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Deeper analysis of VoIP

Blackberry crap… The saga continues…

Posted by tggokul on August 24, 2009

My problem with blackberry still continues though it is more than a week that I first reported a problem. Not a single person has responded to my problem. I have called into their contact center three times already and everytime I have escalated it to a supervisor who has escalated it internally (or that is what they claim), but I still don’t have an engineer visit me.

The supervisor I talked to today has promised that his notes say that the engineer will visit me for sure tomorrow and if I don’t hear from them I am cancelling my data plan and throwing my blackberry into the sea. This is crazy shit which I did not expect from Airtel or Blackberry. I have been truly driven to the brink of desperation and I truly feel helpless. I only wish someday I can return this favour to both these incompetent entities.

Posted in General | 2 Comments »

Blackberry Service Sucks

Posted by tggokul on August 20, 2009

It is not even a year since I bought my Blackberry curve and let me be honest, I loved it. But not anymore. Thanks to the crappy service Blackberry offers here in India.

So 4 days before (Monday), I have a problem with the scroll button on my blackberry, the problem is I can go down, right, left but can’t scroll up. And any blackberry user would know that is as good as not having a phone. For others, think of it this way. You are reading through a message and you want to go up, but can’t!!!!

So I call up their customer (dis) service 7070 and I get a representative who raises a ticket and promises me that a person will handle this in the next 24 hrs. So I wait for a day and a dude from a local service center calls me (This is Tuesday) and says he has got my ticket and he will send me a local guy the next day!! (Wednesday) Brilliant, I think. He has fulfilled his SLA of the 24 hrs but at the same time has not fixed my problem. And this is here it gets better. He asks me about the problem and I tell him the scross is not working and he is like, yeah thats is a common problem and to be honest Blackberry is not a good product in a polluted country like India!!! Wow, so much for the confidence. Anyway he promises me to send an engineer the next day morning.

I wait, wait and wait.. nobody turns up Wednesday morning and so I call them up Thursday morning (same 7070) and the apologetic representative says, our records show that he must have been there Wednesday morning and I was like that makes two of us!! Anyway she promises to send me a person asap.

So Thursday afternoon, I am in meetings and a technical guy turns up at my office without even giving me a heads-up. Had he called to find out whether I was available I would given him a suitable time. But after all customers are the idiots and the vendors are kings, right!! So he turns up and calls me a hundred times. I didn’t pick up and then he SMSes me that he is there and I need to meet him. I told him that I am in a meeting and its going to take me time.So fifteen minutes later, he calls me again and then smses that he has other things to do and can’t wait and f**** leaves!!!!

I can’t believe that here I am paying so much first of all for a piece of crap which “is not suited for Indian conditions” and then month on month paying a hell lot as data charges and then being told by a technician that I have to wait more. I only wish I can do such things to my customers. I would have lost my job the next day.

So I call up “7070” and I tell them this and they are like we will escalate it. I said I want to escalate it and they say, well our systems don’t allow that. We can have a guy come and meet you tomorrow. Only thing, I am travelling tomorrow, so I have asked for a technician on Saturday!!

I am extremely disappointed and I swear to god I am going to throw away this piece of crap at the first instance and have a Nokia 1100. Never had problems with that ever. This is getting extremely frustrating. If any of you guys are in India and are planning to buy Blackberry, you might want to think twice. Their service sucks and from what I hear there are not a whole lot of service centers in India.

Posted in General | 3 Comments »

My Post at Network Computing

Posted by tggokul on July 11, 2009

Network computing in its latest edition has  my post on something that is very close to my heart . What is really unified communication and what aspects of unified communication is relevant in today’s world. My U2C manifesto.

Have a read and let me know what you think

Posted in Cisco, Voice 2.0, VoIP/IMS, Web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »

Who has the better SIP?

Posted by tggokul on June 3, 2009

I was having some internal discussions when one of my bosses told me that he heard from one of his acquantaince who works for company X that their SIP implementation is light years ahead of their competitions. That ticked me off.

