Comparing the benefits of SIP trunking vs. Hosted VoIP

SIP trunking can deliver significant savings for schools. Both can add significant value to a school district's infrastructure.

by Dennis Pierce

As your school district migrates to voice over IP, you have some important choices to make: Do you want to host and manage the infrastructure that handles call routing and other applications yourself, or do you want a telecommunications vendor to host this for you? Are you just looking to replace the transport mechanism that connects voice traffic to the public switched telephone network (PSTN), or do you want an entire calling platform with a rich feature set?

The answers to these questions will help you decide whether SIP trunking or Hosted VoIP is right for your school.

SIP trunking uses the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), a set of rules for signaling and controlling multimedia communications, to establish voice and video calls between end points. The call routing is handled by a school district’s private branch exchange (PBX) system, and a telecommunications carrier provides the trunking, or connectivity, between this PBX and the public telephone network.

SIP trunking enables you to establish a virtual connection to the PSTN over your existing data circuit, so you no longer have to lease a dedicated Primary Rate Interface (PRI) for voice traffic to each building. In essence, the SIP trunks replace your legacy PRI service. The benefits include fewer connections with much more functionality and flexibility.

In a Hosted VoIP solution, the vendor hosts and operates the PBX functionality that manages call routing, voice mail, and other applications virtually, in the cloud—similar to a Centrex solution with traditional telephony. The customer’s IP-enabled phones connect to the internet and, from there, to the vendor’s software, which routes the calls.

Both SIP trunking and Hosted VoIP can simplify network management and lower IT costs by allowing you to consolidate voice, video, and data traffic across a single network infrastructure. But there are important differences between the two types of services.

A key benefit of SIP trunking is the potential for significant monthly savings on your phone service. With Hosted VoIP, the benefits are less about the cost of the service and more about the calling features that accompany it—as well as the simplicity and savings that come from not having to purchase or manage the call routing infrastructure yourself.

In a legacy phone system, schools pay a flat rate for a PRI, even if they don’t need the full capacity. With SIP trunking, however, schools pay a monthly rate based on the number of simultaneous calls they want to support. If you don’t need the capacity for 23 concurrent calls, you don’t have to pay for them—but you can always add more capacity if necessary.

When the average monthly cost per concurrent call is analyzed, SIP trunking is a much more affordable option than leasing a dedicated voice line. A 2012 study conducted by Webtorials found an average 33 percent savings on monthly calling charges when migrating to SIP trunking.

With a Hosted VoIP solution, school districts pay a monthly rate that is based on the number of users in the system, as well as the various features they want. Typically, customers can choose from a tiered system of features.

The monthly savings aren’t as dramatic with Hosted VoIP: generally about 10 percent when compared to a Centrex-based solution. But with Hosted VoIP, you can get a rich feature set that can save time, streamlines communications, and helps improve staff productivity. Think about how staff can have access to communications resources when using the features of an integrated communications system even when they are away from the school.