Special occasions provide pleasant interludes, breaking up mundane schedules while offering a break from hectic lifestyles. Be it Eid in Muslim countries or Christmas in the West, it’s a time to not go to work and call up friends and family to wish them season’s greetings which has become so easy with cheap international calls.
This is where VoIP services providers such as ourselves, come in.
Since our main wholesale routes are concentrated on the Indian sub continent and the Middle East, we had a staggering amount of wholesale minutes on the first few days of Eid. From personal experience I can say that calling within country required more patience than visiting a truck load of relatives and sitting through the inevitable family bickerings! Given the condition of intra-country calls, it required a lot of expertise and forward planning to ensure a smooth flow of VoIP minutes during the peak days when traffic more than tripled. Initial stages of planning started as early as the previous year’s Eid, as mistakes of previous years’ ensured better management in the future, especially for our top three wholesale routes for VoIP call termination: Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
Forecasting trends from past years helped form an estimate of the amount of traffic expected and then take measures to ensure capacity. For this purpose, different switches were set to entertain two of our top routes: Pakistan and India.
By having a separate switch not only was our main traffic flow smooth, lower volume destinations benefited as well since they were not squeezed out to make room for high volume traffic flows.
While in the months preceding Eid, there was crazy competition over VoIP rates to lock in customers for Eid traffic regardless of available capacity, Breezecom concentrated on maintaining quality for existing customers.
While the VoIP rates war for Pakistan and other destinations waged furiously, the buying team and directors were adamant on not providing more capacity than available with us.
True enough, the rates available in the market were lower than ours but those rates were dependent on a very limited number of vendors. With our 12 level deep routing for Pakistan, we were prepared to cover costs, even sell at a loss, but to maintain capacity. As a result, though we were on lower LCR for customers, we got the bulk of the traffic since there first LCRs collapsed due to the pressure for volume.
Where VoIP wholesale capacity for India is relatively easy to arrange, capacity for Bangladesh requires a lot more effort due to the lack of telecom infrastructure there. With its entirely Muslim population, high volume traffic over Eid was expected amid severe VoiP call termination capacity constraints. In such a scenario the buying department dealt with the looming capacity crunch by restricting rate reductions and doubling the number of vendors in the pool.
BTCL increased capacity and reduced rates in the months before Eid, putting downward pressure on prices. However, we did not indulge in the price competition that ensued and focused on getting commitments from VoIP wholesale vendors regarding capacity during peak traffic days.
The buying team and our NOC continued working over the Eid holidays. While NOC replied to trouble tickets and maintained quality, buying team worked to increase immediate capacity on an urgent basis. Since capacity was increased at very short notice, it was done at the cost of sacrificing margins. A sacrifice well worth customer satisfaction.
Capacity from vendors for India is available in the market, however high volume traffic by other destinations crowd ports for India out on our main switch. To resolve this issue, a separate India only switch has been set up to route through India traffic.
While all new customers are directed to the new India switch, old customers were used to sending VoIP wholesale traffic to the ip that they was giving them exemplary quality and hence were reluctant to route traffic to the new switch. The preparation for India for Eid was to convince those customers to load balance, to have them trust the new switch and hence divert their traffic without wholesale call termination capacity constraints over Eid.
As a member of the sales team, a fun activity over Eid was to refresh the page displaying minutes every half an hour and then squeal with pleasure at the increase in minutes. The sheer traffic of minutes demonstrated the frenzy of calls being made every second. The joyful celebrations of Eid globally were made abundantly clear by the little black rapidly increasing numbers on the screen that climbed every second.
The increase in capacity, which had at several points seemed like wishful thinking by buying amidst frustrations of lack of rates, now seemed fully justified. The calls from customers that had previously refused to divert traffic due to rates now almost pleading to ensure capacity for them, was nothing short of triumph. The challenge then lay in facilitating their payments while all banks and offices across Muslim countries were closed.
But that is another story.