I hear similar claims from lot of the big companies like Avaya/Cisco/Nortel  and it never ceases to amaze me their lack of understanding especially when it comes to SIP. SIP now no more is a techie’s delight. It has become a marketing weapon and claims on who has got the better SIP seems to be the order of the day rather than a prudent discussion on what can SIP do for the world. And yes I am disappointed that SIP is today being misused like this.

Anybody saying that their SIP is better is like me saying the electricity I have in my house is better than my neighbor’s!!! It is that ridiculous. What matters are the devices that “electricity” powers. SIP is the same, the greatness lies in the seamless effort taken for the devices which it empowers to communicate with.

For an open standard like SIP, greatness is measured by how many devices your stack has interoped with and the track record of Cisco/Avaya are dismal. If I were to pick a good SIP stack it would be openSIP. They outclass everybody else wrt to interop and they are by far the best when it comes to performance They were earlier called openSER and at that time when I used them they could do I think a million calls in BHCA!!!!! Oh, did I mention they are open source?

This is my grouse. We have been communicating donkey years (TDM included) and nobody really cared what the underlying signalling protocol was. Why is there a new found respect for SIP (which is just another signaling protocol) and why are these companies fighting over this? What this essentially shows is that innovation has come to a grinding halt and there is nothing else the top companies are able to boast about. Hence they are harping on something as mundane as “we have the better SIP”.

Anyway, SIP is old and so retro :) and the techies have moved to other things.  Perfect example HD VoIP. They use SIP as well. In fact I read an interesting thought by Pulver that  these HD devices should be identified by the SIP URI. You don’t see him talking about SIP per se. Reason is SIP in essence is just a platform and historically users never care about platform. They care about what they can experience or the solutions that these platforms power.

Any discussion on superior SIP according to me is meaningless and shows the lack of thought leadership in the companies that run these kinds of campaigns.

Posted in Cisco, VoIP/IMS | 3 Comments »

A Next Gen Contact Center

Posted by tggokul on April 22, 2009

I am back after travelling for two weeks within the US and most of my time was spent at iQor, a BPO customer (outbound collections) of my current employer. My guys have been involved in some of the  work there within iQor, and they were raving about the vision and goals of iQor. Well, as the saying goes you can take Gokul away from technology, but never take the technologist away from Gokul :) And so, I planned a visit to see what these guys were upto.

Even before I  got to know the different technology initiatives iQor was working on, what intrigued me the most was the fact that a BPO was actually investing so much time and money in innovation. The typical BPOs I have been dealing with for the last few years have always looked at vendors ( could be the product vendors like Avaya/Cisco/Nortel, or at SIs like ourselves) to guide them on technology and in fact they have gone to the extent of saying that they are not interested in technology at all and all they care about is being insulated from the obsolescence of the technology. But not iQor.Their technology team pushes whatever platform they are working on to the hilt and then develop applications on top of that would make more sense to their business and eventually be cost effective. So if they faced a problem in the solution provided by the product vendor, what do they do? Develop customized applications!!

I can’t write too much about their applications since that is proprietary information. But for example, since they are an outbound collections BPO, predictive dialing is most crucial to their business and they have developed an algorithm internally that will enhance productivity of the agents. They have simplified the agent desktops ( IP Blue phone with screen pop) and what the agent sees is most optimal to increase his/her productivity.

On the contact center platform front, they have written applications that will help dramatically in MAC (move/add changes). When you are talking the size of iQor agents (close to 7000), it is a support nightmare if the removal/addition/reskilling etc has to be done manually. iQor has developed an interface that ensures that human errors are minimal. Automation of processes are key in all of iQor’s initiatives and that mantra holds good in the platform as well.

There is a push to use open source in all of their technologies (including enterprise applications like HR/finance) to make operations much more cost effective. Virtualization of applications is critical since not only does it reduce cost but also ensures “free seating” in the real sense of the word. An agent is the same agent irrespective he is in India/US/Philippines and isn’t that one of the very premise of Unified Communication? A real Unified Contact center in some sense. Oh btw, no surprises, agents login via biometrics :)

I for one believe once iQor fully implements these solutions, it should try packaging these solutions to other BPOs as well. Reference sites are always a big challenge for product companies. But when you have solutions that are tried and tested in a 7000 seat contact center, you don’t have worry about your solution’s performance!!!

