Payment Processing Success Story : Internet Service Provider

Amitel offers Payment Processing and Merchant Services in conjunction with our partner Zomaron. We are pleased to share this success story from the ISP industry.
Please see our Offer Sheet here.

Start.ca was founded in 1995 and has grown to 160 employees servicing more than 70,000 customers across Ontario. They service both the residential and business communities, ­supplying fibre, cable and DSL internet, digital phone and TV service to residential consumers, and a full suite of internet and data hosting services for businesses.

Payment processing is a critical component of their business. Most customers pay online, on a recurring month-to-month basis. They have approximately 40,000 charges run at the first of the month. They need to make sure their payment system is secure for the consumer, and payments are processed smoothly and accurately, without any risk to their credit or credit cards.


Prior to making the switch to Zomaron, one of the problems they were having with their previous processor was their ­inability to support new payment technologies, specifically payment through MasterCard debit and Visa debit, which a lot of ­customers wanted. Switching to Zomaron made that possible—and made a lot of their customers very happy.


One of the exciting things about Zomaron’s services is the availability of Apple Pay and Google Pay processing. Start.ca expects more and more clients to use mobile devices for ­payments, and to have that technology piece ready is very reassuring. Ultimately, it boils down to payment diversity, and Zomaron offers that.


As you can imagine, on a monthly basis they have a lot of chargebacks, voids, and payment adjustments that need to be made. With their previous provider, the online portals were cumbersome and confusing. With Zomaron, they have a single portal that is much easier to use, which enables them to solve most of our billing problems on their own. The accounting team loves it.


Start.ca says the customer service they have received from Zomaron has been outstanding. In addition to being able to get support quickly and easily, they regularly receive calls from Zomaron just to see if they need help with anything. This experience has been a refreshing change of pace for them and really shows how important their business is to Zomaron.


Features, functionality and support were our primary ­reasons for making the switch to Zomaron, but they have also been able to realize a significant savings in our payment processing costs, which was a really nice surprise.


At Start.ca, the vision is to always provide customers with quality service and positive experiences. Both Start.ca and Zomaron compete against the major players in our industries—they have a lot in common that way—and both companies know that having a high level of reliability, great customer service and a wide range of product options are the difference-makers. It’s nice to support another local business, and it’s great to work alongside another organization that shares similar values.

This article originally appeared in London Inc. Magazine Feb 5, 2019

Why do you hate your service provider ?

Unhappy woman with Thumbs down

Here is a fun experiment; Google industries or companies with the worst customer service. Any guesses at what industry comes out on top ?

Outside of government, telecommunications leads by an overwhelming margin with an Ipsos survey in 2018 having 38% of the US population saying this sector has the worst customer service in the country. (Healthcare was next with 18%… quite the drop)

Leading the top 5 industries most hated by customers according the the American Customer Satisfaction Index ? Cable Providers, Internet Providers and Wireless Phone Service Providers.

“Hated industries. You know the ones—the industries that customers avoid dealing with as much as possible. The places customers go out of their way to avoid talking to or interacting with. These are the companies that have bad reputations of dishonesty and not treating their customers fairly. The sad part is that most of these industries are nearly unavoidable, which means at some point, customers have to take the plunge and interact with them.”

Do you think this only applies to the USA ? Nope, it seems to be just as prevalent in Canada according to the Huffington Post, where telecom had the worst reputation among all industries in Canada. Even worse than oil companies !

So why do people love to hate their telecom service providers ? Could it be a combination of
– High Prices
– Unreliable Service
– Poor Customer Service
– Slow or unreliable products/services
– Time and effort to resolve issues via contact centres
– Unhelpful agents
– Surprise Extra fees, charges, overages
– (add your 2 cents here)

This is not new. I have spent my entire adult life in this industry , I’ve been in telecom for over 36 years since graduating from Engineering at UWaterloo with almost all of it spent on the competitive side. The side challenging the oligopoly , the handful of companies that control over 90% of almost every telecom service market in Canada; TV, Internet, Phone etc In those 36 years it has been a constant refrain I heard from consumers, friends and family.

Since Canadians love to hate their service providers, why don’t they demand better ? Why not support the competitive players that are challenging the oligopoly that are providing better service, at better prices with innovative products ? Why not demand more ?

Or is it just more fun to complain ? What do you think ?

Co-Location versus the Cloud

Data Centre

Have you ever wondered “What exactly is Colocation”


The short answer is that a colocation centre is a data centre that provides shared space for network storage and interconnection. Rather than trying to build your own on-site facility to house all of your computing equipment, servers, routers etc. you house them in a colo centre to save the expense and hassles.


