Frequently Asked Questions

The Telecom industry is full of jargon and technical terminology that can be confusing to a layperson.  In this FAQ, we address some of these terms and also provide more detail on our services.

Just click on the dropdown next to each question to see the detailed answer.  We also have video treatment for some of these questions on our Telecom Video FAQ page, or just go to our YouTube Channel to see all of the available videos.

 

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions:

On our Process

How does the Telecom Management process work?

It’s pretty simple.  We collect your telecom bills and contact your provider to obtain your Customer Service record (the phone company’s service inventory).  Then we analyze your data against what we know of your organization to see if you have services you don’t need or if there is better technology available.  We obtain quotes from a variety of providers, including your current providers, and we present the results to you.  We don’t make any changes without your permission.

What will this cost?

OK. You’ve read the page about our Telecom Management Consulting service and you’re wondering about how much this will cost your organization.  The short answer is that, in many cases, it doesn’t cost anything at all!  We don’t charge for our analysis process and when we bring our recommendations to you, if you choose one of the providers we represent, the provider pays us – you don’t.  If you choose to stick with your current provider, and there’s any savings, we split the savings with you for one year. 

How does Opticom get paid?

As we indicated in the previous question, in many cases Opticom is paid by the providers to bring their services to you, which means that there is no cost to you for the Telecom Management Consulting service.  We do, however, talk to your current provider about your services, and in the case where you decide that your current provider offers the best deal, we would split any savings with you for one year (but only if there is any savings, of course).  For our Mobile Management Service, we charge a small fee for each mobile phone on your plan.

How much will I save?

That depends, and unlike other consultants, we don’t make any promises about how much we might save you without doing an a thorough analysis of your current services.  On average, in a like-for-like situation, we have saved our clients around 30% on their pone bills.  However, if you are adding new services or changing technologies, your savings could vary by a lot.

Can't my current provider do this analysis?

Sure they can, and many providers employ telemarketers to call clients and offer an analysis of their current services to save money.  However, we represent more than 40 different providers with a range of technologies, so we can bring a lot more competition to the table.  We do talk to your current provider, but we also look for services that you aren’t using, numbers with no usage, or billing mistakes, so the chances are pretty good that we will find more savings than they will.  In addition, with 40+ providers to choose from, we can find providers who are offering promotions and we can get some competition between vendors.

I got a call from a provider who said that they could save me money on telecom. Should I take the deal?

Well, maybe, but how do they know they are going to save you money?  Did they do a complete analysis of your current services and did they give you a report with all of the options from their competitors?  Shouldn’t you know all of your options before you make a decision?  We can give you free quotes on ALL available options, plus an analysis of which option is best for you.  You may end up going with the original vendor, but it doesn’t cost anything to shop around before you sign.

I am nervous about switching providers - will Opticom help?

At Opticom, we have been working with clients for more than 11 years, and our telecom experience is much broader than that.  With all of that experience, we have seen many of the problems that can occur when switching providers and we work to make the transition as smooth as possible by avoiding some common mistakes and we don’t ever leave you hanging when mistakes do happen.  We always stick around to troubleshoot any issues with an implementation.  Our goal is to have you as a happy customer for a long time. 

Do I have to switch providers to save money?

It always makes sense to have multiple quotes for service, but no, you don’t always have to switch carriers to save money.  Sometimes we see that the best deal is with your current provider, and sometimes when it isn’t, the difference in cost is not enough to justify switching.  In most cases, we use multiple quotes to negotiate the best deal for our clients regardless of the carrier.

Do I need to upgrade my phone system to make these changes?

Not always, but we do see that many of the older phone systems do not support IP, or Internet, communication.  We do offer a phone system selection service and part of that  service is to analyze all of the new features available with  modern phone systems.  If the new features are not a necessity and your old phone is working fine, then there’s no reason to upgrade. 

On Telecom Technology Issues

What's the difference between Cable and FiOS and other types of data connection?

