Avoiding “SIP Tax” Shock

There are few things in life that I truly hate.  Yes, there is much that I very much dislike, but hate is such a strong word that I like to save it for something really offensive.  For example, I greatly dislike cold days, but I don’t hate them.  I love to ice skate on outdoor rinks so it would be foolish for me to hate the thing that makes that kind of skating possible.  I also severely dislike getting pulled over for speeding, but I understand that I shouldn’t be driving so fast.  I can’t really hate the highway patrol officer for doing his or her duty, can I?

However, there is one thing in life that I truly hate.  In fact, hate isn’t even a strong enough word.  Loath, despise, and abhor might be more appropriate.  No matter what, though, I really, really, really hate doing my taxes.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have no problem with paying for the services my state, city, county, and country provide me.  I understand that there is no free ride.  Paying my fair share isn’t what I hate.  What drives me crazy is figuring out and filing my taxes.  If there was a way to just get paid and have the exact amount of tax taken out at the time of payment, I would be extremely happy.

I don’t like having to remember the money I gave to charities, how much mortgage interest I paid, what part of my property taxes are deductible and what parts aren’t, etc., etc. etc.  If someone were to come up with a simple and fair flat tax, I would stand up and shout “amen.”

So, what does this have to do with unified communications?  Surprisingly, a lot.  No, TurboTax hasn’t added a section for SIP deductions, but several vendors of SIP gear sneak taxes into their products that may catch you off guard.

Let me start with Session Border Controllers (SBCs).   You should all know that an SBC sits on your network edge and performs tasks such as deep packet inspection, transcoding, encryption, de-encryption, remote user registration, and media forking.  However, were you aware that some vendors provide that functionality as part of the base package while others charge for it?  Well, you had better know that before you go shopping for an SBC and fall in love with the first one you see.  You need to be clear as to what you want your SBC to do in order to get accurate, up-front pricing.

For a list of things to think about before purchasing an SBC, you might want to read my blog, Andrew’s Session Border Controller Checklist.

Next, there are the endpoints.  You expect to pay for a physical SIP phone, but what you pay for a soft client can vary wildly from vendor to vendor.  Some products, like Avaya’s One-X Mobile for IOS, can be downloaded free of charge from the Apple App Store.  Yes, you do need a base license back “at the switch,” but there is no separate charge for the client software.  Others might start out free, but you end up paying for functionality not included out of the box.   A common extra charge is encryption (TSL and SRTP).  Also, most will provide you G.711 for free, but some charge extra for G.729.

The next place to look would be SIP licenses.  Again, some vendors give them away for free or as entitlements for other things you’ve purchased.  Avaya does this.  However, other vendors might charge you per session which can add significant cost to your overall purchase.

Don’t be afraid to ask your SIP carrier similar questions.  Do they charge separately for REFER?  How do they bill for SIP bursting?

Lastly, ask how your vendor counts sessions in a SIP call.  How many sessions does a simple point-to-point call consume?  How many sessions does a conference call consume?  What charges apply if a call is forked to a recording server?

It’s important to be aware of what you want and how your vendor charges for it.   Like taxes, careful planning will help you avoid the sticker shock that guys like me always seem to experience in March and April.

Oh, I also hate vinegar flavored potato chips.   How on earth can anyone eat those nasty buggers?


  1. And why-oh-why do carriers still insist on charging a channel rental on SIP trunks, like they’re somehow ISDN circuits?


    1. Another “good” one. Thanks, Neill.

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