Published: September 2019
The Department of Telecommunications (DOT) of the government of India requires that companies operating contact centers, call centers, and similar service-providing facilities in the country register these offices as Other Service Provider (OSP) locations. Cisco field service offices (FSOs) that have contact center personnel—for example, agents who help Cisco employees make travel arrangements or who provide technical support—must be designated as OSP locations. Through the process of obtaining an OSP license, which must be renewed annually, Cisco and other OSP operators agree that their OSP location will use telecom resources from authorized telecom service providers only. India’s DOT prohibits mixing and merging of Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) and Voice over IP (VoIP) calls in India. Also, it requires that calls coming from outside the country into an India-based contact center be covered by an International OSP (IOSP), and that calls originating from India into a contact center in the country be covered by a Domestic OSP (DOSP). Additionally, India’s DOT requires that operators of OSP locations connect to telecom service provider infrastructure using a Primary Rate Interface (PRI) or Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunk for voice. So, for example, if a user in a Cisco FSO in India needs to call a party outside of the company, that call must be routed from the FSO using the PSTN that is connected to the FSO. “PRI links are required for every FSO,” said Pranith Neal, IT Solutions Architect – Senior Engineer at Cisco. “This hardware-intensive approach creates high operational costs for companies like Cisco that have multiple offices in the country.” As of mid-2019, Cisco was operating 44 contact centers in India, including 6 DOSPs, 23 IOSPs, and 15 hybrid (DOSP and IOSP) locations. Cisco IT is responsible for making sure each of these locations has the right connectivity, from PRIs to WAN links. Figure 1 shows the current, complex design for voice services architecture for DOSP sites and IOSP and hybrid locations in India.
Adding dedicated infrastructure for an OSP site is often overkill. In those cases, Cisco IT will set up WAN connectivity so that it is shared between an FSO and a larger Cisco hub (campus) location in the area. While this approach is technically simpler, it leads to extra costs and paperwork for Cisco. The company must obtain a “sharing of infrastructure agreement” from the government of India for enterprise users and OSP users to legally share the same WAN link infrastructure. Another complication: Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring (TERM), the vigilance and monitoring wing of the Indian DOT,1 requires that any call received by a cell phone in India must come through an authorized telecom service provider. That means Cisco is not permitted to route calls on its IP backbone. So, when Cisco sets up shared WAN link infrastructure for enterprise and OSP traffic, the government of India wants to be assured—through the presence of a bank guarantee—that Cisco will not bypass tolls or otherwise configure networks to avoid call charges. The bank guarantees are about US$150,000 per contact center. Bank charges related to maintaining the guarantees are US$3,000 per quarter. Also, in some cases, Cisco may need to pay additional service charges to a DoT liaising team, according to Neal.
Cisco IT recognized an opportunity to present the DOT with a proposal to take a new approach to the architecture design for infrastructure connecting FSOs to campus locations—ultimately, helping Cisco to reduce both operating and capital expenditures related to setting up and maintaining OSP locations in the country. Cisco IT was confident that government officials would seriously consider the proposal because Cisco has built a solid reputation in India. Neal explained, “Cisco has been operating in India for several years and is generally viewed as setting the industry standard for many good business and technology practices in the country. We also provide a lot of training and education about our products and services, which has helped to build trust in Cisco technology.” Cisco IT’s proposal—which the TERM Cell approved, and the DOT then accepted—is to use the same PRI link for offices that are located in the same area (that is, the locations are in the same telecom circle or share the same Central Office [CO] prefix). So, instead of having 10 offices with 10 PRI connections, for example, Cisco will consolidate PRIs to a central location that is “in city”—meaning, all the offices are based in the same area code. So, one PRI can be used to support multiple offices. The upside for India’s DOT is that the new architecture does not lead to revenue loss because the area codes are under the same service provider switch. Also, consolidating the PRI reduces the service provider’s footprint.
The DOT’s acceptance of Cisco IT’s proposal was a big win for Cisco and represents a major architectural change for all of the company’s contact centers in India. Cisco is currently in the process of moving its six office locations in Bangalore to the new architecture and is evaluating other opportunities for consolidation. The transition to the new architecture will take time, but the work is well underway. Also, instead of setting up PRIs, Cisco IT is installing newer, more cost-effective and easier-to-upgrade SIP trunks for telephony calls from service providers as the team consolidates offices to the new architecture. Another key benefit of the architectural change: Cisco will need to secure fewer bank guarantees and sharing of infrastructure agreements over time. If Cisco operates five contact centers in one local area, for example, it would only need one bank guarantee for the one PRI line that is supporting all of those offices. Cisco can potentially save about 10% in capital and operating expenditures annually by switching to the new architecture, according to Neal.