Once upon a time, back in the days when Level 3 was deploying its North American nomadic E-911 network for VoIP, I was often struck by the complexity of the task. Thousands of Public Safety Answering points served by hundreds of Selective Routers using SS7 or CAS DS-0 “trunks” which had to meet a disparate set of numbering, routing and contingency requirements. States, counties, cities, townships and individual call centers had created a veritable obstacle course. And that’s just the physical connectivity -don’t get me started on the location information and routing data side of the house. Of course, having gone through the headache, we now appreciate the formidable barrier to entry such a complex system creates for other would-be entrants, still, it was a daunting challenge. A challenge born of an implied assumption that phone service would be delivered by fixed wireline technology, where every line was mapped to a switch which was in turn tied to a specific geography. Today, a non-trivial part of the value we add for customers is masking this complexity with a simple offering. Not to toot our own horn but we succeeded in making a traditionally local service nationwide.
Ironically, the 9-1-1 ecosystem has a common goal: they share an interest in public safety -and they’re all in the same country. Imagine if their goals were at odds and they were spread across multiple continents. Welcome to the world of globalized local SIP products. A world where some regulators protect incumbents while others are looking-out for the consumer; where some have activist social agendas while others are doing what they can to enrich the state coffers with access tariffs. A world where differing degrees of technical development are blended with a plethora of conflicting goals which result in each country’s unique twist on telephony. In such a world, providing global customers a consistent experience on one platform from a single provider on an invoice that does not require an advanced degree to interpret is, well, challenging.
Given these challenges, it should come as no surprise multi-nationals, for the most part, purchase voice services in a decentralized manner, at the national (or local) level. While some might consider it a sign that the market for global SIP services is insipient, I think it’s an opportunity for Level 3 to apply its core competence at managing complexity to provide customers a simple offer. The way I see it, whenever customers are given the choice between managing their business and managing multiple vendors, they’ll choose to focus on their core competence any day. Build a trusted, simple, consistent, global voice service and they will come. Our international telephone number footprint in 27 countries is a start, however, the more we succeed in making national services worldwide the closer we’ll get our customers to their happily ever after.