embedded software boot camp


Monday, December 4th, 2006 by Nigel Jones

As someone that has worked in telecomms, I was excited by the arrival of VOIP. However, after two years of variable quality, extended outages and just plain weird behaviour I’ve had it. It’s clear to me that VOIP just isn’t ready for prime time and so I have decided to pull the plug. The latest frustration – an inability to receive incoming calls for the last four days – with no resolution in sight. The technical support department informs me that it’s a ‘router programming error’. Whether they really mean a router configuration error, or a bug in the router firmware is unclear. Regardless, it’s presumably a tough enough problem that it can’t be fixed in four days.

The really bad news here is my experience when I tried to get Verizon to provide me with a POTS line. One of my prime reasons for jumping on VOIP as soon as I could was my feeling that Verizon was a dreadful company – one with questionable ethics and really awful customer service. Today, despite calling the number on the Verizon website for ‘add a new line’, I had to endure a voice prompted menu system and three different people before I could do the most mundane thing Verizon has to offer – order telephone service. For this privilege, Verizon is charging me a $44 start up fee (to plug a few numbers into a computer) and a cost double that offered by my VOIP provider. Apparently Verizon has not had its business suffer enough – yet.

So what’s the relevance of this tail of woe to embedded systems? Not much really, other than to note that when the latest and greatest doesn’t live up to its billing – one ends up with very annoyed customers. So next time marketing wants to over-hype what you can deliver, rein them in hard and fast. Your customers will thank you.


3 Responses to “RIP VOIP”

  1. gnukix says:

    VOIP service, just as phone service, largely depends on your service provider. Get a crappy provider, you get crappy service

  2. Ashleigh says:

    It’s now 6 years since this post. I wonder what has changed….hopefully quite a lot, because in Australia we’re in the process of pulling out the old POTS phone system and replacing it with broadband networking. For the whole country. At least its fibre.

    Once upon a time, the phone system was considered an essential service. That’s why exchanges are full of batteries – to keep the phones going when power fails. Once we’re all networked instead, what happens? We can, at our option have a battery backed UPS installed in our home, attached to the fibre. So the essential service obligation is thrown back onto the consumer.

    In businesses where I’ve worked the last few years, they have all changed to IP phones. These work, most of the time, until they day that the whole company phone system stops. For 2-3 days at a time. And when there is a power fail and all the computers reboot on power restore, don’t try and make a phone call. Too much fighting for bandwidth, the phone calls drop out.

    I can’t help thinking that 6 years later, VOIP is still a crappy system. Engineers don’t like crap. Lots of consumers dont seem to care very much, though, so long as its cheap.

    • Nigel Jones says:

      I would like to say that a lot has changed – but it hasn’t. I live on the east coast of the USA and a month ago we had hurricane Sandy come through. I lost power immediately and within about another 6 hours lost my broadband connection (as you suggest, I have an UPS on my network). The broadband and hence VOIP stayed down for about two days, with the power down for over five. Intestingly the cellular system stayed up the entire time. I have read that this was in response to some previous natural disasters where the cellular system dropped immediately, resulting in the cellular companies adding redundancy, backup power etc.

      My sense of what is going on is that consumers value features over quality ( both in terms of QOS and the clarity of the call). I see this most clearly with cell phones. 4G phones are consuming gobs of bandwidth for data. Personally I wish they would devote some of the bandwidth to making the phone calls clearer.

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