Telecommunications firm Tele-Enterprise wants to turn around the bad reputation that voice over IP (VoIP) has – by issuing a challenge to find South Africa’s worst VoIP implementation.
Riaan Pietersen, Tele-Enterprise CMO, says many companies have had their fingers burnt by VoIP implementations that left them with unstable and unreliable connections and cost them money in the long run. The poor quality of VoIP calls has also served to give the technology a bad reputation, he says.

To change perceptions of VoIP as a communications channel, Tele-Enterprise has launched a challenge seeking the worst VoIP implementation story in the country. Companies with telephony expenses of at least R15 000 a month, at least 25 phone extensions and a good story to tell about how VoIP let them down, are invited to enter.

The prize for the winner is a trial implementation of VoIP that works, followed by a preferential deal on a next generation system.

“Communications is the lifeblood of any business, irrespective of sector. But too many businesses buy in to vendor smoke and mirrors without a full understanding of the technology behind the solution,” Pietersen says.

VoIP is a case in point, he says: “VoIP has a negative association because so many companies have tried it and had it fail and cost them money.”

But there are many reasons why a VoIP implementation could fail, and none of them are because VoIP is inherently a poor communications tool, he says.

“In some cases, technicians are not experienced enough and don’t have the experience to understand the full requirements of different VoIP implementations. VoIP is not a plug ‘n play or cut ‘n paste implementation.”

Many VoIP implementers also make the mistake of focusing on savings for the client rather than service and added value, says Pietersen.

“VoIP will save clients money in the long run – but the main objective should be about control, functionality and extended features,” he says.

The three most common reasons VoIP fails, says Pietersen, are that VoIP services are implemented without a full pre-installation assessment of the complete network and office environment; that sub-standard VoIP equipment such as gateways, connectivity mediums and routers are used; and that inadequate or no assessment of call performance is done after implementation.