The arrival of voice over IP (VoIP) and cloud-based telephony undoubtedly started a new era in South African telecoms, says George Golding, MD of Euphoria Telecoms. However, the reliance by small companies on ADSL as a link for their voice communications is threatening the uptake of VoIP and putting their business at risk.
Best effort
Because ADSL is a “best-effort” technology, it is not suitable for business-critical voice communications. Providers quite simply do not have control over the number of subscribers accessing the service, and can therefore offer no guarantees.
And in many areas, as Telkom exchanges become congested or fall into disrepair, the ADSL service becomes unreliable and hence unusable by business standards.
Way too often, downtime or poor quality voice results in frustration, lost business and a growing belief that VoIP is not ready in South Africa. The truth is, 90% of call quality problems can be attributed to the quality of the connection.
Not good enough
Of course, users may be connected to an upgraded Telkom exchange that isn’t over-contended, making for an acceptable e-mail and Internet experience. But how will users know if their connection is suitable for voice?
Downloading 1Mb of data in a minute or two may seem like a reasonably good experience, even if the download stopped entirely several times or broke up while downloading – because it would still be usable.
But not so with voice – if this was one-minute conversation users were having, they would be ready to throw the phone against the wall or shout at their service provider (to no avail).
Typical ADSL quality issues
The following quality issues routinely occur with best-effort connections like ADSL:
* Audio fading in and out;
* One-way audio;
* Audio resembling talking under water;
* Jittery voice (constant breaks in the conversation); and
* Calls randomly dropping.
Alternatives to ADSL
The point is, South Africa needs an alternative to ADSL if VoIP is going to thrive in the SME market. The demand for good quality, reliable and reasonably-priced Internet protocol-based voice connectivity for SMEs is at an all-time high.
Whereas larger businesses and corporates can afford Diginet leased lines, broadlink and fibre connections which deliver perfectly clear voice, they are out of reach for the large majority of SMEs. And even if they could afford it, their overall cost of telephony would end up being significantly higher than using traditional fixed-line telephony, which almost defeats the purpose (but not entirely).
Euphoria Telecom has worked with a number of wireless providers to prioritise voice traffic, thus lifting voice communications on these networks to a level of quality significantly above ADSL.
They’ve been using a number of methods including quality of service (QoS) and virtual private networks (VPN) to ensure an unencumbered connection and minimise interference – the single biggest cause of degraded quality on wireless data links.
Besides SMEs, these connections will also work for property developers and business parks, providing a central point of voice connectivity that can be resold to tenants. Watch this space.