Cable and FiOS are generally considered “Broadband” which is a shared service that usually offers higher download speeds than upload speeds.  Both services offer a “best effort” speed of service, but FiOS, due to the fact that it runs over fiber, rather than copper, will usually be more reliably fast than cable.  Speeds on cable will suffer in more congested areas or during periods of high usage.  We should note that cable is also offered over fiber, but it is generally more expensive, and people are usually asking about the copper version.  Businesses can also buy data connections using Ethernet over Copper (EoC) or Fiber (EoF).  These services tend to be more expensive, but since the speeds are offered with a Service Level Agreement, these connections will be more reliable and more reliably fast, than Broadband.

My alarm company requires a copper line - what is that?

A copper line is the old style analog connection to the phone company, literally a pair of wires running from your location back to the Central Office.  Also called a POTS line (for Plain Old Telephone Service), a copper line is the most reliable means of connecting to the phone network which is why security firms like to rely on them for monitoring services.  Besides being a direct copper connection to the phone network, a POTS line also provides its own power and the phone company provides backup battery and generated power so that a POTS line will work even under the most adverse conditions possible. The downside of this reliability is that a POTS line is very expensive to maintain relative to newer digital services.  Although we typically recommend digital services to save money, we suggest keeping a few copper lines for backup (and for security lines).

Can I upgrade my mobile phone without losing my unlimited data plan?

In many cases, yes you can, but only if you are very careful to specify what you want and if you avoid the new “unlocked” renewal plans.  However, the unlimited plans are not always the best deal, especially when your data usage is fairly low.  At Opticom, we analyze your usage across all devices and recommend the best plan for you.  Many ties, the best plan is combining usage across many phones.  See our Mobile Management Service page for more details on our mobile consulting.

I keep hitting my data limits on my mobile plan. What is using all of my data?

We manage a lot of mobile phones and generally, the heaviest user of data by far is video streaming.  Audio streaming, voice traffic, email and TXT or PIX use a very small amount of data in comparison.  The goal of our Mobile Management Service is to give you the details of your mobile usage in monthly reports ad to manage your plan to avoid overages.

What is a PRI?

The acronym PRI stands for “Primary Rate Interface” which is pretty meaningless in terms of knowing what it does.  A PRI is actually a digital circuit capable of handing 23 simultaneous phone conversations. The big advantage is that a PRI costs far less than 23 copper phone lines, so for high-volume businesses, it is a very cost-effective way to connect your phone system to the phone network.  A PRI also carries a digital signalling channel (the 24th channel) that allows it to do more interesting things.  For instance, a PRI can have a large number of phone numbers assigned, called DIDs.  In fact, a PRI circuit can carry a lot of DID’s, more than just 23 because the numbers are really “virtual”, just assigned to the PRI circuit.  If you have 50 people in your company, you can assign each person their own DID if you want, and since they are usually not all on the phone at the same time, you would need only one PRI instead of 50 copper lines. 

What is Voice over IP or VoIP?

 As a short history lesson, the process of digitizing vice has been around for decades. For nearly 50 years, most of the world’s long haul long distance communication has relied on digital voice. Once a voice signal is digitized, it can be combined with other voice signals and transmitted very cheaply over data networks. In fact, digital voice technology was key to utilizing fiber and satellite communications technologies. However, most of these transmission technologies relied on proprietary telephone company protocols for the coding and decoding the voice at the sending and receiving ends of the conversation.  What makes VoIP different is that it relies on the Internet Protocol for these tasks rather than the proprietary phone company protocols.

 

 

VoIP is just another kind of packet being sent over your data network, so your network can be busy doing lots of other things and the VoIP conversation just uses the band that it needs when it needs it. It’s a little more technically complicated in that Voice traffic generally gets a higher priority than other packets, but that doesn’t preclude you data network from handling lots of other things even while a voice conversation is using some of the bandwidth. Therefore VoIP is generally cheaper because you are only using the facilities you need when you need them and using the network for other traffic when you don’t. You can squeeze a lot more out of a single connection.  For more on VoIP or other telecom issue, head over to our YouTube channel for more complete information.

What is a SIP Trunk?

