Wednesday, 16 February 2011

How much do your calls really cost - part 3

In parts 1 and 2 we looked at Bundled Tariffs and Capped Call Tariffs. In part 3 of this series the Call Centre First 90 Seconds Free Tariff is considered.

This is a very sexy offering from one of the biggest telecoms service providers but when considering it as a possibility it is crucial to be aware of the small print as you could end up in a contract that is not easy to get out of and the charges could become horrendous.

The offer appears worthy until you learn that for each line or circuit you want it on, there is an additional £10 per month charge. You won’t see this in your call charges: you will just think to yourself that "rentals are expensive”. If you have a 30-channel ISDN 30, you have to have all the channels on it, not just the ones you want to use for the call plan. This would add a whopping £300.00 per month (£3600 pa) to your costs.

For your business to benefit from such a plan, you would need to make a disproportionate number of calls of less than 90 seconds. The only way to make that volume of calls is to use a predictive dialler which just happens to be an exclusion clause in the contract.

Once you are out of the 90 seconds band, you are charged a higher rate tariff. As with the Capped

Call Tariff, you must have a very specific (and constantly specific) call usage profile to benefit from this tariff. At the same time you need to be fully aware of the constraints within the small print of the contract about using equipment designed to make your business efficient! And the default position is a Capped Call Tariff so you could go from bad to worse!

One of our clients admitted they had been enticed by the promise of the First 90 Seconds Free Tariff but fortunately used the advice outlined previously. They asked the salesman why he had failed to mention the £10 per channel charge (which for 103 Channels would have meant paying £1,030 per month or £12,360 per annum), as well as the additional charges on the calls that went over 90 seconds (which would have cost an extra £850 per month or £10,200 per annum). They realised that rather than being worthwhile, they would have ended up spending £22,560 to access £7,200 of savings!

What’s more, since they used a predictive dialler to maximise the efficiency of their call centre staff, it would have negated the call centre plan as offered and defaulted them to the Capped Call Tariff. Reverting to the Capped Call Tariff would have increased their call charges by approximately £5,000 per month or £120,000 over the two-year contract period.

Call Centre First 90 Seconds Free Tariff Tip

Avoid the Call Centre First 90 Seconds Tariff unless your call profile is consistently benefiting you
and you do not fall foul of any contract exclusions.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

How much do your calls really cost - part 2

In part 1 of this series we looked at the Bundled Tariff solution provided by telecoms suppliers and why they are maybe not such a good idea unless you can use the allowance to its maximum.
In part 2 we shall look at the Capped Call Tariffs

Capped Call Tariffs are like a mini-bundle per call. The benefits seem appealing: you limit your call costs which means you won’t get any nasty shocks. When you look at your itemised calls, you’ll be able to spot the occasional capped calls. You think: ‘Great deal!’ You won’t see many capped calls but just enough to know the plan is working.

Lets illustrate why a Capped Call Tariff may not be the great deal you think it is by taking extracts from a couple of clients to demonstrate what a call profile looks like and which I dare say you will be totally unaware of.

Number of calls by duration


What you see from this graph is that a significant number of calls last less than a minute. On the profile above, you can see that the average call duration was slightly less than two minutes .

The current cap on local and national calls is anywhere between 5p and 10p. Telecoms service providers therefore appear to give massive perceived value and in return ask for a rolling 24-month contract. That’s fair isn’t it?


Let’s look at the Capped Tariff versus a 0.8p/min tariff. This simple graph illustrates why the Capped Tariff should send alarm bells ringing. Let’s say this is your account and you’ve made a total 5,494 calls during the month.

If you had the Capped Call Tariff, you might look at your itemised bill and see lots of capped calls and uncapped calls, and you’d probably feel warm inside, believing you had a great package. However, with the graph, you can see that of the 5,494 total calls made, you’d have only benefited from 290 of them or 5.2%. A whopping 94.8% of all your calls have cost you more. In essence, the 5p Capped Call Tariff would have worked out at 2.85p/ minute versus 0.8p a minute – that’s 256% more expensive.

