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VoIP Connections Make Up 20% of Fixed Lines Worldwide

It is common knowledge that mobile and wireless telecommunications have grown exponentially in the past decade.  This has led many to believe that fixed-line telephony will soon drop in popularity and be phased out.   Yet, a new report by TeleGeography suggests that is not quite the case.  According to the report, Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) lines actually have been declining steadily.  However, they are being replaced by fixed Voice Over IP (VoIP) services, rather than mobile or wireless.

Fixed-line services peaked in 2008 at 1.29 billion voice subscriber numbers.  They have since fallen by 1.3% annually.  Those statistics look much different when you look at the difference between fixed line PSTN subscribers and fixed line VoIP subscribers.  Since 2008, fixed switched lines have declined by 4% annually, but fixed VoIP subscribers have increased by 18% annually.

According to TeleGeography’s report, VoIP connections now make up 20% of fixed lines worldwide.  In 2008, that number was only 8%.  Already,
countries like Macedonia and Slovakia are completely phasing out the PSTN.  The report estimates that by 2018, fixed line VoIP services will have grown over 250% and will account for nearly a third of all phone lines worldwide.  This transition to VoIP is good for consumers because VoIP to VoIP calling enables many new features such as High Definition audio and video calls in addition to messaging.  These features are not possible over PSTN lines, but are enabled when different service providers interconnect calls from start to finish using VoIP.  This technique, known as VoIP peering, has been possible for years, but not widely implemented because service providers continue to interconnect their networks using PSTN technology.  A growing deployment of VoIP landlines will accelerate the trend toward VoIP peering.

Telephone Landlines are migrating from PSTN to VoIP Technology

TransNexus in the News

Yesterday (Oct. 19, 2014), the New York Times published an article describing the threat of telecom traffic pumping fraud and the risk it poses for small businesses.  TransNexus is cited in the article.  Read the article to learn how “Phone Hackers Dial and Redial to Steal Billions“.

NNI Task Force Publishes Interconnect Profile for Comments

The IP-Network to Network Interface (NNI) Joint Task Force is a cooperative effort between the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) and the SIP Forum.  This task force has completed a proposed profile for SIP-based Service Provider to Service Provider IP Interconnection.  One of the critical obstacles that has prevented the full potential of Voice over IP (VoIP) communications has been the conversion of VoIP communication to Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) technology when calls are interconnected from one service provider to another.  Lack of a standard interconnect technique has been one of the factors that has prevented ubiquitous SIP interconnection among service providers.  Adoption of the new proposed profile is a major step toward realizing high definition voice calls, video calls and lower costs for telecom services.

The proposed profile includes two documents now available for public comment.

1) IP Interconnection Profile.  The IP-NNI Profile Specification defines a reference architecture and specifications for both the protocol and media as it appears “on-the-wire” at interconnect points.  The specifications reference commonly used IETF, 3GPP, and other related industry specifications and identify protocol extensions and capability information needed for all-IP telephony peering.

2) IP Interconnection Routing Report.  The IP-NNI Routing Technical Report documents mechanisms for identifying the preferred IP interconnection point for a given telephone number (TN).  This report presents multiple views of current IP interconnection mechanisms based on aggregate PSTN constructs and interim solutions based on all-IP routing using a per-TN registry.  The also includes hybrid approaches across both mechanisms during the transition to all-IP telecommunications network.

Download SIP Forum-ATIS_ October 2014_IP-NNI TF

FCC Report on 911 Outage Reveals NG911 Vulnerabilities

Yesterday (Oct. 17, 2014) the FCC revealed the details of a major 911 outage that occurred last April.  The details of that report document how a software defect blocked 911 calls to over 81 Public Safety Access Points (PSAPs) serving over 11 million people in seven states.  Over 6,600 calls to 911 never reached a PSAP.

The report notes that the transition to next generation Voice over IP (VoIP) services was an important factor in why this outage impacted so many PSAPs across such a large area.  911 calls that originated on traditional Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN) using Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) signaling were converted to VoIP and managed by a centralized operation run by Intrado.  A software error in a centralized routing server failed to route calls to PSAPs with centralized automatic massaging accounting (CAMA) trunking, a legacy TDM type of trunk.