A colocation facility provides storage for your own equipment. The facility typically provides power, cooling, security, and intra-site connectivity, among other offerings.


So how does colocation differ from cloud computing?


Cloud computing is essentially dynamic hosting, where you share computing resources with other users that are allocated on-demand from the cloud provider’s servers.


Colocation, on the other hand, is the physical space in which you may operate your company-owned software and hardware. In the cloud computing scenario, the servers and other infrastructure are provided by the cloud provider (ie Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, Google, IBM etc)


In the coming weeks we will be blogging more about data networking, international MPLS circuits, virtual networks like SD-WAN and accessing cloud computing on demand globally.

We’ve Reached Peak Voice

Woman looking at her phone in surprise

This article originally appeared in Telegeography

It’s true that 2015 marked a turning point in the international voice market—the first time since the Great Depression that international call traffic declined. However, that slump in voice traffic has turned into a rout, as carriers’ traffic fell a further 8.4 percent in 2017 to 484 billion minutes.

Graph of International Voice Traffic 1998-2018
What Goes Up Must Come Down International Voice Traffic 1998-2018

Going Over the Top

The same transition to mobile and social calling that drove a 20-year boom in voice traffic has left the industry uniquely vulnerable to the rise of mobile social media.


Both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger topped 1.3 billion monthly active users in 2018, and WeChat is not far behind, with just over 1 billion active users in September 2018.


TeleGeography estimates that just seven communications apps—WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, QQ, Viber, Line, and KakaoTalk—combined for over 5 billion monthly users in September 2018. These estimates exclude apps for which directly comparable data is unavailable, including Apple’s FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Skype (the latter two of which have over 1 billion downloads from Google’s App Store).

Calculating OTT’s Impact

TeleGeography has fairly reliable estimates of Skype’s traffic through 2013, when the company carried 214 billion minutes of on-net (Skype-to-Skype) international traffic.

GRaph of Carrier and OTT Traffic 1998-2018
OTT Delivering More Minutes Every Year Carrier and OTT Traffic 1998-2018

This calculation suggests that cross-border OTT traffic overtook international carrier traffic in 2016, and would reach nearly 952 billion minutes in 2018, far exceeding the 450 billion minutes of carrier traffic projected by TeleGeography.


Telcos terminated 547 billion minutes of international traffic in 2013, and Skype plus carrier traffic totaled 761 billion minutes. If we assume that total international—carrier plus over-the-top (OTT)—traffic has continued to grow at a relatively modest 13 percent annually since 2013, the combined volume of carrier and OTT international traffic would have expanded to 1.24 trillion minutes in 2017, and to 1.40 trillion minutes in 2018.

Want to know more? Take a closer look at the source—the recently-updated TeleGeography Report and Database.

3 common misconceptions about American Express debunked

American Express Platinum unveiling

American Express (Amex) has been perceived as a premium card brand for decades with over 140 million users worldwide. Yet sure enough, a majority of Canadian merchants do not accept American Express cards as a form of payment. We spoke with business owners across Canada and below are the three most common misconceptions about American Express debunked and why you should start accepting it today.

  1. Not enough people use an Amex card.
    This is a common myth about American Express cards. In fact, Amex is accepted worldwide with over 140 million cardholders, including all across Canada. Amex cardholders spend on average 50% more in-store than any other cardholder. That means that Amex cardholders represent 1.5 people coming into your store. It’s not only bad practice to turn customers down, but to turn down higher-spending customers is a major faux-pas. The Amex cardholder has an annual income 40% higher than the average Canadian and earn some of the best rewards and offers in the credit card industry. They have the money to spend, they are eager to earn their rewards, and your business will benefit from welcoming them.
  2. The cost of accepting Amex is too high.
    Historically speaking, American Express credit cards not only had one of the highest interchange rates but also charged merchants a monthly fee for processing Amex transactions. Today, processors like Zomaron (from Amitel) offer their merchants free registration into Amex OptBlue which allows them to accept American Express for no monthly cost and no commitment period. Amex OptBlue also offers comparable interchange rates to other card brands making it more affordable for business owners. As well, Amex does not charge merchants assessment fees or ancillary fees, making the overall cost of accepting Amex not much higher than other card brands. As noted above, these cardholders spend 50% more in store, so unless the fees are 50% higher, then it is still more profitable to accept rather than not. As well, if you don’t want to get lost in the world of interchange rates and assessment fees, it would benefit you to switch to a processor like Zomaron (from Amitel) that charges the same rate for all card types. One flat rate every month so you know exactly how much to pay, no matter what.
  3. Amex does not care about merchants; they only care about cardholders.
    In the past, Amex had a reputation full of myths and misconceptions among merchants; some of them include: Amex had funding delays of 3-5 business days making for an accounting nightmare among small business owners; Amex constantly sided with customers over merchants for disputes and chargebacks; and that Amex billed separately for its payment processing fees. Today, with Amex OptBlue and with Zomaron (from Amitel), merchants can take advantage of next day deposits for all card brand transactions and one easy-to-read consolidated statement for all card types every month. And yes, it is no surprise that Amex treats their cardholders with some of the best customer service and premium loyalty offers in the industry. And because they care so much about their users, their cardholders stay loyal to them. Since merchants who accept Amex are still a minority, Amex cardholders are forced to go to businesses that accept it. Therefore, if you accept it, you’ll likely win their business and their loyalty.
     
