Business: Snowball Effect Introduces Aggressively Priced VoIP Service
Recent Gauteng Business News
Van der Merwe points out that early attempts at providing VoIP solutions to the SME market were met with some frustration from users and service providers unfamiliar with the realities of the carriage mode. “It would be unfair to say VoIP was a failure, by any account. However, limited bandwidth availability and its associated high cost as well as earlier transport technologies [called ‘codecs’] made it difficult to provide a working VoIP solution at a decent cost saving.”
The arrival of a level of competition in the telecommunications market, with operators including Telkom, Neotel, MTN, Vodacom and Cell C, and the imminent availability of more international connectivity through cables such as Seacom, EASsy and TEAMS which join the existing SAT3 connection, are key factors in driving improved connectivity at lower costs. “It is this bandwidth availability and cost which is an absolutely key factor in allowing the provision of a low-cost, high quality VoIP solution at rates sustainable for the operator,” van der Merwe notes.
He points to a recent article in newspaper Business Day, which references a recent survey by the Wireless Access Providers Association (WAPA). This survey estimates there are more than 700 wireless access providers in SA providing services to about 60 000 customers. The article read, ‘On average they provide consumer services at 30% to 40% less than offered by incumbent operators and 60% to 70% less for business services.’
Van der Merwe is enthusiastic about the Asterisk PABX solution. “This free software provides a full range of features which were previously only available on high-end devices costing thousands or hundreds of thousands of Rands,” van der Merwe says.
While cost is a major factor for potential clients, it is not the only benefit. “Our service is provided over a wireless network; installation takes very little time and is typically done in under a week. Getting ten lines into a business in that much time is unheard of,” van der Merwe points out.
In addition, the power of Asterisk delivers features such as voice recording, voice mail, conference calling, interactive voice response and automatic call distribution. It even allows advanced features such as foreign numbers which route directly to the user’s switchboard, providing an expanding business the potential to initiate international premises without the difficulty of engaging another telephone company.
“Since the service is largely software driven, it is very easy for a customer to expand or change their telecoms needs,” adds van der Merwe.
He sees substantial potential for the VoIP offering. “Especially in the farm areas and for new businesses, the ability to get connected wirelessly to the Internet and also have a fully operational, professional phone system with a dash of speed can only be attractive,” he asserts. “Carried over wireless technology, it’s not susceptible to the copper thefts which interrupt services. The reality of mature VoIP solutions that work means the plain old telephone system is on its way out; with reliable, low cost technology, customers can throw out their old equipment.”
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