Capped Call Tariff Tip

Know your call profile and analyse the benefits (if any) that a Capped Call Tariff will give you. Unless you know for certain that you will benefit, don’t go anywhere near a Capped Call Tariff – it will cost you significantly more.

In the next blog we will look at the Call Centre First 90 Seconds Free Tariff and what this means for your businesses.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

How much do your calls really cost - part 1

With the current economic difficulties it has become even more important to know how your business call tariff is put together. This may seem tedious when you have lots of other pressing things to do, but it’s a crucial step to carry out so that you understand what you are being charged for your telephony.

Telecoms companies know that the majority of decision-makers don’t have the necessary time or the expertise to confirm whether or not call packages will benefit their companies and this means that if you don’t understand how call tariffs work, you may sign a contract which contains clauses or options that don’t meet your requirements and which will cost significantly more than you expected.

I will cover the main issues with tariffs and plans over the next few pages and give you the tools to avoid getting caught in a bad deal.

Over the next few blog articles I will cover various types of call tariff that you can expect to see from a Telecoms provider. You will then have a little more knowledge in your arsenal so that you can ask the right questions of your provider.

The Bundled Tariff:

Let’s use a simple tariff option that is 1,000 local and national minutes for £10 per month. At first glance you might think it will cost you a penny a minute and is therefore, a good deal. However, if you only use 800 minutes of your allotted 1,000 (that’s 13:20:00) your costs will have gone up by 25%.















A bundle tariff is only worth having if you hit the maximum allowable every month without stepping over into ‘out of bundle’ charges, which can be very expensive.

Another point to remember when considering your 'bundled tariff' is that during the year, (and you may well be in at least a 12-month contract, if not longer) there will be three or four periods where your phone usage will drop: Christmas, Easter and summer holidays. What this means is that you may have committed to paying at least 30% more for your calls, even if you hit your bundle for the rest of the year.

The Bundled Tariff tip:

Avoid the Bundle Tariff unless you know you will repeatedly hit the maximum minutes consistently over the year. Incidentally, less than 5% of businesses will consistently use the maximum number over a 12-month period. So the best advice is to avoid Bundle Tariffs because you will pay over the odds for a benefit you don’t receive and just increase the profit margins of the telecom provider.

In the next blog I will look at Capped Call Tariffs and what these mean to your business.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Social Networking Will Push Mobile VoIP Users to Nearly 139 Million by 2014

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., January 31, 2011 - Now, nearly five years since mobile VoIP services were first introduced, it is on the cusp of moving beyond just an inexpensive alternative for making international calls to becoming an integrated component of unified social networking services, says In-Stat (www.in-stat.com). The next several years are expected to be transformational as mobile operators and other associated players figure out how to respond to a forecast of nearly 139 million mobile VoIP users by 2014.

“Mobile VoIP is gaining real market presence with usage rates climbing rapidly,” says Amy Cravens, Market Analyst. “As it becomes further incorporated into other mobile apps, specifically social networking apps, the realm of potential use is expected to broaden. This has created a great deal of jockeying among mobile VoIP players trying to develop market share and mobile operators trying to determine the best response to this potentially disruptive service offering.”

For further reading follow this link to In-Stat

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

VoIP Security

In a recent article for Fox Businesses Joshua Daymont of Securisea Inc revealed that the number of hacking attacks against VoIP system had shown an increase over the last 12 months. Threats posed include listening in or recording phone conversations, stealing sensitive information, and phone hijacking to make expensive overseas calls.

So what should business owners and managers consider:

Changing the Default Password:

The first thing any business should do when set up with VoIP is to reset the account’s default passwords. Leaving the default password intact happens far more frequently than it should.

Encryption:

A business absolutely needs to use some sort of data-in-transit-encryption for its service. This makes sure the voice that’s travelling over the line in the form of data is encrypted, preventing a hacker from listening in on the conversation. Encryption will also keep thieves from using your VoIP connection to make costly overseas calls.

DoS Mitigation Planning:

Because VoIP phone lines transmit via the Internet, they are vulnerable to denial of service attacks (DoS). So planning for a DoS is important and should be considered with your provider.

