Lessons in CPaaS Technology Leadership: Having Our Own Carrier Network Matters

Plivo became a market leader in the CPaaS technology category by shaking up the stodgy telecom industry and making it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. Today, CPaaS use cases range from banks providing direct access to call centers with one-click calling from within an app, to restaurants pushing out SMS messages updating their customers on the status of their deliveries.

We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way, all based on what helps customers. In this first post in a new blog series we highlight the importance of a CPaaS platform having its own carrier network.

When we started Plivo, as long as we could gain access to markets around the world, we assumed it didn’t matter what carriers we used. Coverage was the key, or so we thought. Instead, we learned that for our customers to be able to reliably reach their own customers, we had to put together our own network of high-quality carriers. More specifically, we learned five important lessons.

Lesson 1: Strong technology and infrastructure alone cannot compensate for poor carrier network quality

We started by partnering with large telecom carriers that aggregate local players to connect calls and deliver SMS messages globally, but we soon realized it made a difference which carrier networks we connected to.

Sure, technology and infrastructure are important, but if the carriers we connected to dropped calls, had poor call quality, provided unreliable caller ID, or failed to deliver messages, we couldn’t help our customers no matter how sophisticated we made our platform technology.

Carrier quality issues aren’t just inconvenient, they can stand in the way of businesses delivering the time-sensitive, mission-critical communications required for a high-quality customer experience. We realized we had to build our own carrier layer to pair with our technology and infrastructure layers.

Lesson 2: Relying on aggregators is not a good way to ensure carrier network quality

Carriers that aggregate traffic focus on cost, not quality. But carrier quality is not a commodity, so connecting with cost-focused carriers can turn out to be more expensive in the long run.

Calls can take a long, suboptimal route through an aggregator’s infrastructure, which leads to inconsistent quality. And inconsistent call quality or message deliverability — which manifests as latency, jitter, dropped calls, and undelivered messages — can lead to unhappy consumers and additional expenses for companies.

For example, suppose a company’s mobile app sends an appointment verification message to a prospective customer via an API platform. If that platform works with unreliable carriers, that potential customer might not receive that message and may miss the meeting, leading to a lost business opportunity. Businesses that rely on Plivo’s direct connections to local carriers, on the other hand, benefit from more reliable service. They can automatically leverage our real-time routing engine that routes calls and SMS messages over the best possible routes based on quality.

Using aggregators also means that troubleshooting issues take longer, since there may be multiple layers between the end carrier network and the communications platform. If an error occurs, you want your communications platform provider to be able to get the bottom of the issue as soon as possible so you can get back to serving your customers.

Lesson 3: Building a premium carrier network requires redundancy

Plivo chooses carrier partners based on their ability to reliably connect calls and deliver SMS messages. Still, the nature of telecom means that even high-quality carriers have issues from time to time, so we learned to build redundancy into our network to provide customers with automatic failover in the event of any errors or outages.

In almost all major regions we have at least two direct connections with local carriers to establish redundancy. If one of these carriers goes down, all traffic automatically gets routed to the other. That means businesses don’t have to scramble when an outage occurs. Automatic failover means you continue to communicate with your customers as if nothing occurred behind the scenes.

Lesson 4: The infrastructure and technology layer all need to have the same commitment to quality

With a cloud communications platform, the technology, infrastructure, and carrier layers all need to pull their weight.

Part of building a quality infrastructure layer includes establishing points of presence (PoP) in strategic locations to minimize network hops, and therefore reduce latency, so customers have reliably clear calls. We also have network operations centers (NOC) on opposite sides of the world that proactively monitor network performance 24 hours a day, which helps us get in front of any carrier issues that arise.

We also do this type of behind-the-scenes work within the technology layer. For example, we use a dynamic routing engine that can find the best paths for calls and SMS messages in real time, which helps our customers consistently connect with their users without having to think about it.

All of these layers need to move in unison. We continually test how the system as a whole works to get ahead of any potential issues.

Lesson 5: You can’t build a quality carrier network overnight

Establishing a quality carrier network globally, along with the infrastructure and technology to support it, takes both expertise and a significant time investment.

Rather than relying on aggregators, we invested more than seven years in building out a global carrier network, because if you want to establish quality connections, you can’t rush this process. Onboarding local carriers takes six to nine months each and involves steps like commercial and legal discussions, interoperability and quality testing, and capacity provisioning.

We continue to invest time and resources into expanding and strengthening our global network, understanding that there are no shortcuts when it comes to continually ensuring quality.

Be proactive: Don’t accept carrier network quality as a given

If your businesses uses a cloud communications platform to connect and engage with customers, don’t assume that carrier quality is a commodity.

Given how difficult business has been around the world lately due to COVID-19, companies cannot afford to lose business over customer experience issues. Rather than waiting until quality issues surface before you deal with them, be proactive. Find out how different platforms connect to carrier networks and assess whether certain providers can help you deliver reliable, high-quality voice and SMS services through your applications.

The bottom line is: if you want to create great customer experiences, you can’t take carrier quality for granted. Choose a platform that helps you create amazing customer experiences by reliably connecting with your customers.

To learn more about the importance of carrier quality and what businesses should consider when choosing a communications platform, download our white paper: The Carrier Network: What Powers Quality in Voice and SMS APIs.

Read more posts in our CPaaS Lessons series:

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