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International SIP:  What Your Businesses Needs to Know About Deploying SIP Globally

Posted by Kevin Gulley

Mar 24, 2016

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We've talked a lot about SIP trunking at the UC Buyer. In fact, it's hard not to when a technology brings such clear benefits to businesses of all types. To date we've covered the technology, business case and implementation considerations, but we've mostly focused on it from an American company point of view. In this post we’ll focus on the implementation of SIP internationally, the ways that access and regulations vary from country to country and the things businesses need to be aware of in order to be take advantage of SIP to the extent possible.

To start with it is important to realize that multinational enterprises are trying to lower costs and complexity related to voice traffic, while at the same time improving their ability to communicate and collaborate across international borders.  This requires businesses to centralize and standardize voice traffic and even communications applications on a central platform with a central deployment model.  VoIP and SIP Trunking (along with unified communications) have a central role in this, but getting everything to play nice across international borders is easier said than done.  To learn more about the factors involved and the challenges companies might face when deploying SIP globally, I recently interviewed Brian Harrington, an expert in global SIP implementation and the associate vice president and product manager for Tata Communications’ Global SIP Connect product line.   

“Historically SIP has grown faster in the U.S. because the FCC has put a regulatory structure in place that has allowed VoIP and SIP to flourish.  There have been a lot more regulations in other parts of the world that have made SIP implementation more difficult, so companies that are looking to deploy SIP Trunking globally have a number of things they need to take into consideration.”

SIP is Not One Size Fits All Globally

Different countries handle their telecom interconnections differently, meaning that global businesses need to be prepared to work within multiple regulatory frameworks, many of which gently or outwardly discourage VoIP and SIP traffic.  I wanted to know how this was impacting the deployment of SIP country by country, and how the differences affect the decision to implement SIP.

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“Some countries are more closed than others when it comes to their regulations impacting telecom. The U.S. and Canada are two of the least restrictive countries, while the E.U. has also made positive changes recently by standardizing regulations across the region. Where we see more restriction is in Asia Pacific, and in emerging markets like India, where Tata is based. Places like the Middle East are some of the most challenging in the world.”  

There are regulations, for example, that require partitioning of IP traffic from PSTN and TDM traffic.  Many countries still have state run telecom companies that are looking to drive traffic across (and maximize revenue from) their legacy infrastructure, so they are not going out of their way to make it easy for businesses to leverage SIP or VoIP.  This creates considerable obstacles in terms of how the technology can be leveraged and what businesses can effectively accomplish when it comes to centralizing their voice traffic and deploying SIP.

Regulatory Challenges Multinational Businesses Face When Deploying SIP

To overcome the various challenges faced in each of these countries when it comes to global UC&C and SIP in particular, the first step is realizing the complexity of the task.  “If a multinational company has offices in 40 or 50 countries, each of which has its own regulations and protections, not to mention separate vendors and carriers, all of this adds up to a very complex implementation environment.”  Businesses need to take the time to clearly understand their existing situation, review their carriers and vendors, their DID providers, their existing network infrastructure, and then layer the country-by-country requirements on top of this.

According to Harrington, this complexity can play havoc at the routing and application level and may lead to a more piecemeal approach.  “IT teams really struggle with this.  You may be rolling out Skype for Business globally, and the tech is obviously there and in most cases the bandwidth is available, but how do you deploy this in each country without running afoul of the local regulations.”  This is where working with an experienced global partner can help businesses navigate challenges, including:

  • Working with monopolistic or state-run telecoms that have little incentive to allow for such a disruptive technology as SIP, and will look to keep their legacy infrastructure for as long as possible.
  • The security aspect of local regulations, and maintaining compliance with things like lawful intercept laws.
  • Having to retain a different operator to handle in-country vs international traffic.
  • Managing and maintaining multiple different types of networks

Ways to Work Around Regulatory Constraints and Find Cost Savings

This is not to say that multinational businesses don’t have options when it comes to SIP, even in restrictive countries.  Most companies have been utilizing internet-based calling for internal conversations for years, a process that is only accelerating and improving with the wide-scale deployment of unified communications solutions.  But what about other ways that companies are taking advantage of the benefits of SIP and overcoming obstacles?  Brian suggested two options.

“If your business is buying, and I’m guessing already paying a high tariff or rate for a private network connection into a country, it is generally assumed that you can send the traffic you want out over that connection.  For businesses looking to leverage SIP, they can strip off the international voice traffic and run it out over their MPLS or WAN and dump it to a centralized or aggregate site in London or New York and then terminate it over a SIP trunk.  This can result in some pretty good cost savings.”

A second area is with many businesses now deploying Skype for Business or Cisco UC, companies are moving away from traditional conferencing service provider for international calls.  These business can engage with a SIP trunking provider to get local and toll-free numbers across the world and effectively eliminate the need for that third party vendor, significantly lowering costs.

For more details on our conversation, listen to the full podcast interview here.  If you have any questions, let us know in the comments section below.

Topics: Voice, Best Practices, SIP, VoIP,, Telephony, Regulations