While VoIP (Voice over IP) uptake has been considerably slower in South Africa than in other countries, the majority of obstacles to widespread VoIP adoption have been, or are being addressed.
That’s the view of Andre Joubert, GM at MWeb Business who believes that as a result, the uptake of VoIP in this country is likely to increase significantly in the next year or two.
“Because VoIP is such a great technology, it’s been widely adopted around the world. Industry experts estimate that VoIP functionality is being built into around 80 percent of PBX systems now sold worldwide,” he says.
According to a 2011 Nemertes Research study, more than half (55%) of companies surveyed had implemented, or were in the process of rolling out a VoIP solution in their organisations. The rest – with the exception of a tiny 3 percent – were in various stages of evaluating, planning to implement or in the process of implementing a solution.
Joubert believes there are several reasons for the slow adoption of VoIP in South Africa to date.
“The high cost of bandwidth, and the imposition of data caps on ADSL connections was a major barrier,” he says.
“It was a bit of a chicken and egg situation. The quality of voice calls over ADSL wasn’t great, so ADSL was accused of being unsuitable for VoIP. The problem, however, was that businesses were trying to squeeze too much over ADSL pipes that were too small and too slow. Many early adopters simply directed their telephony over their existing data networks which simply could not cope.”
Joubert points out that for a small business that is unlikely to make more than two concurrent calls, a 1Mbps connection would be satisfactory – but just a few years ago, most SMEs could not have afforded a 1Mbps connection.
“With the advent of uncapped, unshaped, un-throttled ADSL, and the rapidly declining cost of quality, high-speed, business-class connectivity, connectivity barriers to VoIP are being addressed. Today, we recommend that businesses considering a VoIP solution invest in nothing less than a 4Mbps connection,” he adds.
“Before VoIP, you had your telephone guys to take care of your PABX and phone system; and you had your computer guys who took care of your computers, servers and network. Simple. With VoIP, you have your voice and data running over the same network, but the telephone guys and the computer/network guys often work against each other, trying to preserve their own territory.
“That was the situation when MWEB Business entered the voice arena some six years ago and it still persists today. MWEB has been working hard to change this mindset.
“We believe the solution is to simply have technology experts that can work with and understand voice and data, and can implement and manage VoIP solutions properly.
“In this way, businesses of all sizes are able to experience all the benefits of VoIP including significant cost savings and greater telephony functionality,” Joubert adds.