I won’t be surprised if product vendors start looking at these solutions and start adding them to their product suite. Sooner or later all BPOs are going to have a need for those features that iQor needed in the past, and the product vendors need to be cognizant of that. Technology is a big chunk of BPOs cost and every attempt to improve performance of these technologies at the same cost would only help these BPOs. iQor just did that on their own and it is only fair to say they run the next gen contact center in more ways than one!!!

Posted in Cisco, General, VoIP/IMS, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »

IP world v/s Green?

Posted by tggokul on February 4, 2009

With the whole world talking about greener devices/Applications, I am kind of wondering whether people who evangalized “IP” as a platform for communication kept this in mind. Let me tell you why this thought.

I don’t see one single Message Packet either in SIP/H323/MGCP that will enable the server to switch off the endpoints when they are not active. Isn’t that weird? Now lets say that as a monitoring application, I find out that an IP Phone ( could be using any of the above signalling protocols) has not been used (maybe in a conference room) for “x” days, shouldn’t I have the option to switch it off remotely? Shouldn’t there be a protocol that supports this action?

At a much larger level, is there a “Green” protocol at all? Maybe a protocol that will exchange power consumption data between the server/endpoint that will enable an administrator to make informed decisions.

I am seeing something equivalent to a GMS ( Green Monitoring System) similar to an NMS (Network Monitoring System) that would exchange power related data and the adminstrator could take decisions based on that. The devices under control could be anything from a tubelight to a washing machine. It is just not communication devices that are becoming smarter. Consumer electonics are equally there as well.

The need of the hour is to create one such protocol. Not sure whether anybody is working on that.

Posted in Cisco, General, VoIP/IMS | 5 Comments »

Not so good for IP Telephony in India

Posted by tggokul on February 3, 2009

Though there was some good news for the Indian telecom subscribers as far as using other operators to make ISD/STD calls, it was not the case as far as IP Telephony calls was concerned.

The commission referred it back to the regulator’s desk which pretty much means atleast another year before anything materializes. It is obvious that the Telcos will not let it happen since they would be killed by the Internet Service Providers but what I fail to understand is why don’t these Telcos do it themselves? Most of them offer broadband as well, so what is preventing them from offering these services? They have the licenses as well.

As far as the main news on STD/ISD calls, there are a lot of questions in the blogosphere as to what is new in this and calling cards in India were always available. The catch though is, you can very rarely dial from one operator’s number to the toll free number published by the other one. And the problem is even more in land lines. So if I am an Airtel landline subscriber, I cannot dial BSNL’s 1600 number. This used to be a problem with mobile phones as well, but thankfully it has become better.

So essentially what this new act will do is anybody can call the toll free from any phone using the calling card of other operators. But with a deep penetration of mobile phones in India, and a systematic drop in landline subscribers every month, I am not sure whether this would be any good. There are alresdy some mobile plans with which subscribers can make STD calls as low as 1 Re (2 cents) per minute.

What I would like to see is, making these STD/ISD calls without any calling cards but still use the tariffs of the other provider. So for example I could get a landline connection from Airtel but my STD/ISD operator would be BSNL/Idea and if I dial from my landline phone a STD number, my carrier would be BSNL. Even this might be possible in the near future, but what would be a pipe dream is having the same kind of flexibility on my mobile phone!! That would never happen!

Posted in VoIP/IMS | 1 Comment »

NGN in India?

Posted by tggokul on December 10, 2008

iLocus reports that there is a surge within the service providers to provide NGN service. People who follow my blog know that I am a big fan of IMS and who honestly believe that it is not just another marketing gimmick.