    Ready to start accepting American Express at your business for free? Contact Amitel to switch to Zomaron today!

This article by Zakry Chami was originally featured on Zomaron Insights +Interactions

Clearcable Technology Summit 2019

Clearcable Technology Summit Poster

I was lucky enough to score an invite to Clearcable’s 14th Annual Technology Summit 2019 held at the fabulous WhiteOaks Conference Resort and Spa at Niagara-on-the-Lake on June27th.

Statues welcoming you to the lobby of White Oaks

Clearcable Networks is a specialized telecommunications technical consulting firm focused on the needs of Service Providers by developing of new business revenue streams, maintaining existing infrastructure and proposing new advancements in telecommunications sector globally.

The Summit is a chance for the experts at Clearcable to bring in customers and partners and deliver to them up-to-date information on topics of interest to telecom service providers.

The topics covered included overviews of our connected future, the promise of 5G, Challenges with IoT data and security and Next Get PON (Passive Optical Networking). And that was just before lunch ! The afternoon covered Metered learning, Distributed Architecture and Remote Phy, LoRaWan for IoT, Evolution of cable networks, Routing Security and the Connected Home.

The amount of information presented made for a very full day of learning. It was also a chance to network with high level people from across the country in different industries all dealing with providing telecom solutions. It was a pleasant change for me to meet people from outside of my usual circle of contacts, (as well as discuss basketball with some new friends from the USA).

So thank you to my friends at Clearcable for inviting me and I already look forward to next years Summit !

Risk and Assurance Group Toronto 2019 Conference

The conference poster highlighting the Global sponsirs

On June 19th and 20th I was please to participate in RAG Toronto 2019, the North American conference put on by the Risk and Assurance Group (RAG) held at Telus Harbour (next to Scotiabank Arena, home of the 2019 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors ! see my post https://www.amitel.com/raptors/)

The Risk & Assurance Group was set up in 2003 by UK telcos and its original name was the Revenue Assurance Group. RAG allowed practitioners to share advice about this new discipline. They discussed issues, wrote papers, and their work shaped RA, as members took jobs with telcos and vendors around the world. RAG changed with its members, encouraging more widespread participation around the world. Remaining at the cutting edge of assurance, RAG covers fraud management, enterprise risk management, law enforcement liaison, credit risk and security.

I attended for two main reasons; to learn more about the latest in telecom fraud mitigation and to network with telco fraud professionals from Canada and overseas. One of the keys in combatting telecom fraud is co-operaton. Telcos must work together and that was the theme of the opening panel of the conference with speakers from the Big 3; Telus, Bell and Rogers. Co-operation and information sharing about fraud trends is key; that is why AurorA is a member of the i3Forum of carriers as on of their mandates is also the Fight Against Fraud.

The conference highlighted hot topics in telecom fraud management, the increased prevalence of Wangiri fraud, selling anti-fraud as a service and the RAG Wangiri Blockchain Project to help combat that scourge worldwide. There were other good sessions more geared to revenue assurance, cybersecurity and the coming IoT world but telecom fraud was what I was most interested in.

Selling anti-fraud as a service is something that I don’t believe in, at least for AurorA. As AurorA is a wholesale carrier and does not serve consumer, SMB or enterprise customers directly, I have always felt that providing fraud mitigation is a key part of the service offering . It has to be a part of it, especially as a premium service. It turns out that it is a key differentiator for AurorA as many of the competitors who offer cheaper rates per minute often do very little anti-fraud front. A cheap rate doesn’t help you when your network is under attack !

