Cable Tech

Vonage Spreads the Blame

Global Crossing Holdings Ltd. (Nasdaq: GLBC) has denied that its network was the cause of the Vonage Holdings Corp. service outage that interrupted phone service for thousands of people on Monday.

"Vonage filed a trouble ticket with Global Crossing, requesting help with their service, which experienced an outage of approximately one hour," writes a Global Crossing spokeswoman, in a statement to Light Reading.

"Global Crossing's technicians and operations management worked with Vonage technicians to review the situation. Global Crossing's investigation revealed no outages or routing issues on the Global Crossing network." [Ed. note: The italics are ours.]

Light Reading forwarded Global Crossing's bulletin to Vonage, but the company replied with a very different explanation of the outage. "We had a problem today with Global Crossing, one of our IP providers, for about an hour and a half," writes a Vonage spokeswoman.

"The issue -- once isolated -- was resolved quickly and expeditiously. The issue was related to the routing of our IP traffic once it was on the Global Crossing core network. It wasn't making it to its final destination."

Vonage markets VOIP calling services to consumers and businesses that have broadband connections. It sells its flat-rate services (between $24.99 and $49.99 a month) both directly and through partners such as cable companies. To provide its service, however, Vonage must route its network traffic over leased capacity owned by long-distance networks, such as Global Crossing's.

VOIP outages are nothing new to some customers, since the service relies on an always-on Internet connection and always-on electric power (see Vonage Faces Risks, Says Report). A hiccup in either utility can kill a customer's VOIP phone service. Vonage, interestingly, allows for this by providing a feature that automatically transfers calls to alternatives when the VOIP service dies.

In his December 2003 Weblog, IT manager John Stafford reported one of the first Vonage outages that was caused by a power failure that hung up his broadband router. "Failover to my cell phone worked fine though it was disconcerting to learn of the outage by calling home and hear[ing] the ring in my pocket," he wrote.

Of course, Monday's outage was something much more severe, as it affected an entire network of VOIP customers and the network's ability to reroute calls. The timing couldn't have been worse, as VOIP providers the world over are trying to convince consumers that the service they provide is as reliable as regular phone service. Vonage's public blame game with Global Crossing, of course, doesn’t help much with persuading consumers that the provider has everything under control.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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