The report documented several important findings:

1)  Next Generation 911 (NG911) services are new and complex.  New businesses are entering the market to provide specialized services and to offer cost reduction through consolidation of operations.  While these market forces for innovation and cost reduction are good, it creates a risk that responsibility for a 911 may be spread among multiple service providers which can introduce multiple points of failure and less end to end accountability for 911 services.

2) Transition from legacy to NG911 service is very complex and requires improved system alarms and best practices for operation.

3) Concentration of 911 assets.  Originally 911 calls were handled locally.  Now, 911 operations are increasingly centralized for improved efficiencies.   This same trend makes the system more vulnerable to a catastrophic outage that could impact tens of millions of consumers.  Improved failover between geographically redundant systems is required.

4) Communication among 911 Ecosystem Participants.  The report notes that better communication of alarms between the Local Exchange Carriers (LECs), the Intrado Network Operations Center (NOC) and PSAPs could have led to earlier detection and remedy of the failure.

One issue that is outside the scope of the report, but is a growing national security concern, is the threat of a Telephony Denial of Service (TDoS) attack on PSAPs.  A TDoS attack on a centralized 911 operation could easily block all 911 calls for tens of millions of Americans.  TransNexus expects this public policy concern will eventually move the FCC to require service providers to implement safeguards that limit the impact of TDoS attacks on their customers and critical infrastructure such as 911 services.

Download 2014-10_FCC_Report_on_Multistate_911_Outage

Neustar and Telcordia Go Head to Head Over NPAC

Two companies have been vying for a nearly half-billion dollar contract to run the Number Portability Administration Center (NPAC), and the competition has been heating up.  The NPAC which manages the porting of public switched telephone numbers when consumers change service providers could be a critical component for enabling routing of telephone calls over IP broadband networks.  Voice over IP peering, as the technology is known, offers many service benefits such as high definition voice and video service that cannot be offered over the traditional telephone network.

Neustar has been managing the network since the 1990s, when the NPAC routing infrastructure was first created.  They have benefited from a no-bid contract for more than a decade.  Last year, Neustar made roughly $446 million through its FCC contract, nearly half of its total revenue.

Neustar’s competition is from Telcordia Technologies, (also known as iconectiv) a subsidiary of Swedish-based Ericsson.  The North American Numbering Council (NANC) recommended in April that the FCC hire Telcordia.   Supporters point out that Telcordia would run NPAC more cheaply than Neustar, and without any harm to the system’s operations.

However, other government agencies, including the FBI, the Secret Service, and the DEA, have expressed concern over giving the contract to a foreign company.  In a 44 page report, former secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff warned that giving the contract to Telcordia could hamper US spy agencies.  He suggested that Telcordia might allow foreign intelligence services to gain access to secret US surveillance data and might hamper law enforcement efforts.

Telcordia called the report a “desperate stunt” and an “attempt to use fear to hold onto a multibillion dollar contract.”  Though Telcordia’s parent company, Ericsson, is a Swedish firm, Telcordia is based in the New Jersey.  It was bought by Ericsson only recently, in 2012.

Both Neustar and Telcordia are spending heavily to appeal to policymakers.  Reports suggest that Neustar has spent over half a million on lobbying during 2014.  Likewise, filings indicate that Telcordia has recently hired its own Washington lobbying firm.

The FCC has not yet scheduled a vote on the contract.  A spokesperson for the commission said that the FCC will “continue to ensure that security remains paramount throughout any contract transition.”

Visit TransNexus at Broadsoft Connections

Broadsoft Solutions Showcase

If you are attending Broadsoft Connections 2014 in Scottsdale, Arizona, stop by the TransNexus booth in the Solutions Showcase to learn about the new SIP Analytics Fraud Detection and Control feature of NexOSS V.7.  By analyzing SIP Invites for fraudulent traffic, NexOSS can block fraudulent calls before they occur.  SIP Analytics are a major improvement over CDR Analytics which require fraudulent calls to be completed and CDRs collected before fraud can be detected.

TransNexus will also be participating in the “Safeguarding Networks Against Fraud” breakout session on Tuesday, Oct. 13th, from 1:45-2:45 pm in TrailBlazer E.

FCC Chairman Sees Competition Critical for an All IP World

On Monday, October 6th, FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, addressed the Comptel Plus audience with an encouraging message that he views competition as a critical market force for realizing the full potential of IP broadband services.  His message was very clear.

where competition exists, the Commission will protect it. Likewise, where it can be made more vibrant, it should be incented. In other words, the best way to serve consumers and economic growth is through the push and pull of competition.