Don’t Piggyback:

Businesses that use the same router for both VoIP and Internet service (i.e., “piggybacking”) leave themselves vulnerable to hackers. An unencrypted VoIP router can be a hacker’s way into a network. VoIP should always have its own data line.

Beware of VoIP Phishing:

Users should be aware of fraudulent calls known as phising

VoIP hacking poses a real threat so as with any internet service planning and vigilance is necessary.

Joshua Daymont is the principal of Securisea, Inc., an independent information security company that provides security reviews, vulnerability testing, audit assistance, training and advisory services to US and international companies in several verticals. He is a highly regarded national authority on cybersecurity issues for businesses and has presented his research at BlackHat and other prestigious conferences. www.securisea.com

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

To fax or not to fax

The fax machine has been sat in the corner of businesses large and small for what seems like a lifetime, spitting out and delivering important business documents at the touch of a button. What is more for doing this for a relative small amount of money - the price of a phone call.

Although the big lumbering fax machines have long gone, replaced by smaller multi-purpose machines, there are still a surprising number of business that still use the fax to send documents ranging from solicitors to banks.

With the advancement of technology faxing has moved on. You no longer need to have a machine sat in the corner of the office waiting to receive that all important document all you need is your computer, desktop of laptop or even your smart phone such as iPhone, iPad, Blackberry or Android device, waiting to receive or send your fax. In fact the fax has become part of the unified communications tool set.

Now instead of spending money on hardware, consumables and electricity the costs of sending a fax has been reduced to the cost of the call to the other fax machine.

Modern faxing solutions:

Today there are two main faxing solutions. These are the fax subscription services and hosted fax services and both these solutions offer business an alternative to having physical hardware in the office.

Fax subscription services uses software to send and receive faxes using your computers. Your business is allocated a number or numbers depending on requirements so that any faxes sent to the numbers can be forwarded to you where they can be read, stored or printed by the necessary software.

The alternative solution, a hosted service, utilises your email system and is often referred to as 'fax to e-mail'. The major benefits of this solution is that everyone in your business can send a fax. It works by sending an email or attachments to a unique address. Upon receipt of the email the service converts it to a fax and transmits it to the recipient in the normal way. Faxes sent to you are usually converted to a PDF file and sent to the email addresses specified.

The costs of faxing today:

Starting from as little as £5.00 per month for a subscription service makes it a viable solution for a small/medium sized business.

Fax to email services offer better value and ROI. This becomes more apparent when more people need to be able to send and receive faxes. Depending upon your business requirements it may better to pay a monthly subscription charge to include a certain number of faxes as part of the subscription. Alternatively it may be better to use a pay as you go service, plenty of options are available

Ofcom update: Changes to the National Telephone Numbering Plan

Ofcom today published a statement to reformulate BT retail charge caps for calls to 0843 and 0844, 0871, 0872 and 0873 and all 09 numbers.

Currently, BT’s retail charge caps for calls to these numbers include a fixed allowance for VAT at 17.5% but do not allow for increases in VAT levels to be reflected in prices charged to customers.

Ofcom has today decided that the charge caps for these numbers will be set to exclude VAT, with the new VAT-exclusive prices set at the current level less VAT at 17.5%. The maximum retail prices BT will then be able to charge for these numbers will be calculated by applying VAT to the charge cap at whatever the VAT rate is at the time.

This will enable prices to change in line with the increase to VAT on 4 January 2011. The aim of this amendment is to bring the impact of VAT charges on these numbers into line with all other goods and services.

The statement also makes changes to the Numbering Plan, General Condition of Entitlement 17, the Premium Rate Service (PRS) Condition and all the telephone numbering application forms, which communications providers must complete when applying for telephone numbers from Ofcom. These changes are to ensure that the documents remain accurate and reflect current numbering policy in a consistent manner.

The change to the PRS Condition will ensure that 0843/4 numbers are not included in the definition of 'Controlled Premium Rate Services' as an unintended consequence of the increase in VAT.

No changes to policy or administrative measures have been made as result of the revised documents.

Ofcom’s statement can be found at: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/telephone-numbering/statement

The modified numbering documents have also been published today on Ofcom’s website.

Ofcom will consult on the detail of the WLR charge control separately in early 2011.