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Code your own network: The changing face of telco

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Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2017 by RICHARD HARRIS, Executive Editor

Code your own network: The changing face of telco

There is a transformation occurring in enterprise communications with developers at the center. The developer community is driven by a vision to offer creative applications of communications within their apps and services that deliver a unique user experience. Unfortunately, innovating with traditional telecom carriers has been historically difficult. Dependence on an old model has made it challenging for developers to improve the user experience in the ways they would prefer. A new wave of IP-based telecom providers has emerged and are removing the barriers to telephony resources that developers have faced for years. 

 
We spoke with Sean Hsieh co-founder and chief product officer at Flowroute to discuss the changing face of telecom and the role developers play in this transformation.

ADM: Legacy telecom carriers have a bad reputation for being notoriously difficult to work with within the developer community - Why is that?


Hsieh: I don’t think legacy carriers are purposely trying to make life difficult for the development community, but the reality is that traditional service providers weren’t designed to foster innovation, they were built with the end goal of providing dial tones for businesses and consumers.
 
Unlike software-based IP-based communications, telco networks weren’t built to offer the integration, flexibility, control and direct access to resources that today’s developers demand. Most lack self-service tools that enable easy onboarding & debugging and we have also seen that the timeline to provision new services and connections can often take weeks, which is a glacial pace in the development community.
 

ADM: Flowroute has said, “If you can code, you can be your own carrier.” Is it really that simple?


Hsieh: It really is. Instead of being dependent upon legacy carriers and the traditional paradigm, developers can focus on sourcing meaningful resources such as phone numbers. APIs provide developers with control and access; this eliminates the need to rely on an outside carrier and dramatically simplifies the process of embedding and integrating calling and messaging capabilities into enterprise apps and services. As long as they are proficient in coding, developers can add communications services with as few as 100 lines of code to the majority of existing apps.
 

ADM: What can providers of cloud communications services (like Flowroute) offer that traditional telco carriers can’t?


Hsieh: The most important differentiators for providers of cloud communications services, I think, is giving the time back to focus on building differentiators for developers that help them offload telco-nuanced problems. Some of these big concepts are access, control and scale of infrastructure. Again, legacy carriers can provide a dial-tone, but that’s a fraction of what today’s developers need to provide the experience that end users expect. By giving carrier-grade access directly to the software development community, the Be Your Own Carrier (BYOC) model supports innovation while still focusing on core service delivery, a joint offering that traditional telco carriers have struggled to provide.
 

ADM: How are buyer’s expectations changing when it comes to working with a carrier?


Hsieh: Developers are looking for carriers to be a partner with them to deliver new user experiences. Not so long ago, they didn’t have a choice when it came to selecting a service provider - there was only one company to choose from, the regional telco. But now there’s an array of communications providers with a variety of deployment options that can be specifically tailored to meet your unique business and industry needs.
 

ADM: What are three things a business should look for when evaluating a cloud communications provider?


Hsieh: I think it boils down to these criteria:

1. Quality of service. Look for carrier-quality services that ensure your voice and messaging will meet enterprise-grade performance. This also applies to finding a partner that provides the technical expertise for support.

2. Simplified operations that ensure a smooth onboarding process. We hear time after time that onboarding is one of the biggest challenges that developers have when it comes to cloud communications because they lack the direct access to telecom resources and the control over the porting process.

3. Control and access. Your cloud communications provider should put the developer in charge of adding and managing voice and messaging services. It’s imperative that they have direct access to telecom resources like phone numbers, inbound/outbound calling, text messaging and advanced signaling data.
 

ADM: Isn’t it difficult and costly to swap out service providers? How can businesses ensure quality of service so that end users aren’t impacted?


Hsieh: Changing service providers can be daunting, but there are ways to make it as painless as possible. With any major purchase decision, research is key. The most critical factor that a business should consider is the quality of service that a cloud communications provider can offer. This is the biggest differentiator and the one with the potential to ultimately make or break your business. Customers expect instantaneous and seamless voice and text communication from day one - anything less can negatively impact your company’s reputation and customer loyalty.
 

ADM: How can enterprises use communications APIs, WebRTC & SDKs to grow their business?


Hsieh: These are all tools that help make it simpler for developers to access, deploy and manage communications services, and implement them into their applications and services. This can offer end users a convenient and easy way to receive information and take action quickly through either a text message or a phone call.
 
In fact, enterprises that offer their customers the option to communicate via text message can have a big competitive advantage. Our recent survey, for example, found that consumers prefer SMS communications when interacting with businesses and as much as 47 percent would react negatively if a company did not offer SMS as a communications channel.
 
Applications that feature embedded communications services can also improve internal operations and cut costs. For example, doctor’s offices that use SMS for appointment reminders have the potential to save big on minimizing appointment “no shows” and prevent over-staffing.

In addition, when looking at an omni-channel world of communications, centralizing the conversation through using WebRTC or other APIs can provide rich context. This is becoming more important as customers begin to expect more from their experience with a brand.
Sean Hsieh

ADM: We hear a lot about communications services becoming more “contextual” and “intelligent” these days - what does that mean to the average consumer?


Hsieh: Contextual or intelligent communications can be defined as an interaction that has specific data or context, associated with it. For example, let’s say you get a text message from your dentist’s office reminding you about an upcoming appointment. The text might give you the option to call the office to reschedule. When you “click to call” from the text message, the dentist’s office will see not only who is calling, but that you’re calling as a result of the appointment reminder text - giving them more context in why you’re calling.
 
These intelligent interactions not only help streamline business operations, it also increases convenience for patients and customers, speeding up the customer service process and eliminating the need to answer multiple identification questions.
 

ADM: Are there particular industries or use cases that Flowroute is seeing, where the adoption of text and voice services in applications is proving valuable?


Hsieh: We’re seeing strong interest from the healthcare industry which has begun using SMS as a channel for things like ordering and getting updates on prescription refills, and appointment reminders. Text communications have also increased in banking and financial organizations, which are using SMS to notify customers about fraud alerts, account balance updates and bill pay reminders; in fact, as much as 53 percent of consumers would prefer to receive a text informing them of an account fraud or a service outage versus an email.
 

ADM: Is there still a role for the traditional telco carrier, or will cloud communications make them obsolete in the coming years?


Hsieh: It’s hard to tell when, or if, legacy carriers will ever truly become obsolete. Especially with an industry as old and established as telecom, it will be a while before we see businesses and investors cut ties completely. That said, analysts suggest that the cloud communications market is on the rise and even winning against traditional telco, albeit at a slow place. It’s important that cloud solutions providers continue to raise awareness and educate decision makers on the options available to them.




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