SIP trunking is the application of Voice over IP (VoIP) technology to provide connectivity to your phone system. You can buy SIP trunks individually, in packs, or even in “as much as you need” quantities.  Since these trunks are based on the VoIP technology, they offer the same benefits and suffer from the same issues as other products giving you voice connectivity over the Internet.  In terms of the benefits, SIP trunks can offer lower cost of operation than traditional phone services because they can ride on the installed data network (see the previous video on this topic).  SIP trunks can also offer some of the advantages of more advanced telecommunications company services, such as the ability to have multiple phone numbers over a single trunk line and the ability to have a single connection handle multiple simultaneous calls.  In addition, SIP trunks can offer features that were never previously available.  For instance, you can have phone numbers from California ring on lines in New York (or anywhere for that matter).  In this manner, you can have long distance calls operate like local calls, and at a very inexpensive rate.  SIP trunks usually come with advanced features like CallerID, Call Waiting, Call Return, Voice Mail to Email, Efax, etc. that can be managed via a simple web interface.

What is Cloud Computing?

In a general sense, the term “Cloud” applied to computing power is very similar to the term “Grid” for electrical power, an analogy introduced in 2007 by Nicholas Carr in his influential book, “The Big Switch.”  It’s not a perfect analogy, of course, but the central concept is that computing power is moving from the desktop (PCs) to the Internet (data centers) in the same way that electrical power generation moved from small local generators to giant power plants interconnected by the electrical grid.  Using this analogy, the devices we use for performing computing tasks are becoming appliances that we plug into the Internet just like the appliances we plug into the wall to do work.  The Internet appliances we are using are becoming less powerful on their own and are using software, data and applications that are running in large data centers delivering results via the Internet.  The other key concept is that software is moving to a pay-as-you-go model where you pay for only the resources you use, just like the electrical grid where you pay for the power that is measured by the meter.

The transition to cloud computing first gained a lot of traction in the IT organizations of large corporations, but it moving swiftly into smaller organizations and the consumer market because of the financial advantage of the pay-as-you-go billing arrangement.  Before Cloud computing came along, IT organizations spent an enormous amount of money on software and software maintenance, as well as the machines to run that software.  They spent this money whether or not anyone in the organization was actually using the software or the machines.  IT groups also spent a lot of money trying to make sure that all versions of software were up to date and licensed copies.  Cloud computing solves a lot of the problems because people have to log in to use Software as a Service (SaaS) and the organization pays only for what they use.  Also, when the software is supported by a cloud vendor, the users can also be getting the latest version without having to upgrade.

What is a Hosted Phone System?

One of the newest developments in the phone system industry is the hosted phone system.  The hosted system uses IP telephony to communicate with the phone sets.  In this scenario, the phone system exists at the service provider’s location (usually a service provider, such as a phone company), not at the customer’s.  All of the phone sets are IP sets and the connection services, the trunks, are provided by the service provider.  The management of the system is generally accomplished through a web based interface.

In the hosted system, the customer pays for each individual phone set as a line, often including a calling plan.  The advantage of a hosted system is that it provides sophisticated features to organizations that would normally not be able to afford it.  The features are available on each line and the customer pays only for the lines they need.  However, calculated on a line by line basis, a hosted system generally costs much more than a comparable system so they are generally only cost effective for a relatively small installation.

What is an MPLS network?

Recognizing the need in the marketplace, the carriers have begun to offer value-added services to customers with multiple locations called Managed Networks. These are installations where the provider offers the entire wide area network (the network between locations) as a single product and manages the network on behalf of the customer. Generally, the customer pays for the connection at each building according to the speed that is required and pays an extra fee for network management. The carrier provides all of the necessary equipment, including the router, which is leased as part of the management fee. Some managed networks can be Ethernet-only, but a lot of providers are offering a protocol called MPLS, for Multi-Protocol Label Switching. MPLS is a VPN technology that can deliver traffic in any protocol – it basically sticks the communication into an MPLS-envelope and delivers it to the destination MPLS router without peeking at the contents. This allows the customer to use the managed network for lots of different traffic like Ethernet, Frame Relay, or voice traffic without having to employ different connections and different routers.

The main advantage of the MPLS network over other types of managed networks, like VPNs, is that in an MPLS network, the packets never leave the carrier’s network – they don’t touch the Public Internet.  This is important not just for security, but also for the fact  that the carrier can now guarantee the Quality of Service for voice and video packets.  If the traffic is sent over the public internet, there is no guarantee that the priority of packets will be honored by each participating network.  What this means is that voice calling or video over the public internet can get choppy or start and stop, whereas traffic sent over an MPLS can be guaranteed to be better quality and more reliable.

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