Intelligent Solutions

Thanks for an amazing 2019!

Simon Woodhead

Simon Woodhead

19th December 2019

As another Christmas nears, alarmingly quickly after the last one, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of our customers and community friends, and wish you and your families the very best for the festivities.

Before I do so, let me address the darker side of Christmas. We’re heading into the prime time of year for VoIP Fraud. Don’t let some thieving scrote ruin your new year; please please configure some of the dozens of measures we have to protect your account. We say this every year, but every year see several victims, often repeatedly, so please act! Of course, as well as protecting your spend with Simwood, please ensure when we block a call that you’re not simply failing over to someone else! Christmas makes for great margin for those who don’t care where it comes from, and the first you’ll hear about it will be when the shiny suit thanks you on January 2nd.

So, 2019 got off to an amazing start with SimCon2. We had more attendees than ever, so many that our training room was bursting at the seams, and the wonderful Rachel Riley helped us with the inaugural SimCon Awards. She was a really tremendous host who spent time with everyone. Moreover, the Awards were well received by our deserving winners, and contrary to what I initially said on stage, we had over 300 viewers on the live stream once the Facebag and Tweeter people were counted. Maybe there is something in recognising the deserving rather than rewarding those who nominate themselves, then buy the dinner and advertising package in order to promote their purely coincidental “recognition”? SimCon3 is on and we really hope we’ll see you there!

Unfortunately the tone was soon sullied by our glorious regulator. General Condition 6 showed so much promise in cleaning up CLI abuse and actually protecting consumers. We put loads of work into compliance that followed the letter of guidance but unfortunately this exposed other long-standing non-compliance in a certain mobile operator, meaning the new supposedly hidden 08979 numbers were being exposed to consumers. This, and our commentary, turned us into the consumer helpdesk for these issues whether involving Simwood or not. They were very widespread. A regulator with consumer interest and technical compliance at heart would have ensured this mobile operator moved to a position of consistency and compliance across its network. Instead, they sided with their interpretation of the rules and conceded that whilst we’d followed the guidance, the guidance would be re-issued. Add to this the tens and tens of thousands we lost due to the friendly incumbent, and its mobile operator, using 08979 as an excuse to dispute invoices, and GC6 compliance was a very expensive mistake. In the end, we dismantled our compliance to the utterly pointless level of the revised guidance.

On the subject of technical non-compliance, we were forced to blog in April about the increasing level of crazy interop error type scenarios we see as other providers migrate to IP, especially those in the secret club. With an increasing proportion of calls being IP end-to-end, and the mediation that SS7 used to provide being absent, we’re seeing the kind of problems that come from blind deployments of magic boxes in silos. This isn’t something we can fix, but our BTZero project aims to eliminate (as much as possible) traffic transiting the BT network (IP or TDM), by way of bilaterals with other providers. This has helped massively to reduce these types of issues, improving quality and economics whilst not feeding the beast. That isn’t to say they’re necessarily at fault here, but the more networks that are involved and some of the crazy routing some employ (e.g. from themselves to themselves via BT IP), the more likely problems seem to be.

June was a big month for us. We were awarded not just ISO 9001:2015 (the international standard for Quality Management Systems) but also ISO/IEC 27001:2013 the highly prized standard for information security. These represented a huge amount of dedication and effort by the team, lead by Grahame (our Chairman & UK COO). One of these would be an achievement, but doing both in parallel is amazing and I’m very grateful to them all.

Concurrently, Thomas (our US COO) and team have been diligently working on our position in the US food-chain. That country is huge and with 50 States all operating their own local regulatory regime, yet under common Federal control, the volume of paperwork and lawyers involved is simply mind-blowing! They’ve built our position in record time and achieved some incredible things:

  • FCC 214 license – the big one and incredibly difficult for a company owned outside the US
  • Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) in 2 States, with 4 more in flight!
  • Inter-Exchange Carrier (IXC) in 1 State, and others to follow the CLEC approvals
  • FCC IP Enabled Services (IPES) license, called by some the ‘virtual CLEC’ is also very far advanced and we believe imminent

This remains a huge effort which will continue into next year and is enabling us to build US infrastructure and regulatory position to an equivalent level to the UK. Some have asked why we don’t simply do IPES and be done with it as others have, but there are strong strategic reasons for having the right to do something as a CLEC, versus the federal approval to do something as IPES. Tom will be updating everyone on the US position at SimCon3, but as a reminder, we already provide service there from PoPs in New York and San Jose, and the above is enabling us to grow and take ownership of underlying infrastructure. For my part, it is massively exciting and I really appreciate all the efforts going on over there. I had the privilege to meet the FCC CTO a few months ago and he epitomised the neutral, pragmatic, competent regulation we’ve come to expect over there. It is a very refreshing contrast!

In early October we also completed many months of work completing the acquisitions of Sipcentric and Birchills Telecom. This is probably the most exciting development of the year bringing not only the best architected hosted voice platform in the industry in my opinion, but also a rock-star young team. They’ve integrated really quickly and continue to impress, so much so that Sipcentric CEO Charles has become Group CTO. We’ve not had a CTO before, given our generally technical leaning, so this is a huge accolade for him. Charles and his lieutenants have taken ownership of network and development and are making considered changes in a professional and rigorous manner. We’ve always been regarded for our innovation, thought leadership and transparency, but I genuinely feel we’ve changed gear and opened a new and exciting chapter here. The whole Sipcentric team are hugely welcome to the Simwood family and we’re excited to work with them.

Simwood Partner is our deployment of the Sipcentric platform, in a commercial package that better suits those jumping ship from ‘me too’ before they become a victim of strategic exhaustion and see their customers targeted by their supplier. This combined with our wholesale proposition and ownership of the full stack is making waves. We’ll be talking more about how at SimCon, as well as making an announcement or two.

Charles sharing his WebRTC expertise in the middle of the night!

Barely a week after the acquisitions closed, a number of us flew off to various TADHack venues around the world. This was developers in 8 cities, as well as remotely, simultaneously save for time zone differences, building solutions on the Simwood (wholesale and partner) APIs, including newly debuted webhooks. This was very intensive but incredibly valuable and something we’ve committed to do again. All sites were busy but Charles and Frazer had a crazy time in Johannesburg, with images of Charles coaching young developers at 3am making the rounds on social media. That was really humbling to see and they made me very proud.

In fact, our new expanded team (28 at last count!) have done that numerous times this year. We’ve always been lean and distributed, so that number feels to have snuck up pretty suddenly, but after a number of years of the usual frustrations any small business owner will relate to, I feel we’ve really found our mojo this year, pulled together and some of our new rising stars seized ownership. This is a very welcome and encouraging trend that I’m genuinely grateful to each and every one of the team for.

Of course, none of this would be possible or have any point without our customers. We remain very grateful to you all, and humbled by some of the huge commitments some of you have made to us this year. Being the ‘go to’ provider for new entrants to the UK and continuing to grow revenues at 30%+ against an Ofcom induced head-wind in wholesale of -50% is no mean feat, but in wholesale we only grow when you grow. Our customers are winning big and we’re proud to be playing our part in supporting you.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible, and of course you enjoying networking with each other again, at SimCon3. Meanwhile though, please have a fabulous festive season, and thank you again.

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