Hello California

 

By Simon Woodhead

As you know we’ve been quietly building Simwood Inc in the USA for the last few years. We’re a CLEC in 20-odd States now which is in itself unprecedented for a foreign-owned company as far as I can tell. But we’ve now passed our biggest milestone yet – California.

Firstly, why CLECs? A CLEC is a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier in the USA, as contrasted to an ILEC who are the former Incumbents. CLECs have the right to access ILEC infrastructure, to interconnect in local exchanges and crucially to apply for numbering resources. This is distinct to being a certified VoIP provider, which some marketing people have taken to calling a ‘virtual CLEC’, which has no rights, just the ability to be allocated numbering where the State permits it, and not all do, and little ability to do much with it. 

Our DNA is to control the entire supply chain as far as we possibly can so we don’t need to compromise in our accountability to customers by blaming our ‘partners’. Being a full-weight carrier in the US is the only acceptable option to us to achieve that, and that means CLECs, our own numbering and our own direct access to the databases for porting etc. 

Last week we were delighted to learn that we’d been successful in becoming a licensed CLEC in California. Every State has their own process and requirements but California is widely regarded as one of the hardest to get. In normal times it’d take a dedicated team 18 months, for the 1% who are successful. Our amazing team of Tom and Cathy, supported by great external counsel, have done it in 14 months, during a pandemic! That’s truly astounding.  

I’d like to return to the ‘1%’ as this is the second time we’ve made it – STIR/SHAKEN is another example where we’re in the minority. In California, there are only 40 or so licensed operators to the best of our deduction, out of 5,000 nationally. We’re now in that 40!

We think that matters. In wholesale, if you aren’t dealing with the ground floor operator, you’re dealing with a reseller. At retail resellers of course add value to the end-user, which really matters, in wholesale they don’t, they’re just gouging margin and inserting single points of failure. If I want to build a house, do I hire a builder or a guy who hires a guy who hires a guy who hires a guy who may or may not actually be a builder. I’ll pay more, have no way of knowing if the builder is any good and have absolute certainty that when the roof falls in, the guy I paid will blame the guy he paid who will blame the guy… That isn’t a house that is good value for money or one I’d want my family to live in. That isn’t to say I should only deal directly with the builder, there are many value-add opportunities for someone working transparently and honestly with the actual builder, e.g. an architect to project manage. That is distinctly different to a stack of “virtual builders”. 

That is our philosophy in telecoms. If we’re the builder, we are the builder. Anyone who works with us should be adding their own value, and we hope and trust, does. Sadly, that is quite unique in an industry of ‘virtual CLECs’ or where everyone is purportedly a carrier. 

Thankfully the world is changing. In the US in particular doors are shutting very quickly as Regulators battle with the scourge of fraud and robocalls. As a new operator, particularly one who is foreign owned, we’re seeing this perhaps more acutely than the established incumbents who probably have a couple of years to adjust. STIR/SHAKEN is just one example where the bar is unattainable for lots of operators (99% so far!), and it itself is going to collapse the disaggregation that has enabled rogue operators to flourish. The days of renting a number from one carrier and abusing it via another are over; if you want your calls to connect they need to be attested, and to be attested at an adequate level they have to go out via the same carrier who provides the number. That is good for consumers and it is good for the market, but the consequence will be a massive thinning of the herd and, we hope, a greater level of honesty.

An end to carriers pretending to be CPaaS to inflate their share price, and CPaaS pretending to be carriers so people have confidence in the infrastructure they don’t have, not to mention the multitudes pretending to be both CPaaS and carriers to hide the fact they add nothing, would be very welcome and beneficial to all!

So to that end, our US build continues and we’d love to talk to you. UK and other non-US customers can deal directly with Simwood in the UK and rely on us dealing with ourselves in the US. Those in the US who file with the FCC and/or USAC under the FUSF program (and have a valid Filer 499 ID as proof of such registration) and are genuinely wholesale are very welcome to deal with Simwood Inc directly. Either way we’d love to help.