two-thirds (67%) of Canadians who have home Internet from a large telecom company say their Internet service provider has increased the price of their home Internet in the past 24 months. Among those who saw a price increase, 41% say the price increased without any notification.
  • Despite recent price increases, Canadians are experiencing an unacceptably low increase in value: Only 12% of Canadians with home Internet say they are getting more value in their products and services after a price increase. While still low, urban Canadians (16%) are more likely to say they got better service after a price increase, compared to suburban Canadians (8%) and rural Canadians (10%).

“Canadians have clearly voiced their concern about the status quo created by the large telecommunications firms,” said Stein. “The limits they have deliberately placed on consumer choice, fairness, affordability and competition have led to unacceptable levels of dissatisfaction. And when 40 percent of their customers say they want to change companies but feel trapped by their current provider, that’s a clear sign that the status quo is not serving Canadians.”

You can read more about it here

2019 Canadian ISP Summit – Day 1

I was looking forward to this event for months and Day 1 did not disappoint. Met up with many friends and customers within the first few minutes of arriving on Monday. And made new friends and contacts throughout the day . Thanks to TekSavvy for sponsoring my “office” at the show.

The keynotes on innovation and disruption in our Internet industry were very interesting. The talk about women in tech by Maryna Ivus of ICTC was very eye opening. She outlined StatCan numbers that show the number of women working in telecom fell from 35% in 1999 to 25% in 2019. Those numbers surprised and disappointed me as someone who has been in telecom all my adult life.

There was ample networking at this sold-out event; a cocktail reception sponsored by TorIX and QIX, a superb dinner at the CRAFT Beer Market by MBSI WAV and Cambium Networks and an after party by ADTRAN that I was smart enough to not attend . There are times I have to acknowledge my own limits ! Thank you to all the sponsors for making this event so special.

Day 2 has a full agenda with keynotes and panels on both the business of ISP’s and technical discussions. I will blog the highlights tomorrow after the Gala Dinner.

How Cell Towers Work

I found this on YouTube and thought it was worth sharing. It is by Michael Fisher aka “Mr. Mobile”

“Come along as I scope out not one, but two cell sites: one hidden in the steeple of a church, the other perched high atop the tallest mountain in the Northeast. In the process we’ll learn about RF energy, what happens when the power goes out, and why the term “tower” isn’t always accurate. “

How Cell Towers Work :Hands-On ! Learn all about the Network

Enjoy !