AT&T's U-verse: VoIP Providers Can't Afford Mistakes

Erik Linask : Convergence Corner
Erik Linask
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AT&T's U-verse: VoIP Providers Can't Afford Mistakes

If you are an AT&T U-verse customer - or if you read the report from TMC's Marisa Torrieri yesterday - you know AT&T's voice service went down for as many as four hours in the middle of the day.
 
So initially, you might think the impact was likely minimal, since U-verse is a consumer brand, but the fact is that, with today's telecommuting options, it's actually likely the number of people who lost their ability to work effectively from their home offices was significantly higher.
 
In fact, I can attest first hand to the impact such an outage can have on a business conversation - or even worse, a phone-based event.
 
Tuesday afternoon, I was ready to kick off a TMC Webinar, sponsored by Yap - we were literally in the process of switching over to the live presentation - when the speaker dropped off the line. At the time, I wasn't aware of what had happened, and everyone else on the administrative side assumed he would call right back in and we would move on without a hitch.
 
So, I proceeded with my opening remarks, focusing on how voicemail to text capabilities can be a tremendous benefit and create a more efficient work environment. I introduced the speaker, then saw that he had not been able to get back on. In fact, he indicated through a colleague that he was getting a busy signal when he tried to call back in.
 
We now know that the busy signal was one of the symptoms of the server crash that caused the widespread outage on AT&T's network.
 
Ultimately, our speaker finally got back onto the call - on his clearly much more reliable cell phone - and I was able to keep the event going, even getting into his first few slides as we waited. I later found out that he was using AT&T's U-verse.
 
So, by now, you've likely read countless comments about how IP-based telephony is still entirely unreliable. I'm not sure that is an entirely fair assessment. Certainly, AT&T's service reliability can be questioned - especially knowing that only two weeks ago it suffered another outage, though that one overnight, limiting its impact.
 
But, for those of us who have been using VoIP systems at work, and consumer VoIP services at home, we know these issues are not as commonplace as some reports have indicated. And though I don't have VoIP service in my home - I still use AT&T's PSTN service - I can confirm that the quality of conversations I have with VoIP users has improved significantly over the years. One of the reason's I haven't switched is that FiOS isn't available in my area, and I don't have any desire to give any more money to my cable provider than I already do - cable pricing is outrageous, but that's a story for another day. And you can see for yourself why I haven't switched to U-verse.
 
In fact, most business VoIP issues are a result of business networks not being properly assessed and/or built for voice services. Over the years, one thing has been made abundantly clear: You can't simply add VoIP services to you existing network without properly assessing your infrastructure and ensuring it is properly set up to deliver it. And even if you've done your homework, you also need to appropriate monitoring capabilities to help troubleshoot, and even address potential issues before they impact your network.
 
As for AT&T, these latest outages are only the latest evidence that it rolled out its service prematurely in an attempt to compete with Verizon's FiOS service. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be paying off. At a time when alternatives to telco and cable MSO services are more prevalent than ever, the potential damage from these outages doesn't bode well for AT&T and its U-verse service. 
 
For instance, you can go into your local Best Buy, for instance and pick up an Ooma Telo for a few hundred dollars (Ooma claims that, based on an existing $50 monthly phone bill, it's service will pay for itself in five months, and over three years, the same user will save more than $1,500). For more on the quality delivered by today's VoIP systems, check out Ooma's Voice Quality community.
 
I should also mention that the rest of the Webinar with Yap went off without a hitch. If you missed it, be sure to check out the archived version to find out just how beneficial - and inexpensive - voicemail to text can be.


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