Let me be clear: transitions to IP are not a license to limit competition.

So let’s concentrate this morning on three keys to preserving network competition: access to last mile facilities, the future of copper networks, and VoIP interconnection.

Communications policy has always agreed on one important concept: the exercise of uncontrolled last-mile power is not in the public interest. This has not changed as a result of new technology.

Chairman Wheeler has observed that Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) have obstructed the transition to an all IP network and full realization of IP broadband with a number of tactics.  The primary tactic has been refusal for tariffed IP interconnection.  He noted that this market obstruction has prevented telephone customers from enjoying the benefits of High Definition (HD) voice service.  HD voice has been available for years to customers by-passing the telecom network with applications such as Skype and other “over the top” VoIP applications.  The Chairman was quite direct in his expectation that carriers will implement IP interconnections soon.

I hope that competitive providers and incumbents can reach interconnection agreements on reasonable terms on their own – with a clear pathway established by the time that the technical standards are established. But if a voluntary effort cannot resolve the issues and the public interest is not being served, then let there be no mistake: the FCC will act.

We are encouraged the FCC Chairman believes that a full competitive market is in the best interest of all consumers, and will act if needed to remove artificial barriers that benefit a few carriers at the expense of all others.  Click here to read the Chairman’s full speech.

 

What Net Neutrality Means for VoIP Providers

Net neutrality has been a hot topic all year.  The window for public comment on how federal rule-makers should treat Internet traffic closed on September 12, 2014.  The FCC received a records 3.7 million comments.

While the public comments overwhelmingly favor net neutrality, many Internet service providers would prefer the FCC to implement an Internet “fast lane.”  Most of the public comment has been fixated on streaming video sites like Netflix, or other high bandwidth services like internet radio.  But, VoIP (Voice over IP) has a stake in net neutrality as well.  The public will be denied the benefits of high definition voice services if VoIP calls are stuck in the “slow lane”.  Over the Top VoIP companies that use the public Internet for their network transport have the most to lose.

Industry analyst, Phil Edholm points out that it would be easy for ISPs to push VoIP providers to a lower level of service unless those providers pay extra to be bumped up to a better service level.  Because VoIP requires high data speed to deliver effective sound quality, ending net neutrality could negatively impact VoIP providers and customers.

However, Hal Singer, writing for Forbes, has suggested that preventing Internet “fast lanes” could harm investment from telecommunication companies.  He points to past regulation that mirrors what the U.S. is handling in the present.

First, he notes the 1996 Telecom Act that required Regional Bell Operating Companies to “unbundle” local exchange networks to make room for telecom entrants. Rates for purchasing those exchanges were regulated, and one may have thought that telecom entrants into the market would have invested more heavily in areas with more regulation—lower rates. However, Singer points to research which reveals the opposite effect: telecom entrants invested more in states with higher rates.

ShellShock – Linux Bash Vulnerability

TransNexus software applications are not directly vulnerable to the recently announced “ShellShock” Linux Bash vulnerability, but the CentOS and RedHat Linux operating systems that host TransNexus applications are vulnerable.

Huzaifa Sidhpurwala has an excellent post on the Red Hat Security Blog that explains the vulnerability and potential attacks.  In a nutshell:

the vulnerability arises from the fact that you can create environment variables with specially-crafted values before calling the bash shell. These variables can contain code, which gets executed as soon as the shell is invoked. The name of these crafted variables does not matter, only their contents.

A post on the Redhat Blog provides the following fix.

BEFORE FIX (The following command will generate the response “OOPS”):

[ospadmin@labrat-1 ~]$ env x=’() { :;}; echo OOPS’ bash -c/bin/true

OOPS

[ospadmin@labrat-1 ~]$

 

FIX (Upgrade bash):

[root@labrat-1 ospadmin]# yum install bash

 

AFTER (No “OOPS” response to the following command):

[root@labrat-1 ospadmin]# env x=’() { :;}; echo OOPS’ bash -c/bin/true

[root@labrat-1 ospadmin]#

 

More information is available from CentOS security announcement: http://lists.centos.org/pipermail/centos-announce/2014-September/020585.html