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Starting a VoIP Company What is Needed?

Posted on 2006-10-24
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We are a hosting company looking to get in the VOIP market.  We want to offer a virtual PBX to our customers where it is then directed to the correct IP phone. Our business model is the same really as 8x8 virtual offices http://www.packet8.net/about/virtual_office.asp Obviously as a hosting provider we are in the national telecommunications data center and have access to several server and router options What is the 1. Best way 2. Cost effective. All from the ground up what would you the experts do?
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Question by:HighSecured
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8 Comments
 
LVL 36

Expert Comment

by:grblades
ID: 17810306
For the server you could run Asterisk (http://www.asterisk.org and http://www.voip-info.org/wiki-Asterisk). You could fit it with a quad PRI card such as http://www.digium.com/en/products/hardware/te412p.php which will enable it to handle 128 or 96 simultaneous external phone calls.

You will need QOS supported on all the routers and switches and you will need a redundant network design with peering agreements with multiple service providers.
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Author Comment

by:HighSecured
ID: 17817550
looks good is asterisk the best choice? What about billing customers is that included in the above software i didnt see but the Asterisk website was kinda of confusing for me.
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LVL 36

Expert Comment

by:grblades
ID: 17817758
I only really know asterisk but it is very flexible and will certenly be capable of supporting multiple customers with each one having their own completely separate dialplan.

For billing have a look at.
http://www.voip-info.org/wiki/view/Asterisk+billing
For each call you can define an account code so at the end of the month you can query the database and get details of every call for each account code (customer) you can then work out the call charges for each call. If you look furthur down the page you can see that there are 3rd party addons for billing which may help.
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LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:feptias
ID: 17817965
I work with a well established UK provider of virtual PBX services. An important part of a system like that is the user interface. My client provides a web interface based on ASP pages on IIS servers connecting to SQL server databases. The core IVR machines use Envox, but we use asterisk servers for load balancing and to provide flexible routing - this also provides resilience in case a unit fails or has to be taken off-line for maintenance.

In more general terms, when it comes to designing a solution from scratch, the database is probably the key component to get right at the start - it provides the link between the user interface and the IVR's that actually answer the calls, play prompts, forward calls, take messages etc. It also is likely to be at the heart of your billing and your reporting system.

I quite like Asterisk and it is extremely flexible and useful, but I would have some doubts about building a hosted service solution based primarily on Asterisk alone. The dial plans are not especially easy to maintain, it has good connectivity to MySQL but is more limited if you want to connect to MS SQL, it runs on Linux (that's ok, but it might not be your preferred platform) and it does not give the reliability I would expect when it is hammered with enormous call volumes. For example, we have to run a script every night to restart the Asterisk application because otherwise it crashes after a few days continuous running. Our systems are handling in excess of 10,000 calls a day. We also see quite a lot of channel congestion results on TDM trunks that have got plenty of free channels - presumably the channel allocation algorithms are not quite up to the job handling multiple almost simultaneous requests (or it might be call collisions between inbound and outbound calls, but I think that is less likely). Still Asterisk is very useful as a load balancing solution and as a gateway between TDM and SIP. It can also be used to provide a low cost conference bridge. It does not support speech recognition as far as I know.

Hope this helps.
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LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:feptias
ID: 17818636
I forgot to mention, when you are signing up clients with VoIP phones, from time to time there will be problems getting those phones fully operational. This mostly happens when the phones are behind a NAT router/firewall - as most will be. It is usually possible to resolve the problems eventually by fiddling with settings and using port forwarding or telling the customer to buy a different router or even a different phone, but this requires a lot of support time and doesn't give a good impression to new customers. It would be a good idea to research this before launching a new service so that you can at least recommend specific hardware you have previously tested. It would also make a difference which software you are running on your servers - i.e. the software that accepts the registrations from those customer phones and that acts as a proxy server for calls routed to/from those phones. Options include Asterisk, SER or the session border controller from this snom offshoot company:
http://www.4snewcom.de/page653_Products.html?PHPSESSID=9c66c430b957ad29b823bf61a3d054e5

They even offer a complete ITSP solution, but check out the details carefully. Off the shelf solutions for this type of application are unlikely to be exactly right - my client ended up with a bespoke developed solution using parts from different suppliers.
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LVL 3

Expert Comment

by:shepimport
ID: 17886224
more than likely a wholesale model might work better for you... check out

NGT
COMMX
Quest
VolliaIP
McCloudeUSA
voipnettechnologies
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Author Comment

by:HighSecured
ID: 18149291
We are having a hard time with the software AstBill as a free one and Alepo solution (www.alepo.com), has been reccommend but we want to offer a complete solution to sell and have the options of a virtual pbx. What software is needed to achive somthing like packet8 business soultions as well as billing?

Thanks to everyone for the help so far and grblades for the hardware i will get the points out accordingly
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LVL 36

Accepted Solution

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grblades earned 2000 total points
ID: 18151057
I haven't really played with the billing software. It all seemed over complicated for our needs. I ended up writing a bit of software which analysis calls logs and breaks the calls down by dialing extension, destination and account code. Its very basic but dumps all the info into a csv file which the accountants like so it is really all we need.
If you cant find anything you specifically like there is always the option to get a programmer to write something for you. Its quite easy and php/mysql skills are easy to find.
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