Internet telephony has historically had a bad name because of its poor voice call quality. However, new dedicated services can now deliver clear and reliable calls via the Internet and this can save companies between 25% and 50% on their phone bills.
This is according to Arno Joubert, rirector of VoIP company Omnicom, who says businesses and consumers should think about installing a separate ADSL line dedicated to routing voice calls only over the Internet.
"However it's also a good idea to use a service provider that is able to offer products, like handsets, and account services with enhanced VoIP functionality," he says.
"VoIP, if it's done properly, is a specialised service. For example, at Omnicom we route calls directly from our backbone in Gauteng instead of sending calls overseas, which reduces latency."
South African businesses and consumers were denied VoIP services until 2005, when they were legalised, but telecommunications deregulation means that they now have a choice. According to research firm World Wide Worx, VoIP adoption in SMEs is expected to reach the 25% to 30% level in 2008.
"One of the reasons that VoIP is enjoying fast take-up is that broadband services are now widely available," says Joubert. "And, from a cost perspective, VoIP makes good economic sense – the savings are real and significant.
"VoIP converts speech into data packages that are sent over the Internet, whereas normal telephone calls carry the audio over telephone circuits. Internet calls are a lot cheaper than those which people pay for normal telephone calls. And calls between numbers with the prefix 087 are free.
"With VoIP products and services, users are still able to receive calls from Telkom and all the other mobile service providers in South Africa. Typically calls made to Telkom and mobile numbers are 35% cheaper and substantial savings can be achieved on international calls."