North American Customer Service Management Association

Support for Contact Center Professionals

Phase 5 Strategy - Step 1 ISP Carrier Selection

Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC)

Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) arose from the breakup of AT&T and the Bell System in 1984.

Prior to the break up, ILECs held the monopoly on landline service. ILECs are companies that provide local telephone service and own most of the lines and facilities in a service area. Original ILEC’s were Regional Bell Operating Companies. Today you will recognize AT&T, Verizon and Century Link as the remaining ILEC’s. Because they own the lines, these ILEC’s are considered Level 1 carriers. Level 2 and Level 3 carriers rent from the ILECs.

Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC)
CLECs are alternatives to ILECs. Competitive Local Exchange Carriers are those companies that rent space on a line from the Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier. These are companies that build and operate communication networks much like the LEC except the term distinguishes new or potential competitors from established local exchange carriers. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was intended to promote competition between both long-distance and local phone service providers. This was a strategy to level the playing field allowing service providers to compete with incumbent Regional Bell Operation Companies. ILECs are the old “baby bells”.

One basic difference between an Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier and a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier is that the ILEC provides service to the public, and the CLEC has the right to compete for that business but is not indebted to provide the same service level.

The second difference is how the data packet travels.
How the Data Packet Travels

Imagine you call your local phone company for internet service. You call Carrier A and are quoted $1,000/month. You think “Hmm…can I get it cheaper?” So, you do some calling around and you find a lesser-known carrier, Carrier B, and you call for a quote. They quote $800/month. At this point, it looks like a no brainer, the service really the same? Let’s take a closer look.
Carrier A:The data packet travels from the PC out of the building to the point of demarcation to the street. Your data packet is on its way to the central office (CO) and then to its final destination.

Carrier B: The packet travels out of the building to the CO the same way as Carrier A. At the CO, everything changes. Your data packet is redirected to Carrier B’s equipment, then it is redirected back to the CO which is Carrier A’s equipment. If you hired Carrier B why is Carrier A involved?

Carrier Ais a Tier 1 or ILEC so they own most of the network and have a direct connection. Carrier B is a Tier 2 or CLEC, meaning it shares the network by piggybacking onto the network already in place by a Tier 1. And for added insight, a Tier 3 gets 100% of it’s network from Tier 1 or Tier 2 providers with no direct access.

So why use a Tier 2 or Tier 3? When line quality is not important. The price is very attractive yet the line quality is lower quality; it experiences connection issues like jitter and latency. CLEC’s create additional “hops” which create latency, jitter and connectivity issues. The packets hop from Tier 1 to Tier 2 and back to Tier 1. The more hops the more the quality of the line degrades. In a contact center, line quality is everything - it is not an option to use Tier 2 or Tier 3 carriers.
VOIP Jitter

Jitter is defined as a variation in the delay of received packets.

The packets are sent continuously in a stream from the sender. These packets are spaced evenly apart. When network congestion, improper queuing, and configuration errors occur, these perfectly spaced packets get disrupted and cause delays between the packets which disrupts the steady stream. This is called jitter. The router must compensate for the jitter, utilizing a playout delay buffer. This buffer regulates the packets to stream continuously to the digital signal processor (DSP), which are then converted back to an analog audio stream.

When the jitter is too large for the buffer, the packets are discarded and dropouts are heard in the audio. The DSP is overworked and audio issues persist. This sounds like a bad cell phone call – the caller goes in and out, making it impossible to have a productive conversation.

Congestion in the IP network also causes jitter. It occurs at the router interface, the provider piggyback, or the carrier network when the circuit has not been provisioned correctly. These carriers in question are CLEC’s or Tier 2 carriers.
VOIP Latency

Latency is the amount of time it takes for speech to leave the speaker’s mouth and reach the listener’s ear. You recognize it as an echo.

The Problem: Latency
VoIP delay or latency is characterized as the amount of time it takes for speech to exit the speaker’s mouth and reach the listener’s ear. Latency sounds like an echo.

There are 3 types of delay commonly found in today’s VoIP networks:
1. Propagation Delay: Light travels through a vacuum at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, and electrons travel through copper or fiber at approximately 125, 000 miles per second. A fiber network stretching halfway around the world (13, 000 miles) induces a one-way delay of about 70 milliseconds (70ms). Although this delay is almost imperceptible to the human ear, propagation delays in conjunction with handling delays can cause noticeable speech degradation.
2. Handling Delay: Devices that forward the frame through the network cause handling delay. Handling delays can impact traditional phone networks, but these delays are a larger issue in packetized environments.
3. Queuing Delay: When packets are held in a queue because of congestion on an outbound interface, the result is queuing delay. Queuing delay occurs when more packets are sent out than the interface can handle at a given interval.

The Solution: Prioritize
Prioritizing VoIP traffic over the network yields latency and jitter improvements. Policy based network management, bandwidth reservation, Type of Service, Class of Service, and Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) are all widely used techniques for prioritizing VoIP traffic. A quality VoIP router can solve many of these issues and will result in business quality Business VoIP Phone Service.
Other Causes of Poor Call Quality

Many companies don’t understand the demands of VOIP traffic; they put both voice and data over the same network without properly configuring the network for VOIP traffic. VOIP is the same technology as cell phone technology. It’s not new, it’s been around since the 80’s, but it is new to the office phone industry. It is commonly misunderstood or overlooked.
The absence of VOIP routers is another source of poor call quality. The router prioritizes between downloading a large file and a phone call in progress. Without prioritization, the call will be degraded. The network only has so much bandwidth and a VOIP router prioritizes the traffic to insure it is being utilized most effectively.


1. The quality of mom’s spaghetti sauce depends on the quality of the ingredients going into the sauce. The quality of the implementation depends on the quality of the infrastructure. Don’t take shortcuts on either!
2. E911 – VoIP phone service operates differently from analog phone service. Make sure the VoIP provider offers E911 service (enhanced 911). The enhanced 911 service allows your personal information like name and address to be given to your local dispatch center automatically. Remember to update your address with your VoIP provider when you move so the dispatch center can reach you immediately during an emergency.

Take the Next Step!

Bottom line is the less “hops” the higher quality of the line. The main function of contact centers is to make and take phone calls and that requires phone service. The phone service and phone system are the backbone to the contact center. You want the highest audio quality available. Customers will not tolerate poor audio quality today. They waited patiently in a queue to talk with an agent and now they want to have a conversation free of connection issues. When you opt for cheaper and don’t look beyond the price, it’s like putting bike tires on a car. You wouldn’t do it for obvious reasons. Your customers and agents deserve the best quality possible! Put your contact center on an ILEC and enjoy clear audio!

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The North American Customer Service Management Association (NACSMA) assists Service Center professionals with improving the delivery of Customer Care to their clients by providing a collaborative networking approach to operational issues.