The networking was also worthwhile, especially with the organizers from RAG in the UK. They were very friendly, welcoming and open and free with sharing information. Post show, I signed AurorA up to become a RAG member.

Thanks also to Telus for hosting the conference in their lovely Telus Harbour building. I look forward to attending the next RAG North American event in 2020.

Home of the NBA Champions

Recently I was in downtown Toronto for the RAG (Risk and Assurance Group) Conference on telecom fraud. That conference will be the subject of another post.

RAG was being held at Telus Harbour which is next to the Scotiabank Arena. So I had to take a picture in front of the home of the 2019 NBA Champions, the Toronto Raptors.

Those who know me well, know that I am a big basketball fan and especially a Raptors fan. I come by it honestly. I attended the University of Waterloo starting in 1978, just a couple of years after UW had won the Men’s National Championship. Basketball was huge at UW, with a rabid fan base that packed the PAC for every game. That year also was classic in the NCAA tourney as Larry Bird (Indiana State) and Magic Johnson (Michigan State) duelled, which I watched intently while on a work term in Timmins.

Post graduation in 1983 I lived for five years in Windsor and adopted the Bad Boy Pistons as my team. Isiah, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Vinny the Microwave and Coach Chuck Daly… that was a team that played hard (very hard!) and won championships.

Then in 1995, Toronto got a team and I became a Raptors fan. Throughout the lean years, the various highs and lows. I won’t chronicle them all here. Suffice to say that this season has been something special, and the Raps playoff triumphs over Orlando, Philly, Milwaukee and then Golden State were awesome to watch.

So I had to get my photo in front of the home of the 2019 NBA Champions !

ISP Summit – Day 2


The Canadian telecom and Internet regulatory model is broken. The basic premise is that the regulator, the CRTC, puts rules in place to support market and consumer choice. This can be traced back to the original resale and sharing rules from the 1980’s and then Decision 92-12 that opened up the long distance market to competition. But currently independent Internet service providers cant get reasonable access to the oligopoly fibre access to the home.

I personally ran into this situation when I sold my long time home back in 2014 and moved into a new apartment building that was wired with fibre from Bell and Rogers. I wanted to get internet service from my long time provider, Packetworks. But I could not as the telcos were not required to provide access to their fibre networks. Even after a decision in 2015 that was ostensibly to open up the market to choice by forcing the oligopoly to resell their fiber access networks, the rules are so arcane that it is not cost effective for a competitive provider to gain access.

In our new home, I was able to get Internet service from TekSavvy using the existing cable TV network for access. I am partial to the 150 MB download speed and the unlimited usage that TekSavvy offers. There will come a time though, and probably soon because I work from home, that I will want to upgrade the download speed and that will require fibre optic access. If the rules don’t change I will be limited to having to get service from Bell or Rogers and won’t be able to support independent Internet service providers. I won’t have a choice. That has to change.

That is why I have decided to join CNOC, the Canadian Network Operators Consortium. CNOC is the organization that puts on the Canadian Internet Summit each year. It represents over 35 independent internet service providers like TekSavvy, Distributel and Primus. CNOC fights for fair rules from the CRTC, not just for its members, but for all Canadians. My entire 35 year career in telecom has always been on the competitive side so this seemed like a natural move. I can’t just sit on the sidelines and let others just fight on my behalf, it is time to take a stand.

Will you join me ?

ISP Summit – Day 1


The obligatory pre-conference photo !

Beyond Connectivity
Those were the words of Matt Stein, the President and Chair of CNOC to open this years ISP Summit. The opening day had some great keynotes about Data Privacy, AI and machine learning as well as the challenges of providing Internet everywhere, including remote fly-in only areas of Canada.

There was ample networking at this sold-out event; a cocktail reception sponsored by TorIX and QIX, dinner by TekSavvy and an after party by SmartRG thatI 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.

The ISP Summit is an interesting contrast to the Canadian Telecom Summit. It is smaller, cosier, homier, with ample networking opportunities to meet people from across the country and across the industry. Monday was no exception as I had multiple meetings and conversations throughout the day with people I had only connected with before on social media. There is nothing like being able to have face-to-face , live conversations to help each other solve business issues.

I’ll report back tomorrow, the lights are dimming for the first speaker of the day !

PS Thanks to TekSavvy for sponsoring my “office” away from home too !