Listen Up! VoIP Quality of service is bad and getting worse. And IT is using the wrong tools to measure the aural performance of voice-over-IP calls. After looking at 18 months of data gathered on Brix Networks Inc.'s www.testyourvoip.com Web site, Kaynam Hedayat, the Chelmsford, Mass.-based company's chief technology officer, found that end users rated one out of five VoIP calls "unsatisfactory" using the telecommunications industry's standard mean opinion score (MOS) metric. Hedayat admits to being surprised, having expected a 90% to 95% satisfaction rate among callers. Worse still, he says, the data indicates that things are getting, well, worse. "Voice quality is actually decreasing on the Internet," Hedayat says, speculating that increasing data traffic, particularly video streams, is contributing to the problem. "Going blindly into voice over IP and expecting the same quality as POTS is not realistic," he cautions, referring to plain old telephone service.
Benjamin Ellis, vice president of marketing at Psytechnics Ltd., a voice technology test and measurement firm in Ipswich, England, contends that IT looks at the problem incorrectly when it just analyzes the IP part of the VoIP equation. "Using IP tools to measure a system doesn't tell you about the voice bits that determine voice quality," he says. For example, losing 10% of a session's packets may not affect a call's MOS results. But losing a different 10% of the packets could make the call unbearable.
Ellis says you need to go beyond the usual IP metrics of jitter and packet loss and focus on session-layer data that better shows the characteristics of a voice call. When you sign up your company for a VoIP service, he says, demand metrics based on perceptual evaluation of speech quality, a standard developed by Psytechnics, BT Group PLC and other companies, under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union. For more information, go to www.pesq.org.
Hola, amigo. ?Que es nuevo in the world of IT? Well, how about a bilingual personalized 511 service? If you live in an urban region of the U.S. that offers 511 traffic reports, you know how they can help your company's mobile staffers get around. Residents of some cities in North Carolina and Florida will soon be able to sign up for an English or Spanish "concierge service" that will call you if your stored profile indicates you could encounter traffic problems, says Fred Korangy, CEO of LogicTree Corp. in Bowie, Md. His company's Extreme Recognition Framework recognizes which language you're using and offers information accordingly.
Vendors think they're leaders, but users don't necessarily follow. Josh Weiss, a project manager at Sage Research Inc., the technology division of Boston-based research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey Inc., says analysts at his company wondered whether the perceived leadership status of an IT vendor, such as its advanced technology or famous executive management team, affected your buying proclivities. So late last year, Sage self-funded a survey of 643 IT executives. Its conclusion: "Leadership is not a determining factor," Weiss says. "Ultimately, it does not matter." So, what does matter? Products. According to those polled, "product excellence" is the primary factor when it comes to plunking down bucks. Weiss says that was twice as important as the next vital quality, which was how a vendor interacts with its customers. Overall, IBM and Cisco Systems Inc. came out as the top two vendors in the survey. The worst? Telecommunications service providers. Of the eight evaluated, not a single one cracked the top 10 list on any metric.
Vendors seek to improve user experience through a new organization. This week, Dell Inc., Microsoft Corp., Epson America Inc. and other IT vendors kick off the CIM Forum, which will focus on customer interaction management with corporate users. Dan Vetras, CEO of forum co-founder Talisma Corp. in Bellevue, Wash., says the new group's purpose is to share best practices for improving the experiences of users when they contact a vendor about a problem -- whether it's by phone, e-mail, chat, a self-help Web site or other means. Vetras says the forum will provide vendors with effective methods for everything from routing rules "down to where you put icons on your Web page." If you aren't happy with your vendor, nudge it toward contacting the forum to get some help.