At the same time, I have come to believe that Indian service providers are not ready to deploy it for the following reasons. Before I get to the reasons, I had a chance to meet up with some very senior technical folks in a major Telco last week and they told me that they were Beta testing the NGN architecture and was asking how the contact center solution we were going to provide fit in that scheme of things. I was very surprised that atleast one Telco was talking this language and I told them so. The guys smiled wryly that they are thrilled about the technical possibilities but they still don’t have the business approval to go to production on full swing.

When I questioned him further on why they face resistance, the answer was simple. The Telcos in India operate on revenue sharing model and believe it or not, ZTE/Huawei are the hottest selling vendors in India. Though they claim to have a NGN play, they are not half as ready as Ericsson or even for that matter Alcatel. These guys cannot afford Ericsson and for what they get, they cannot implement a pure play IMS world.

Now if we are talking just about SIP Trunking ( well VoIP trunking is SIP trunking in this new world. H323 is there but the number are dwindling), then the report holds a lot of merit.

Posted in Voice 2.0, VoIP/IMS | Leave a Comment »

QoS Gone Mainstream?

Posted by tggokul on November 19, 2008

I was very surprised when my teenage niece was talking about how great QoS was. I had no idea that she even knew what it was. Imagine my embarassement when she explained that QoS was Quantum of Solace, the latest James Bond flick :)

Needless to say, technology is still in the hands of capable nerds and geeks :)

Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

Custommerce India Chapter 5

Posted by tggokul on October 23, 2008

I had a chance to be part of the Custommerce India Chapter 5 which was held at Leela,Kovalam last weekend. Essentially Custommerce is a movement that would address the challenges faced by all parties involved in the Customer Interaction space. Good vision, you would say.

I am not going into the actual event ( you can catch all the action here). Geet Sethi’s presentation was in tune with his achievement and his mantra that excellence cannot be obtained by passion but only through pure undeterred obsession was delivered with so much conviction that you couldn’t agree otherwise.

So here are my thoughts. I have no second thoughts on enriching CIM ( Customer Interaction Management) but where I defer from most ( including most of the participants in this forum) is that CIM is looked at from the perspective of the previous and the current generations. When we talk about CIM, words like personalization are thrown rather freely today. My contention is that it is the “legacy” in our minds that is talking all these and we are caught in the web of our own thoughts.

Does the next generation actually care about all these? My dad would put up with the idiosyncrasies of his bank because there was a personal touch. Our generation gets carried away by the “Birthday/Wedding cards” we receive from vendors. We are already tired with all this and the only thing that matters is performance. How good are you in solving my problem when I reach out to you? What can you do for me? These are the only things we care about.

Again, my dad’s interaction with his bank was through the branch office. Our medium is through the web ( email/chat). What would be the next medium? Has thoughts been given to that? My pet theory has been that the contact centers as we know it are dead, the world is your contact center. Are the CIM experts talking the same language and I don’t think so.

So, here I was in the meet talking to one person and I asked him the following question. “Given two equal products, there is no doubt, you will go with the product with a better customer service. Thats a no brainer. But lets talk about one brilliant product with an excuse of a customer service and a good product with exceptional customer service. Which one would you select and which one do you think the next gen would select?”. His answer was “Both the next gen and I would select the one with the exceptional customer service”. Now he can speak for himself. But talking about what the next gen would pick, isn’t that a little presumtuous?

The last session was a brainstorming session on what needs to be done to generate the moss for Custommerce and I suggested that we have a youth chapter as well that would thankfully bring in new ideas. They know the pulse of their generation more than anybody. They would tell us that if customer service goes awry, they would blog/facebook about it and damage the reputation of a company at a faster pace. They would tell us what they want from CIM and not what they would have to settle with.

If custommerce has to gain momentum, the average “Joes” and “dudes” have to be included. It needs to be the forum where their voices are heard. A custommerce blog where people from various walks of life could contribute might be a good start. As the page hits increase, the corporate world would start taking notice.

A request to the organizers. There was no representation from the digital media this time around and would be great if some bloggers are invited as well. Live blogging would have been an awesome mechanism to get the Custommerce word out and spread the awareness.

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

 
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