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T1 work arounds
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Alternative T1 work arounds when you have no other options left
Raise your hand if you have ever had problems with porting a T1 from one network to another. Then you probably know how frustrating it can be. I say this because there doesn't seem to be anything you can do. No configuration or access to servers, only a pestering phone call. Over the past couple years it's been a nightmare. I'm writing this to provide alternate solutions since my love for telecom providers is less than zero at the moment.
A couple years back, the company I work for decided to build a school behind a house that they owned. My gut was telling me to be proactive. So I ordered a T1 at the house roughly 4-5 months in advance. I figured since operations would be going on there initially, why not just get a step ahead. When we went to do the port of theT1 to the school, everything went wrong. From the time we placed the order to the time the T1 was ported, it took 9 months. You say "What the huh? 9 months to port a T1?". My suspicion is that since it was in the middle of nowhere, the number of phone lines were limited. After the first 6 weeks of fighting with them, we decided to run a trench from the home to the school and pipe the network connection over. We ended up using something called an Ethernet Extender since the signal weakens roughly around 300ft. In some cases we had to go as far as 1400 ft. The only real issue I can think of was what I suspect on some type of grounding issue where the network switch would lock up on rare occasions. I was able to eliminate this problem by using a higher end POE switch that was already on the rack for the Ethernet Extender boxes. In the end we finally called the Public Utility Commission (PUC). In less than ten days later the porting of the T1 was finished. I guess that is a scary word for a customer to be using, since from what I can tell they regulate the Utility companies.
Lesson Learned: Look into going around the Telecom Company such as piping your own connection.
In May 2009 we started having intermittent problems with random inbound lines not working. The person calling in couldn't hear the person on the other end of the phone. This was only intermittent though. It would happen every day, but only for spurts on all ZAP channels. This seemed weird since we hadn't changed a thing and it had been working fine for over a year. Paetec claimed it was our equipment. I built another asterisk box and hooked it up to the faulty T1. It still had problems. I took the original box to another T1 at another company I knew some of the guys at. I tested it for a couple hours. I couldn't get the problem to replicate. I called Paetec and told them the extensive testing I did. They still claimed it was a problem with our equipment. Chris, someone I know that has worked in the telecom industry for many years suspected that it was probably a configuration issue with the AdTrans box. I kept on calling Paetec. Paetec finally sent a tech out to look at it. It still didn't fix it. The idea of moving away from the carrier was already decided, but it can easily take 6 weeks if you are lucky. Then the light went on. I had done some work with VOIP. Why not just pipe the calls over VOIP across our internet connection until the T1 switch happened. I had paetec point to DID numbers that we reserved in the VOIP provider system. Tada! With only a couple small issues, it worked great. I wish I had thought of this from day one when we started having problems.
Lesson Learned: Look into using VOIP to go around the Telecom Provider if possible. Outbound is easier then inbound since you don't need any help from the telecom provider to make the change.
After we made the T1 switch a couple months later the T1 went completely dead. Good Gravey! Will the T1 trouble ever end? After looking over the long distance rates, the VOIP rates were 3-4 times cheaper. This was the difference of $1000+ a month for long distance down to $300. So we decided to keep the VOIP for outbound long distance. Our PBX also allowed us to have multiple trunks so that if one failed it could go to the next on the list. This saved our bacon, since even though the incoming calls were down all of the appointments already made with the clients were able to done with outbound calling. So even though we didn't add new customer that day, we also didn't lose the ones we currently had. I dug around with probing questions when I called in, and even drove around to the Qwest junction boxes to see if I could gather any more information. I was lucky enough to find a Qwest technician on site. He talked about how someone had messed up the wiring in the box.
Lesson Learned: Setup at least one additional trunk to default to via VOIP for when something goes wrong. The only cost is the prepay money you put into the VOIP account.
Final Lesson Learned: For scheduled T1 changes, always do it after business hours. Even if you don't think something will go wrong and you've done it a thousand times. There is always the possibility of problems out of your control that can be a huge headache.
Honorable Mention: There is a service provided by www.telecomrecovery.com. It's meant to prevent and circumvent issues like I've talked about above. They provide a neat interface for you to manage your calls in the event of an emergency. That way you can route your calls to another location to take incoming calls, or even to a cell phone if you are a smaller company.